Who Had Substantive Climate Discussion on Their Debate Bingo Card?

Paul Kitagaki Jr./ZUMA

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

Who expected a fairly substantive climate discussion in the first presidential debate, moderated by none other than a Fox News anchor? 

President Donald Trump too did not seem prepared. Asked point blank whether he believes in man-made climate change, Trump equivocated, glossing over a record where he in fact has insisted it’s a hoax.

“I think a lot of things do” contribute to climate change, he said. “But I think to an extent, yes. I think to an extent, yes.”

Trump then immediately pivoted to a topic he’s more comfortable with, but way off on: forest fire management. Trump also insisted “we have to do everything we can to have immaculate water and do everything else we can to plant a billion trees.” This is a dodge. Despite Trump claiming he’s helped clean the air and water, his point doesn’t stand up to facts. More Americans now live in counties with unhealthier air than when Trump took office. The disparity is even starker in communities of color. 

Joe Biden, meanwhile, reiterated the points of his climate platform, such as weatherizing 4 million buildings and installing 100,000 new charging stations. 

Climate change wasn’t on the pre-debate list of topics for Fox News’ Chris Wallace, so the fact that it was a focus of first debate shows how far it’s climbed as a substantive issue for the electorate. It also drives home how vulnerable the president remains on the issue. Recent polling by Climate Power 2020 shows battleground voters prefer Biden’s stance by a whopping 27 points.

We Recommend


Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.