Climate Change Got 82 Seconds in the Presidential Debate

That’s 82 seconds more than in the 2012 debates.

Ron Sachs/CNP via ZUMA

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This story was originally published by Grist and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

One minute and 22 seconds were spent on climate change and other environmental issues in Monday’s presidential debate—and that was pretty much all Hillary Clinton talking. (Surprise, surprise.) How does that compare to debates in past years? We ran the numbers on the past five election cycles to find out.

The high point for attention to green issues came in 2000, when Al Gore and George W. Bush spent just over 14 minutes talking about the environment over the course of three debates. The low point came in 2012, when climate change and other environmental issues got no time at all during the presidential debates. Some years, climate change came up during the vice presidential debates as well.

2016 so far: 1 minute, 22 seconds in one presidential debate.

2012: 0 minutes.

2008: 5 minutes, 18 seconds in two presidential debates. An additional 5 minutes, 48 seconds in a vice presidential debate.

2004: 5 minutes, 14 seconds in a single presidential debate.

2000: 14 minutes, 3 seconds in three presidential debates. 5 minutes, 21 seconds in a vice presidential debate.

In total, over the five election seasons we looked at, climate change and the environment got 37 minutes and 6 seconds on the prime-time stage during the presidential and vice presidential debates. That’s out of more than 1,500 minutes of debate. Not an impressive showing.

A note about how we arrived at these times:

We parsed questions asked of candidates and searched the transcripts for keywords like “climate,” “environment,” “energy,” and “warming.” We cross-referenced the transcripts with video of the debates. Only the mentions that pertained to fighting climate change, cleaning up the environment, and reducing emissions counted. President Obama’s passing reference to clean energy jobs in 2012 didn’t count, nor did discussions of energy security, because they were in the context of the economy and not fighting climate change.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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