Indiana Senate debate moderator asks candidates about climate change after being prodded by the public

Moderator Anne Ryder: “We have received more questions on [climate change] than any other topic”

The candidates running for U.S. Senate in Indiana -- incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly, Republican Mike Braun, and Libertarian Lucy Brenton -- got the chance to discuss climate change during their October 8 debate. Moderator Anne Ryder, a senior lecturer at Indiana University's Media School, brought up the alarming new United Nations report that concluded the world has approximately 10 years to avert the most severe effects of climate change, then asked a voter’s question about what action the U.S. government should take in response to the climate crisis. Ryder noted that more members of the public submitted questions about climate change than any other topic, signaling Americans' desire for candidates to express their views on climate change and share their proposals for fighting it.  

Media Matters is tracking debates in competitive Senate and gubernatorial races and encouraging moderators to ask candidates questions about climate change. See our scorecard.

From the October 8 Indiana Senate debate:

Video file

ANNE RYDER (MODERATOR): We’re going to move on to climate change. I’ll tell you, we’ve received more questions on this than any other topic. U.N scientists just came out yesterday and said the world has 10 years to get climate change under control or face dire circumstances. Right here at Purdue, researchers have projected that our average temperature will rise 5 to 6 degrees by mid-century. So this question was put in by Lee Eman, he’s a retiree in Bloomington, very open-ended, and he asks, “What actions, if any, should the U.S. government take to address climate change and global warming?" We’re going to get back on track here. Mr. Braun, you get to start.

MIKE BRAUN (R): Thank you. Climate change, the steward of the environment. I’m again going to bring talents to this discussion because I’ve been a steward of the environment for a long time. I started the ecology club back in high school; that’s unusual to hear out of conservatives. Been a steward of managing land in a way that I understand the real issues. All of us want clean air and clean water. But you’ve got to have common sense. You can’t do what the Democrats did and started picking winners and losers by trying to prop up industries that may be a part of a long-term solution, but that’s the way government works. And when you try to pull the rug out from underneath other industries, and again, that’s the way big government and bureaucrats work. When you learn it in the real world, you know the way to do it. And we now have got energy independence, and that has got to be always taken into consideration, while you’re keeping the environment in healthy condition. I’ve lived it, and that’s why I’ll know what to do.    

RYDER: Mr. Donnelly?   

JOE DONNELLY (D): You can’t trust Mike to fight for Lake Michigan. You can’t trust Mike to fight for our rivers. I wish you were still in the ecology club, Mike, because we need it now more than ever. Look, I am all in for American energy. For ethanol for our farmers. They’re having huge struggles with tariffs right now, and their prices have gone down. We need to make that ethanol market even more available and be used more for wind, for solar, for clean coal. If it’s made in America, we want to use it. And we want to make it so that we have a cleaner environment. We have a sacred obligation to our children, to everybody who’s watching out there, to turn over to you a planet, and a country, and a state, and a lake, and a river, in the Ohio river, that’s cleaner today than when we first found it. And that’s our job. And that’s what we’re supposed to do.

RYDER: Mrs. Brenton, climate change.

LUCY BRENTON (Libertarian): You know the problem is with corporations and government regulations, which actually give permission to the corporations on how much they can pollute. I’ve been boycotting Nestle since 1993. Why have I been boycotting them? Because they’re a horrible company, and, as Sen. Donnelly just alluded to, they’re actually draining Lake Michigan and selling it off to the Chinese. This is absolutely ridiculous. We don’t need more of this in Washington, we need people that will actually stand up for what’s right, that will offer real solutions. For example: We need a global cleanup effort to get the plastics and dirt out of our ocean. We need heme iron to seed our phytoplankton, so that they’re actually able to clean up the oceans for us. We need hemp. Oh my gosh, did I talk about this two years ago or what? We need hemp, we need hemp, we need hemp. Why do we need hemp? Because it fixes carbon. Why do we need hemp? Because we don’t need ethanol. That’s just another government boondoggle that pays off his cronies.

DONNELLY: Actually, we do need ethanol.

BRENTON: I think we need hemp.

RYDER: Mr. Braun, did you want a rebuttal on this? Mr. Braun or Mr. Donnelly?

DONNELLY: I just wanted to say look, we’re Indiana. We fight for our farmers. Ethanol is a clean fuel, it’s an extraordinarily good fuel, it is something that makes money go in the pockets of our farmers instead of the sheiks in Saudi Arabia or in the Middle East. I’ll fight for our guys on the farm every day or our women on the farm every single time.

RYDER: OK, let’s keep it moving. We have some rebuttal. Mr. Braun.

BRAUN: OK, quick rebuttal. When it comes to energy independence, where were Democrats and where was the senator? President Trump came along and now we’re an exporter of energy. And I think the big difference in this debate and in the approach is do you accept the things of the past? The senator has been running for office or serving in it for almost a career, and you’ve got to ...

DONNELLY: That’s just not true, that just not true. I spent more time, lots more time, in the private sector than in public office.

RYDER: Mr. Braun, you’ve got 10 more seconds.

BRAUN: If you don’t get people in there that think differently, expect more of the same. I’m going there because folks have been there a long time, and they’ve delivered us these results. He’s shirking it; he’s part of the problem.

RYDER: OK, we’re getting off track a little bit. Mrs. Brenton, you indicated you want a very quick rebuttal.

BRENTON: I think I may be the only one standing up here that has an organic garden and that composts and recycles and does all that good stuff. Maybe Sen. Donnelly does as well. Here’s what I know: I know that we have some of the richest soil in the world, and we’re wasting it on corn. We could have a much better crop that is already pesticide-resistant, We don’t have to keep putting dicamba and 2,4-D on our playgrounds or on our corn. We need to protect the Hoosier environment, and stop polluting it.