Why We Need To Talk About This Climate Lie Donald Trump Told At The Debate

Photo: Getty Images.
Erin Schrode is an environmental activist and recent candidate for Congress. The views expressed here are her own.

Donald Trump believes that climate change is a hoax. Sorry, Donald Trump does not believe that climate change is a hoax.

Are you confused yet? I don't blame you.

That is, in a nutshell, the takeaway from the measly few seconds of airtime the candidates dedicated to the future of our planet and entire civilization during last night's presidential debate.

“Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real," Clinton said.

“I did not. I did not. I do not say that,” Trump interjected.

Yes, Donald, you did. And there's a Twitter trail to prove it.

Case in point: this November 6, 2012, tweet from @realDonaldTrump:
Advertisement
Luckily, the real-time fact-checkers of the Twitterverse were on the case. The number of retweets and Likes on that post have skyrocketed to more than 140,000 in the past 12 hours, as people pointed out the inconsistency. (It was not deleted by the Trump camp, contrary to one screenshot that circulated widely during the debate.)

This wasn't the first time Trump tried to shift his stance on this key issue. While the GOP nominee once claimed that tweet to be a joke, he has doubled down on the hoax claim a number of times, tweeting in 2014, “Is our country still spending money on the GLOBAL WARMING HOAX?” And on CNN in 2015, “I don’t believe in climate change.”

Really? A whopping 97% of climate scientists disagree with that denial, Donald.

Lies aside, climate change's fleeting moment on the debate stage wasn't a total bust. Hey, at least it was mentioned in the debate.

During the primary debates, a meager 1.5% of the nearly 1,500 questions asked of the White House hopefuls were about climate change.

While there were odds on Trump saying, "Build the wall," over/unders on the color of Hillary Clinton’s jacket, and wagers about how the candidates would greet each other, there wasn't a big market for bets on how the would-be leaders would address global warming.

It wasn't the first time environmentalists like me found themselves feeling swept to the sidelines at the height of the campaign season. When presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Barack Obama took the stage in the 2012 debates, the topic wasn’t even raised. That was the first time climate change went unmentioned in a presidential debate since 1988.

Four years later, we've got record-breaking temperatures, the ratification of a landmark international agreement on the matter, and devastating extreme weather incidents wreaking havoc in communities across the globe.

But apparently, questions on the topic still don’t make for dramatic enough television. During the primary debates, a meager 1.5% of the nearly 1,500 questions asked of the White House hopefuls were about climate change, according to an analysis by Media Matters.
Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Erin Schrode is an environmental activist and former candidate for Congress.
The only reason climate even came up Monday was that Clinton raised the issue of clean energy early in the night, hitting Trump with her call for the United States to lead the world as a clean energy superpower. "Scientists say it’s real, and I think it’s important that we grip this and deal with it both at home and abroad," she said. "And here’s what we can do: We can deploy half a billion more solar panels. We can have enough clean energy to power every home. We can build a new, modern electric grid. That’s a lot of jobs."

And she's right. Climate is intrinsically tied to the most pressing issues for our country, including the three primary topics outlined by moderator Lester Holt: achieving prosperity, the direction that the country is taking, and our national security.

Green jobs offer widespread employment and a boost to several economic sectors — creating opportunities for our generation and those to come. Climate justice is inseparable from race and class, and a sustainable energy economy is an economy of the future. On top of all of that, the rapid pace of climate change and America’s energy dependence pose massive national security risks.

Clinton’s track record on environmental and energy issues is mixed — she has reversed her positions on the Keystone XL pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as evolved her views on fracking and fossil-fuel divestment. But she has become a far greener candidate, one legacy of Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Her climate and energy platform is now strong and clearly defined, in stark contrast to that of Trump's, as issue comparisons demonstrate.

As members of the influential and growing millennial voting bloc, it's on us to demand that our candidates prioritize the planet.

Advertisement

Being better about the issue on paper isn't enough. Our presidential candidates must acknowledge and aggressively address the realities of a changing climate.

Polling shows that young Americans are worried about the threat of climate change and supportive of policies to combat it. As members of this influential and growing millennial voting bloc, it's on us to demand that our candidates prioritize the planet.

Our collective future depends upon it. And that's no hoax.


Refinery29 has partnered with more than 50 of the country's biggest women's media brands and political nonprofit Rock The Vote to register 100,000 women to vote. Become a voter today by signing up with #OurVoteCounts below.

Advertisement