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.
In a far-ranging discussion with actor-activist Leo DiCaprio and climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe, President Barack Obama defended his approach to climate change and expressed concern about the future.
“We’ve got to change our politics. And as Leo said, it’s got to come from the bottom up. Until on a bipartisan basis, politicians feel that their failure to address this will cost them their seats, potentially, or will threaten their careers, then they’re going to continue to operate in ways that I think are really unproductive.”
In the same discussion, Obama repeated his questionable claim that the domestic fracking boom has led to a decrease in greenhouse pollution, asserting “the fact that we’re transitioning from coal to natural gas means less greenhouse gases.”
He also repeatedly characterized climate change as primarily a problem for future generations, saying that “climate change is almost perversely designed to be really hard to solve politically because it is a problem that creeps up on you.” He even repeated the now-debunked canard that there is “no single hurricane or tornado or drought or forest fire that you can directly attribute to climate change.”
Just last month, Obama visited the victims of the catastrophic Baton Rouge floods. Consoling the survivors of climate disasters has been a ritual of his presidency. With a fierce Hurricane Matthew churning towards a Florida landfall, the president will likely have another major opportunity to witness the creeping problem of global warming first hand at least once more.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has joined the growing chorus of opposition to a controversial pipeline threatening the rights of Native Americans in North Dakota. In a campaign email, Gabbard called for supporters to sign a petition in solidarity “against a greedy oil company and an Army Corp of Engineers that have failed to properly follow the law or actually address the important issues of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and neighboring communities.”
Hawaii, like North Dakota, has one of the largest indigenous populations in the United States.
Gabbard was one of the few elected officials to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency, a move she announced in concert with resigning from the top leadership of the Democratic National Committee. Sanders has also come out in opposition to the pipeline, offering a Senate amendment to require environmental statement for the pipeline.
While in Laos, President Barack Obama was caught unprepared by a question on Native Americans’ efforts to stop the construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota. The pipeline, now under construction, is intended to transport fracked North Dakota oil to Iowa so that it can reach Texas refineries for export. The pipeline route crosses the Missouri River upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux water supply, through ancestral lands bordering the reservation.
The final question of a multinational youth town-hall forum came from a Malaysian activist “in solidarity with the indigenous people” of America “fighting to protect their ancestral land against the Dakota Access pipeline.”
Obama responded that one of his priorities is “restoring an honest and generous and respectful relationship with Native American tribes,” and argued that “we have actually restored more rights among Native Americans to their ancestral lands, sacred sites, waters, hunting grounds” during his term than under the Reagan, Clinton and Bush presidencies.
However, he said he’d “have to go back to my staff and find out how are we doing” on this particular violation of Native Americans’ ancestral lands, sacred sites, waters, and hunting grounds.
Iowans will once again engage in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience on Saturday to stop construction of the Dakota Access pipeline “that is using eminent domain for private gain, and threatens our land, water and climate,” a coalition of climate activists has announced. Following a non-violence training in the morning, the civil-disobedience action will commence at noon.
“Standing with farmers, landowners and our tribal allies in North Dakota, more and more Iowans are contacting me to say they’re ready to risk nonviolent direct action to stop this assault on our water, climate and property rights,” said Ed Fallon, director of Bold Iowa, in a press release.
The “Bakken Pipeline Pledge of Resistance,” supported by Bold Iowa, Iowa CCI, CREDO Action and 100 Grannies for a Livable Future, has now been signed by 2,100 citizens, with over 500 pledging to risk arrest in acts of peaceful nonviolent civil disobedience to stop construction on the pipeline. On Aug. 31, 30 people were arrested in a direct action in Boone County.
Dakota Access has filed suit against Bold Iowa and Iowa CCI, along with Ed Fallon and Adam Mason, seeking an injunction “to silence our First Amendment rights to speech and free assembly with actions to protest the pipeline,” in the words of Fallon. A hearing on those charges is scheduled in federal court on Sept. 29. The 30 citizens who were arrested on Aug. 31 will appear in court in Boone County on Sept. 15.
The nonviolence training will begin at 9:00 am in the Mickle Center, 1620 Pleasant St, Des Moines. At noon, participants will be transported to the pipeline construction site for the action.
You know, we tend to think of climate change as if it’s something that is just happening out there that we don’t have control over. But the fact is that it is man-made.
It is not, “We think it is man-made.”
It is not, “We guess it is man-made.”
Not, “A lot of people are saying it’s man-made.”
It’s not, “I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know.”
You don’t have to be scientist. You have to read or listen to scientists to know that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence shows us that climate change is caused by human activity.
Obama noted that global warming is continuing at a frightening clip, with 2016 on pace to be the hottest year on record.He later repeated one of his administration’s favored canards:
During the first half of this year, carbon pollution hit its lowest level in a quarter of a century.
Obama is referring to the decline in carbon-dioxide emissions from electricity production in the U.S., using “carbon” as a synonym for “carbon dioxide.” However, the decline in CO2 emissions has been matched by a surge in methane emissions, another carbon-based greenhouse gas.
Furthermore, the U.S. has been dramatically increasing its production of oil and natural gas, helping fuel the continued global surge in carbon pollution during Obama’s presidency.
Full video of Obama’s speech:
A few weeks before Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) became the Democratic nominee for vice president on the Hillary Clinton ticket, he joined other senators to discuss the fossil-fuel industry’s “web of denial” preventing action to end their climate pollution. Below is a transcript of his July 12, 2016 speech.
Thank you, Madam President. I join rise to join my colleague to talk about the critical issue of climate change and especially the facts around climate change but also the fact that there are many who would deny the facts. This is a really important issue to the commonwealth of Virginia. Climate change is not a distraction. It’s not a next year or next decade issue. Climate change in Virginia is a today issue.
Earlier today, I was in Norfolk, Virginia, which is in the Hampton Roads area near the Atlantic Ocean. Norfolk and the surrounding communities is the largest concentration of naval power in the world. It’s the center of naval operations. The headquarters of the U.S. Atlantic fleet. And it is already having to spend millions of dollars to elevate the piers where aircraft carriers come and go due to sea level rise. The Hampton Roads area is listed as the second most vulnerable community on the east coast of the United States to rising sea levels after New Orleans.
This is a challenging issue in a lot of ways.
I have friends who live in these communities who bought homes recently but now their homes aren’t marketable. For most Americans, certainly for me, my home is the most valuable asset I own. And if you have that and then you suddenly can’t sell it because climate is changing sea level is rising, flooding is more recurrent, no one will buy your home, it’s a very, very serious issue.
In addition to the effect on individuals and businesses because of sea level rise, the effect on the naval station is significant. Current estimates are that rising sea levels in Norfolk will take the main road entrance into the center of American naval power and have that under water by 2040, three hours a day just because of normal tidal action. In times of storms it would be worse.
So imagine in America that counts on its navy, that counts on that naval presence around the globe having its largest naval base inaccessible because of sea level rise.
We have an interesting community. One of the most unique areas is Tangier Island. It’s been continually inhabited since the 1600’s as a community for men and women. The folks who have traditionally made their living by going out and catching crabs and oysters and fish, and this is a small island with a few acres. It’s one of the only places you can go in the United States where you can hear English spoken as Shakespeare would have spoken it with a language that is an Elizabethan language. The community is isolated in that way. You hear this beautiful English spoken there and the community has many wonderful virtues but the Chesapeake Bay is coming up around this community and eroding it. I received a letter from a middle school student within the last month, a handwritten letter that might have been the most heartfelt piece of communication I’ve received in four-plus years in the senate saying would are you doing about sea level rise, what can you do to help us deal with these issues so that Tangier as an island does not completely disappear.
For these reasons and many others in Virginia we take this very, very seriously and we have to deal with it. I’ll tell you something else about Virginians. Virginians believe in science. The Virginia political figure we most admire was the preeminent scientist of the day, Thomas Jefferson. Virginians overwhelmingly believe in science. 70% of Virginians accept the scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change and that it is urgent that we do something about it. 70% of Virginians believe in that proposition.
Politico, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post are hosting events during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, one of the organizations called out by Senate Democrats earlier this month for “perpetrating a sprawling web of misdirection and disinformation to block action on climate change.”
The American Petroleum Institute is a notorious front group for ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and other climate polluters. The organization has long played a key role in the industry’s web of denial, as Sen. Dick Durbin noted on the Senate floor. Durbin read from a 1998 API memo explaining the oil industry’s plan to systematically deny climate science: “Victory would be achieved when uncertainty about the science would be part of the public perception.”
With the paid collusion of Politico and The Atlantic, API is still blowing smoke into the eyes of the public. They are promoting their civilization-threatening Vote4Energy “voter education project,” which calls for an “all-of-the-above energy strategy ” with “increased production of oil and natural gas,” denying the urgent scientific warnings about increased greenhouse pollution.
Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and the Democratic National Platform are all calling for a Department of Justice investigation of the fossil-fuel industry for “corporate fraud” and “misleading shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change.”
Democrats – including representatives of the Hillary Clinton campaign – appear to be giving the “web of denial” social license with their participation in Big Oil propaganda events during the Democratic National Convention.
- Gov. John Hickenlooper (CO)
- Gov. Jay Inslee (WA)
- Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-9)
- Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
- Rep. Gene Green (TX-29)
- Rep. Dave Loebsack (IA-02)
- Trevor Houser, Energy Advisor, Hillary Clinton campaign
- Heather Zichal, former White House climate advisor
Planned participants in the other “Vote4Oil”-sponsored events during the week include:
- Sen. Chris Coons (DE)
- Rep. Joe Crowley (NY-14)
- Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03)
- Rep. Xavier Becerra (CA-34)
- John Podesta, chair, Hillary Clinton campaign
- Neera Tanden, President and CEO, Center for American Progress
- Ruy Teixeira, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
- And other Democratic advisors and former top officials
It is a troubling state of affairs that the journalists of the Atlantic and Politico are accepting payment from dangerous propagandists. It is even worse that Democrats who recognize the seriousness of the climate emergency and the crisis of fossil-fuel influence and deception are rolling in Big OIl’s muck.
Climate Hawks Vote has launched the following petition to Democrats attending the DNC:
Michael Levi, a prominent apologist for the Keystone XL pipeline, natural-gas exports, and other fossil-fuel industry priorities, has joined the White House, Hill Heat has learned. Yesterday, Levi began work as a Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Economic Policy on the National Economic Council staff.
For ten years, Levi was Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow for energy and climate policy. Previously, Levi was a nuclear non-proliferation expert at the Brookings Institution, while pursuing his doctorate at the University of London.
Possessed of undeniable brilliance, Levi has no formal training in climate science, economics, or energy policy; his undergraduate and master’s degrees are in physics, and his doctorate is in War Studies. In 2008 he began publishing on climate policy, overseeing a major CFR Task Force report on U.S. climate policy chaired by Tom Vilsack and George Pataki. He quickly established himself as a prominent (and convenient) climate centrist-cum-contrarian—embracing the urgency of climate action, while criticizing other proponents of strong climate policy and providing convoluted arguments for the continued expansion of fossil-fuel and nuclear projects. (Levi calls his approach a most-of the above policy.) Over the years, his pursuits included taking a skeptical view of green jobs, promoting tar sands exploitation, and defending natural gas as a bridge fuel.
Levi’s position as CFR’s energy and climate expert was endowed by David Rubenstein, the founder of the Carlyle Group, a major investor in the oil and gas industry.
Levi is part of a generation of industry-friendly climate experts whose influence is on the rise with the ascension of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, whose numbers also include Heather Zichal (BA, Rutgers), the Rhodium Group’s Trevor Houser (BA, City College of New York) and Columbia University’s Jason Bordoff (Harvard Law). These people are pundits whose careers as climate experts have been sponsored by fossil-fuel industry investors despite a lack of training in climate science. They are now in position to shape United States climate policy if Clinton succeeds President Obama in November.
Climate Movement Flexes Political Power: Clinton's Democratic Platform Adopts Strong Climate Principles
Sanders and Clinton delegates speak in support of unity climate amendment.
However, the Sanders delegates, led by Josh Fox, were unable to get the platform to include language calling for a national moratorium on fracking. Led by Hillary Clinton energy advisor Trevor Houser, the committee adopted language calling for more regulation of fracking and a rebuilding of existing natural-gas infrastructure instead.
The text of the adopted unity amendment is below:
Page 19 Line 18, insert: Democrats believe that carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities, and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy and help meet our climate goals. Democrats believe that climate change is too important to wait for climate deniers and defeatists in Congress to start listening to science, and support using every tool available to reduce emissions now.
Page 19, Line 26, insert: We will streamline federal permitting to accelerate the construction of new transmission lines to get low-cost renewable energy to market, and incentivize wind, solar and other renewable energy over the development of new natural gas power plants.
We support President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. As we continue working to reduce carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gas emissions, we most ensure federal actions don’t “significantly exacerbate” global warming. We support a comprehensive approach that insures all federal decisions going forward contribute to solving, not significantly exacerbating climate change.
Democrats believe that our commitment to meeting the climate challenge most also be reflected in the infrastructure investments we make. We need to make our existing infrastructure safer and cleaner and build the new infrastructure necessary to power our clean energy future. To create good-paying middle class jobs that can’t be outsourced, Democrats support high labor standards in clean energy infrastructure, and the right to form or join a union, whether in renewable power or advanced vehicle manufacturing. During the clean energy transition, we will insure landowners, communities of color and tribal nations are at the table.
The text of Houser’s amendment supporting the continued fracking of natural gas is below:
Democrats are committed to closing the Halliburton loophole that stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing, and ensuring tough safeguards are in place, including Safe Drinking Water provisions, to protect local water supplies. We believe hydraulic fracturing should not take place where states and local communities oppose it. We will reduce methane emissions from all oil and gas production and transportation by at least 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2025 through common-sense standards for both new and existing sources and by repairing and replacing thousands of miles of leaky pipes. This will both protect our climate and create thousands of good-paying jobs.