The first two Democratic debates featured more mentions of climate change than the 2016 presidential election, but advocates say that isn’t enough. Following Thursday night’s debate, many are renewing calls for a dedicated climate debate that would prioritize the issue, something they argue did not happen this week.
Seven minutes were devoted to climate change during Wednesday’s debate — the first of two in the first round of Democratic primary debates. That alone was more than the entirety of the 2016 debates, but still significantly less than other issues, like health care or immigration.
On Thursday, that total stretched to eight minutes, or 15 cumulatively for both debates. That upward trend shows progress: for years, presidential debates all but ignored climate change. Now, for the first time ever, candidates feel compelled to propose climate plans, as voters increasingly say they want a candidate who takes climate action seriously.
But experts speaking to ThinkProgress were quick to poke holes in the small victory of having a quarter-hour focused on the climate crisis.
“Less than 6% of the questions over the two nights were about climate change,” said Lisa Hymas, director of the climate and energy program at the watchdog organization Media Matters. She noted that of the 20 candidates, 10 “were not asked any climate questions at all.”