Green groups press for climate focus at presidential debates

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The details: Along with the letter, Evergreen launched a petition inviting signers to demand “climate be front-and-center in the 2020 debates” and soliciting potential questions to be asked.

The commission in charge of the debates announced Wednesday that “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace, C-SPAN political editor Steve Scully and NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker would moderate the three presidential contests. Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today, will handle the vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

Dozens of House Democrats sent their own letter Wednesday to the Commission on Presidential Debates demanding it “break precedent and publicly call on the moderators to include climate in the topics” discussed during the sessions.“In 2016, there was not a single question on climate change in any of the four presidential and vice-presidential debates. This cannot happen again,” the lawmakers, led by Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) wrote. “We need a dedicated discussion on the climate crisis that matches the importance of this moment.”

Other signers of the environmental letter include Center for American Progress Action Fund, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Wildlife Federation, NRDC Action Fund, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Sierra Club and the Working Families Party.

The context: Trump has recently softened his long-held view that climate change is a “hoax,” though has consistently derided efforts by Democrats to address the problem and slammed efforts like the Green New Deal as “radical” and “unthinkable.” He’s also eased regulations to the benefit of fossil fuel producers and weakened rules around vehicle fuel efficiency and power plant emissions designed to fight climate change.

Biden has called climate change one of the four crises currently facing the nation, along with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, racial justice reckoning and economic devastation linked to the pandemic. However, despite significant support from all wings of the party, the Democratic National Committee ultimately opted against holding a climate-specific debate during the primary.

The only question remotely related to climate change during the 2016 cycle came from coal plant operator Ken Bone, who asked the candidates about energy policy, and he subsequently became an internet celebrity.

What’s next: The three presidential debates are slated for Sept. 29, Oct. 15 and Oct. 22, while the vice presidential session is due to take place on Oct. 7.

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