Discussion of Climate Change at the 2016 Presidential Debates
Unlike 2012’s shocking climate silence, the 2016 presidential candidates discussed climate change and policy at each of their three debates. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, and Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, did so not at the behest of the moderators, but introduced the topic when asked about the economy, foreign policy, and energy policy. Trump staked out a position as a coal-embracing climate denier; Clinton as a natural gas-to-renewables open-market clean-tech investor.
Below are the relevant sections of the debate transcripts.
Clinton notes that Donald Trump promoted the conspiracy theory that China created global warming, which he denies saying. She says that addressing climate change is part of her economic plan. Later, Trump mocks the idea that global warming is a national security threat.
Lester Holt asks about plans for job creation.
CLINTON: [Independent experts] have looked at my plans and they’ve said, OK, if we can do this, and I intend to get it done, we will have 10 million more new jobs, because we will be making investments where we can grow the economy. Take clean energy. Some country is going to be the clean- energy superpower of the 21st century. Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real.
TRUMP: I did not. I did not. I do not say that.
CLINTON: I think science is real.
TRUMP: I do not say that.
CLINTON: And I think it’s important that we grip this and deal with it, both at home and abroad. And here’s what we can do. We can deploy a 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; that’s a lot of new economic activity.
In response to Clinton discussing ISIS, Trump talks about the United States should have seized the oil in Iraq and possibly Libya.
TRUMP: Or, as I’ve been saying for a long time, and I think you’ll agree, because I said it to you once, had we taken the oil — and we should have taken the oil — ISIS would not have been able to form either, because the oil was their primary source of income. And now they have the oil all over the place, including the oil — a lot of the oil in Libya, which was another one of her disasters.
Lester Holt asks about judgment. Clinton criticizes Trump on nuclear proliferation.
TRUMP: The single greatest problem the world has is nuclear armament, nuclear weapons, not global warming, like you think and your — your president thinks.
At the town hall debate, Clinton and Trump are asked by coal-plant worker Ken Bone about energy policy and the environment. Trump criticizes the EPA and promotes coal and natural gas. Clinton touts the increased domestic extraction of oil and natural gas, which she calls a “bridge” to “more renewable fuels.” She goes on to describe climate change as a “serious problem.”
COOPER: We have one more question from Ken Bone about energy policy. Ken?
QUESTION: What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs, while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?
COOPER: Mr. Trump, two minutes?
TRUMP: Absolutely. I think it’s such a great question, because energy is under siege by the Obama administration. Under absolutely siege. The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, is killing these energy companies. And foreign companies are now coming in buying our — buying so many of our different plants and then re-jiggering the plant so that they can take care of their oil.
We are killing — absolutely killing our energy business in this country. Now, I’m all for alternative forms of energy, including wind, including solar, et cetera. But we need much more than wind and solar.
And you look at our miners. Hillary Clinton wants to put all the miners out of business. There is a thing called clean coal. Coal will last for 1,000 years in this country. Now we have natural gas and so many other things because of technology. We have unbelievable — we have found over the last seven years, we have found tremendous wealth right under our feet. So good. Especially when you have $20 trillion in debt.
I will bring our energy companies back. They’ll be able to compete. They’ll make money. They’ll pay off our national debt. They’ll pay off our tremendous budget deficits, which are tremendous. But we are putting our energy companies out of business. We have to bring back our workers.
You take a look at what’s happening to steel and the cost of steel and China dumping vast amounts of steel all over the United States, which essentially is killing our steelworkers and our steel companies. We have to guard our energy companies. We have to make it possible.
The EPA is so restrictive that they are putting our energy companies out of business. And all you have to do is go to a great place like West Virginia or places like Ohio, which is phenomenal, or places like Pennsylvania and you see what they’re doing to the people, miners and others in the energy business. It’s a disgrace.
COOPER: Your time is up. Thank you.
TRUMP: It’s an absolute disgrace.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton, two minutes.
CLINTON: And actually — well, that was very interesting. First of all, China is illegally dumping steel in the United States and Donald Trump is buying it to build his buildings, putting steelworkers and American steel plants out of business. That’s something that I fought against as a senator and that I would have a trade prosecutor to make sure that we don’t get taken advantage of by China on steel or anything else.
You know, because it sounds like you’re in the business or you’re aware of people in the business — you know that we are now for the first time ever energy-independent. We are not dependent upon the Middle East. But the Middle East still controls a lot of the prices. So the price of oil has been way down. And that has had a damaging effect on a lot of the oil companies, right? We are, however, producing a lot of natural gas, which serves as a bridge to more renewable fuels. And I think that’s an important transition.
We’ve got to remain energy-independent. It gives us much more power and freedom than to be worried about what goes on in the Middle East. We have enough worries over there without having to worry about that.
So I have a comprehensive energy policy, but it really does include fighting climate change, because I think that is a serious problem. And I support moving toward more clean, renewable energy as quickly as we can, because I think we can be the 21st century clean energy superpower and create millions of new jobs and businesses.
But I also want to be sure that we don’t leave people behind. That’s why I’m the only candidate from the very beginning of this campaign who had a plan to help us revitalize coal country, because those coal miners and their fathers and their grandfathers, they dug that coal out. A lot of them lost their lives. They were injured, but they turned the lights on and they powered their factories. I don’t want to walk away from them. So we’ve got to do something for them.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton…
CLINTON: But the price of coal is down worldwide. So we have to look at this comprehensively.
COOPER: Your time is up.
CLINTON: And that’s exactly what I have proposed. I hope you will go to HillaryClinton.com and look at my entire policy.
Wallace repeats the first debate’s question about job creation, and Clinton gives a similar response. Later, Wallace asks about Clinton’s call for a “hemispheric common market,” which she says refers to her dream of an “energy system that crosses borders.” She does not elaborate on that.
CLINTON: I want us to have the biggest jobs program since World War II, jobs and infrastructure and advanced manufacturing. I think we can compete with high wage countries, and I believe we should. New jobs and clean energy not only to fight climate change, which is a serious problem, but to create new opportunities and new business I want us to do more to help small businesses.
WALLACE: Secretary Clinton, I want to clear up your position on this issue because in a speech you gave to a Brazilian bank for which you were paid $225,000 we’ve learned from the Wikileaks that you said this and I want to quote, “my dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders” —
TRUMP: Thank you.
WALLACE: So that’s the question. Please, quiet, everybody. Is that your dream, open borders?
CLINTON: Well, if you went on to read the rest of the sentence, I was talking about energy. You know, we trade more energy with our neighbors than we trade with the rest of the world combined. And I do want us to have an electric grid, energy system that crosses borders. I think that would be a great benefit to us.