Believe It or Not, Tomorrow’s Debate Topics Actually Do Include Climate Change

by Cassady Craighill

October 18, 2016

If the candidates are going to get real about foreign policy and the economy, they need to talk about climate change — whether they’re asked directly or not.

Trump-Clinton looming

Screenshot from PBS broadcast.

Since we can’t count on Ken Bone in the audience to ask a question at least tangentially related to climate change, we’re here to do the work of Wednesday’s debate moderators. Climate change applies to each and every topic on the agenda tomorrow — debt and entitlements, immigration, the Supreme Court, the economy, foreign hot spots, and fitness to serve as president.

So moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News has no excuse not to ask about it, and both candidates have a responsibility to talk about the issue on the minds of so many voters this election. Here’s why.

Debt and Entitlements

Every year that America fails to significantly act on climate change and continues to waste federal money subsidizing polluting industries — fossil fuels — instead of the energy of the future — renewables — we dig ourselves deeper into debt. The good news is that it’s never been a better time to get behind the clean energy market, with renewable energy already cheaper than coal in many states.

Acting on climate will help us curb the economic impacts major storms like Hurricane Matthew, as well as other impacts of climate change like devastating droughts. The more carbon emissions we pump into the atmosphere, the worse these impacts become, and the more expensive they become.

If our next president vows to put climate action on steroids, we’ll at least start moving in the right direction.


Sustainable, holistic, and compassionate immigration policies will not only strengthen our country and our economy, they will also help us prepare for the fact that climate change and immigration are deeply connected. Climate change does not distribute “one size fits all” impacts. There are several places that are already close to uninhabitable because of the damage done to our climate, increasing the amount of people forced to leave their homes.

Any immigration policy must also include an effort to make all parts of the world habitable by supporting a transition to clean energy and keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

And no, Donald Trump’s wall will not solve this (or anything).

The Economy

While it is true that climate change poses a gargantuan risk to the global economy, the good news is that one of the solutions to climate change will actually help improve the economy — support for renewable energy.

We all deserve jobs that do not threaten our health and safety and do not contribute to global climate change. We also deserve a president that works hard to make that an everyday reality. The renewable energy industry is growing and growing fast, and the solar industry already employs more people than the oil and gas drilling industry.

We hear a lot about a just transition to clean energy jobs from Secretary Clinton, whose environmental justice plan proposes “broaden[ing] the clean energy economy.” But one would think that “savvy businessman” Donald Trump would speak more substantially about what is so clearly a smart, and obvious, move for our economy.

The Supreme Court

First things first, the Clean Power Plan must be defended and implemented if we are to stick to our global agreement in Paris. So our next president must appoint a Supreme Court Justice who will commit to that, but who is also committed to legally protecting environmental, racial, and social justice.

It’s that simple.

Foreign Hot Spots

National security experts and advisers from all over the world warn that climate change cannot be underestimated when it comes to civil unrest across the world.

The Pentagon has called it a “threat multiplier” that could make terrorism worse on a global scale. In fact, that report goes into detail describing that a changing climate “will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions — conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence. The risk of conflict may increase.”

We want to hear from our future president — as well as other key policy advisers and politicians — about factoring climate change into plans for peacekeeping. Communities and regions around the world must be made more stable, and that can begin with equal access to resources.

Fitness to Be President

So, there are a lot of ways we could approach this one. Here’s our take.

It is easier to exercise in areas with low levels of air pollution. Both Clinton and Trump have made comments about their exercise regimens. Secretary Clinton likes yoga and water aerobics. While it’s unclear exactly how Trump prefers to exercise, he does seem to huff and puff a lot.

So for selfish reasons alone, combating climate change and decreasing emissions would have a direct impact on the ability of our future president to maintain a certain level of fitness.

Tune in tomorrow at 9/8 central and follow @greenpeaceusa for live coverage of the final presidential debate of 2016.

Cassady Craighill

By Cassady Craighill

Cassady is a media officer for Greenpeace USA based on the East Coast. She covers climate change and energy, particularly how both issues relate to the Trump administration.

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