- Rick Wilking/Reuters
Wednesday night’s final presidential debate brought Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s total debate count to 14. And he managed to complete all of them – well over 20 hours of televised time – without facing a single question about climate change.
Progressive media research center Media Matters for America kept a scorecard throughout the primary debates to tally the number of questions related to climate change that were asked in each one.
The site calculated that, of the 958 questions asked during the 12 Republican presidential debates, just nine (less than 1%) were about climate change. And none of those questions were directed toward Trump. (Ted Cruz also didn’t field a single climate-change question, though Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and John Kasich all did.)
Though Hillary did face a few questions on the topic during the Democratic primary debates, neither presidential candidate faced any questions about climate change during the three general election debates.
The question that inspired the most discussion of the climate came during the town hall-style debate in St. Louis, when Ken Bone, an undecided voter and soon-to-be internet sensation, asked the candidates about their energy-policy platforms.
Bone did not mention climate change, but rather inquired how the candidates plan to meet the country’s energy needs while remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss. Hillary Clinton used the opportunity to bring up Donald Trump’s claims that climate change is a hoax orchestrated by the Chinese, but the evening’s moderators were not responsible for that discussion.
As the final debate approached, environmentalists and lawmakers called on moderator Chris Wallace to ask a question about climate change, which President Barack Obama has called is the biggest threat to our future.
An environmental coalition including the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters gathered 100,000 signatures on a petition that asked for climate change to be included as a topic. Democratic Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island penned an open letter to Wallace and the co-chairs of the Commission on Presidential Debates, pushing for a discussion of cl. And California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running for a Senate seat, created a petition to urge Wallace to add a climate question as well.
But former debate moderators have claimed climate-change questions don’t make for good TV, and most of the moderators this cycle evidently followed their advice.