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The Debate Comes Up Woefully Short on Climate (Again)

The candidates stay silent in what’s likely to be the hottest year on record.

Reuters

Wednesday’s final presidential debate contained exactly one mention of climate change. Here it is, from Hillary Clinton: “I think we can compete with high-wage countries, and I believe we should. New jobs and clean energy, not only to fight climate change, which is a serious problem, but to create new opportunities and new businesses.”

The anemic mention follows the second presidential debate, which also had one reference to climate, again from Clinton: “So I have a comprehensive energy policy, but it really does include fighting climate change, because I think that is a serious problem.”

The first presidential debate, however, contained a full two shout-outs to climate. Clinton: “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real.” Trump: “The single greatest problem the world has is nuclear armament, nuclear weapons, not global warming, like you think and your—your president thinks.”

Glad to know the climate’s in such good shape it no longer needs to be talked about by the next president.

It’s less objectionable that Trump said virtually nothing on climate throughout the debates—we pretty much know where’s stood over the years:

But Clinton, with her statements about how serious a problem it is, sure could’ve elaborated to the millions watching what she’d do about it. You know, stuff like fighting emissions, sticking to the Paris Agreement (Trump has promised to cancel it), funding climate science, preparing for rising sea levels and extreme weather, and a general update on the current situation.

Which is, 2016 is likely to be the warmest year globally in known history. Last month was the hottest September in 136 years of records. The planet has incurred a never-before-seen streak of warmth. Writes NASA: “The record-warm September means 11 of the past 12 consecutive months dating back to October 2015 have set new monthly high-temperature records.”

Looking back, people will probably remember climate in the debates in the context of Ken Bone’s energy-policy question. And that’s pathetic. Let’s just hope that once the next president assumes office, there will be not just more talk but action on the universally pressing crisis.

(Joshua Stevens/NASA)

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.