Ohio debate moderator asks Senate candidates about UN climate report. Only one of them answers.

Democrat Sherrod Brown says climate change is “perhaps the greatest moral issue of our times.” Republican Jim Renacci changes the subject.

During their first debate, incumbent Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) and his challenger Rep. Jim Renacci (R) got a chance to address climate change. On October 14, moderator Ann Fisher, a program host for public radio station WOSU, asked the candidates for their reactions to the recent United Nations climate report that found humans have approximately 10 years to cut carbon emissions to a level that will avert the worst impacts of climate change. In his answer, Brown affirmed his acceptance of climate science and discussed the need for an “all of the above” energy strategy that includes investments in Ohio’s clean-energy sector. Renacci did not address climate change, but instead argued that “clean” coal should be part of Ohio’s “all of the above” energy strategy.

Media Matters is tracking debates in competitive Senate and gubernatorial races and encouraging moderators to ask candidates questions about climate change. So far, only 5 of 36 debates analyzed nationwide have included a climate-related question. See our scorecard.

From the October 14 Ohio Senate debate:

Video file

ANN FISHER (MODERATOR): Sen. Brown, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last week issued a report that warns if greenhouse emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2040, bringing worse food shortages, wildfires, and massive coastal flooding. The report said that the use of coal for electricity would have to drop from nearly 40 percent today to between 1 and 7 percent by 2050. What’s your reaction to the report? What do you think could be done to avert the crisis?

SHERROD BROWN (D): My reaction to the report is it’s solid. It makes sense. Congress and the White House have been derelict in their duty to address climate change, perhaps -- certainly one of, perhaps the greatest moral issue of our times because of the future of the health of our planet. We never should have pulled out of the Paris accords on climate change. We know that we have seen weather patterns change dramatically. I’ve been around the state, Ohio, to create wealth in the state, you either grow it, you mine it, or you make it. And Ohio does all three. We’re a good farm state, we’re an energy state, and we’re a manufacturing state. I’ve seen it all in Ohio. I’ve seen wind turbines in western Ohio and Paulding County. I've been to Toledo and many times been to First Solar. I know we mine coal in southeast Ohio. I want to do all of the above.

But, unfortunately, this Congress decides it’s way more important to subsidize fossil fuel than it is to invest in wind, and to invest in geothermal, and to invest in solar. Toledo is one of the major solar manufacturers in the whole country. Yet our state government and our federal government continue to be in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry, repealing renewable portfolio standards. All of those things that we as a state and we as a nation ought to be focused on. The report is mostly accurate. We need a Congress that’s going to invest.

FISHER: Thank you, Sen. Brown. Congressman Renacci?

JIM RENACCI (R): Thank you. And look, I support clean environment. I support clean water. I support clean air. But I also support an all of the above. When it comes to all of the above energy, we need to be thinking of those assets that are here in our state compared to other states. The problem with Sen. Brown is he’s more concerned about other states and Washington, D.C., than he is about this state. This state has natural assets in coal and in gas, and we should be looking at that, those are jobs.

This senator many times wears a canary on his lapel, and he talks about the coal miners. My grandfather was a coal miner. My grandfather was a proud coal miner. If my grandfather was alive today, you know what he would say? “Sen. Brown, you don’t support me. You don’t support me as a coal miner. You wanted to bankrupt one of the industries here in this state, which is important to this state.”

So yes, we do have to look at all of the above. We have to make sure we’re looking at our own resources as well and those that are beneficial. At the same time, all of the above -- wind, solar -- all of those are necessary. And I’m a believer that you can’t just walk away from the coal -- clean coal -- you can’t walk away from the natural gas -- clean natural gas -- that’s here and an asset in Ohio. So I’m a big believer that we need to continue to search for all of the above -- even nuclear -- all of these should be looked at, because we need to be competitive. And at the same time, you eliminate coal and natural gas like the senator would like to do, and energy costs from hard-working Americans are going to go up. Electric bills are going to go up. Let’s be prudent. Let’s do what’s right. Let’s quit worrying about voting with Washington, as my senator colleague here does, and let’s make sure we’re voting with Ohioans.

FISHER: Sen. Brown, 30 seconds.

BROWN: I do wear this canary in a birdcage to symbolize my support for mine workers, my support for all workers, my support for the dignity of work. The fact is: I led the charge a couple of years ago to restore the health care for retired mine workers. Sen. Manchin of West Virginia and I Ied the charge to do that. Right now, I’m the co-chair with Sen. Hatch, a very conservative Republican from Utah, to restore the pensions for 60,000 workers in Ohio. I support mine workers; they support me. But the important thing is I support them and will continue to.