DNC rules against sponsoring a climate debate
Ceci Freed / Media Matters

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Scorecard: Climate discussions during the 2022 U.S. Senate debates

Faced with an accelerating climate crisis, significant regulatory setbacks, and the passage of the first major climate legislation in United States history, moderators of U.S. Senate debates in 2022 should be engaging candidates in substantive discussions about climate change, as well as climate and energy policy.

Responding to public pressure, media scrutiny, and reality, the 2020 general election was a breakout year for climate coverage, culminating with an audience of millions watching the presidential nominees answer questions about climate change for the first time in 12 years. Since then, Congress has passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law on August 16 allocating a historic $369 billion in climate and energy provisions.  

Other significant climate-related events include the Supreme Court’s June 30 decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, which severely curtailed the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Both 2021 and 2022 have also seen devastating, record-breaking extreme climate events that harmed the lives of millions of people.

As we did in 2016, 2018, and 2020, Media Matters is tracking how often debate moderators in 2022 ask candidates about climate change, which is a top issue for many voters. The scorecard will be updated after each debate.

We are focused on competitive U.S. Senate races — those ranked among the Cook Political Report as being a “toss-up,” “lean R,” or “lean D,” as of September 19 — in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.

  • Our count of questions includes discrete climate questions, follow-up questions, and invitations to other candidates to respond to the initial question or to another candidate's response. The percentage is based on the total number of questions or invitations to speak offered throughout the debate.

    • Arizona Senate Debate (October 6, 2022): 39 questions (0%)
    • Georgia Senate Debate (October 14, 2022): 53 questions (0%)

    • Pennsylvania Senate Debate (October 25, 2022): 57 questions (0%)

    • New Hampshire Senate Debate (October 27, 2022) 53 questions (8%)

    • Colorado Senate Debate (October 28, 2022) 46 questions (0%)

  • Arizona Senate debate hosted by Arizona PBS

  • The Arizona Senate debate between incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and GOP nominee Blake Masters, which was hosted by Arizona PBS and moderated by Arizona PBS host Ted Simons, was held in Phoenix, Arizona, on October 6. Simons asked a total of 39 questions, but none were focused on climate change. Although the moderator asked three questions about a severe drought plaguing Arizona towards the end of the debate, he never explicitly connected it to climate change.

  • Georgia Senate debate hosted by Nexstar Media Group

  • The Georgia Senate debate on October 14 between incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and GOP nominee Herschel Walker was hosted by Nexstar Media Group and moderated by WAGA anchor Buck Lanford and WSAV anchor Tina Tyus-Shaw. The moderators asked a total of 53 questions, but none of them were about climate change or related issues.

  • Pennsylvania Senate debate hosted by Nexstar Media Group

  • The Pennsylvania Senate debate between Democratic candidate John Fetterman and Republican candidate Mehmet Oz aired on October 25 and was hosted by Nextstar Media Group. The moderators, WPXI anchor Lisa Sylvester and WHTM-TV abc27 News anchor Dennis Owens, asked the candidates 57 questions, but none of them were about climate change. Sylvester did engage the candidates in a brief exchange about fracking.

  • New Hampshire Senate debate hosted by New Hampshire Public Radio, New Hampshire PBS, and New Hampshire Bulletin

  • The New Hampshire Senate debate between Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan and Republican candidate Don Bolduc aired on October 27 and was hosted by New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR), New Hampshire PBS, and New Hampshire Bulletin. The moderators, New Hampshire Bulletin's energy and environment reporter Amanda Gokee and NHPR’s senior political reporter Josh Rogers, asked the candidates 53 questions, including 4 about climate change. Gokee also engaged the candidates in a discussion about environmental regulation.

  • Colorado Senate debate hosted by Colorado Politics, The Gazette (Colorado Springs), and The Gazette (Denver)

  • The Colorado Senate debate between Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican candidate Joe O’Dea was hosted by Colorado Politics, The Gazette (Colorado Springs), and The Gazette (Denver). The moderators, Denver Gazette and Colorado Politics Editor Luigi del Puerto, 9News anchor Kyle Clark, 9News reporter Marshall Zelinger, and KRDO anchor Heather Skold asked the candidates 46 questions, but none of them were about climate change.