Scorecard: Tracking Climate Change Questions In Presidential, Senate, And Governors' Debates

Scorecard: Tracking Climate Change Questions In Presidential, Senate, And Governors' Debates

››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER
With 2016 on track to become the third consecutive hottest year on record, debate moderators should be asking candidates about how they plan to address climate change -- something that rarely happened during the presidential primary debates and didn’t happen in any of the general election presidential debates or the vice presidential debate. This election season, Media Matters ran a real-time scorecard to track how often panelists or debate moderators in the presidential election and tightly contested Senate and governors' races asked the candidates about climate change. We continually updated the scorecard as debates happened, right up until election day. When climate questions were asked, we provided transcript of the questions and posted links to video/audio of the candidates’ responses.
 
UPDATE (11/7/16): With all of the debates now completed, the lack of climate questions is on full display. Less than a quarter of the debates we examined included questions about climate change, and most key Senate and governors’ races did not feature a single debate question on the topic. Read more of our key takeaways from the debate scorecard here.

Pres. Election (updated 10/20) Missouri Governor (updated 10/3) Ohio Senate (updated 10/21)
Arizona Senate (updated 10/11) Montana Governor (updated 10/10) PA Senate (updated 10/25)
Florida Senate (updated 10/27) Nevada Senate (updated 10/17) Vermont Governor (updated 11/4)
Illinois Senate (updated 11/7) New Hampshire Senate (updated 11/3) WV Governor (updated 10/12)
Indiana Senate (updated 10/19) New Hampshire Governor (updated 11/2) Wisconsin Senate (updated 10/19)
Indiana Governor (updated 10/26) North Carolina Senate (updated 10/14)  
Missouri Senate (updated 10/3) North Carolina Governor (updated 10/19)  

Presidential Election

Major Party Presidential Candidates: Donald Trump (R), Hillary Clinton (D)

Presidential Debates

Network: NBC
Moderator: Lester Holt (NBC anchor)
Focus: “America’s Direction,” “Achieving Prosperity,” and “Securing America” [Commission on Presidential Debates, 9/19/16]
Climate Question(s): Holt did not ask any questions about climate change at this debate, but both candidates did bring up the topic themselves.
 
Clinton brought up climate change during a discussion of her economic policies, stating: “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it's real.” Trump replied: “I did not. I do not say that.” But he has in fact referred to climate change as a “hoax” on multiple occasions and tweeted in 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Clinton added of climate change: “I think it's important that we grip this and deal with it, both at home and abroad.” [Media Matters, 5/26/16; Donald Trump tweet, 11/6/12]

Trump brought up global warming later in the debate, when he stated: “The single greatest problem the world has is nuclear armament, nuclear weapons, not global warming, like you [Clinton] think and your -- your president thinks. Nuclear is the single greatest threat.”

Date: October 9
Networks: ABC, CNN
Moderator(s): Martha Raddatz (ABC News chief global affairs correspondent), Anderson Cooper (CNN anchor)
Focus: “The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which half of the questions will be posed directly by citizen participants and the other half will be posed by the moderator based on topics of broad public interest as reflected in social media and other sources.” [Commission on Presidential Debates, accessed 9/29/16]
Voter-Submitted Questions: ABC and CNN moderators said they would consider the top 30 questions voted up on the Open Debate Coalition website. Leading climate-related questions included “As president, What are the steps you will take to address climate change?” and “What is your plan to combat climate change & build a green economy?
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate, despite the fact that ABC and CNN had committed to considering the top 30 questions voted up on the Open Debate Coalition website, and a climate change question received the fourth most votes.
 
Energy policy did briefly come up towards the end of the debate, when one audience member asked both candidates, “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?” Trump answered by promoting the myth that EPA regulations are “putting our energy companies out of business,” and repeating his wildly off-base claim that he will “bring back” coal industry jobs. He also echoed conservative media by distorting comments Clinton made about coal miners, in a manner that even two Fox News anchors have recognized as unfair. Clinton addressed climate change in her answer when she stated, “So I have a comprehensive energy policy, but it really does include fighting climate change because I think that is a serious problem.”

Network: Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox News Channel
Moderator(s): Chris Wallace (Fox Broadcasting Company anchor and Fox News contributor)
Focus: “Debt and entitlements,” “Immigration,” “Economy,” “Supreme Court,” “Foreign hot spots,” and “Fitness to be President” [Commission on Presidential Debates, 10/12/16]
Voter-Submitted Questions: The Open Debate Coalition launched a petition urging debate moderator Chris Wallace to ask questions from the top of PresidentialOpenQuestions.com. The following climate-related questions were included in the Open Debate Coalition’s list of top questions: “As president, What are the steps you will take to address climate change?” and “What is your plan to combat climate change & build a green economy?” 
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate, even though a climate question received the fourth-most votes from the public on the Open Debate Coalition website and there were many ways Wallace could have incorporated climate change into the question topics he selected.
 
As in the previous debates, Clinton mentioned climate change on her own, this time in response to a question about the candidates’ jobs plans. Clinton stated: “I think when the middle class thrives, America thrives. And so my plan is based on growing the economy, giving middle-class families many more opportunities. I want us to have the biggest jobs program since World War II, jobs in 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 businesses.”

Major Party Vice Presidential Candidates: Mike Pence (R), Tim Kaine (D)

Vice Presidential Debates

Date: October 4
Network: CBS
Moderator(s): Elaine Quijano (CBS News correspondent)
Climate Question(s): There were no climate questions in the debate, but Kaine did bring up climate change in his opening remarks, when he said Clinton will build “strong alliances to battle terrorism and climate change.” Pence did not mention climate change, but did push the myth of a “war on coal” five times during the debate.

Arizona Senate

Major Party Senate Candidates: John McCain (R), Ann Kirkpatrick (D)

Senate Debates

Network: Arizona PBS
Moderators: Ted Simons (Arizona PBS host), Yvonne Wingett Sanchez (reporter, The Arizona Republic)
Focus: “Foreign, domestic, and regional issues” [The Arizona Republic, 9/23/16]
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.

Florida Senate

Major Party Senate Candidates: Marco Rubio (R), Patrick Murphy (D)

Senate Debates

Network: WFTV Channel 9 (Central Florida ABC affiliate)
Panelists: Greg Warmoth (anchor, WFTV), Nancy Alvarez (anchor, WFTV), Marc Caputo (senior writer, Politico)
Moderator: Jonathan Karl (ABC chief White House correspondent)
Focus: “Issues that affect the people of Florida” [WFTV.com, 10/17/16]
Climate Question(s): Warmoth posed the following question to Rubio: “Senator Rubio, you talk about what you are and what you’re not, and you’re quoted as saying in the past that you are not a scientist. Yet $400 billion, as we sit here tonight, in property is at risk because of rising seas. And on a dry day, streets in South Florida, where you live, have flooded. In fact, that happened just yesterday, without a raindrop. What are you going to do to protect Floridians in what is clearly an undeniable threat to our coastline and your, my, and your kids’ drinking water with the saltwater intrusion?”
 
Rubio responded, in part, by claiming that legislation to reduce carbon pollution "will have no impact on the environment since China is more than making up for any carbon cuts we would do." (China is actually on track to meet or even outperform the climate targets it committed to in the Paris climate agreement). Murphy, by contrast, said that “everywhere I go in Florida, I see the effects” of climate change, and he added -- correctly -- that "Senator Rubio denies science."
 
See both candidates’ full responses here:

Network: WPBF 25 (West Palm Beach ABC affiliate)
Moderator(s): Todd McDermott (WPBF news anchor)
Panelists: Neil Brown (editor and vice president, Tampa Bay Times), Patricia Mazzei (political writer, Miami Herald)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.

Illinois Senate

Major Party Senate Candidates: Mark Kirk (R), Tammy Duckworth (D)

Senate Debates

Date: October 3
Network: Livestream on the Chicago Tribune's Facebook page
Moderator: Chicago Tribune editorial board
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Date: October 26 (Mark Kirk declined WTTW’s invitation to appear in their candidate forum)
Network: WTTW (Chicago PBS affiliate)
Moderator: Carol Marin (contributor, WTTW’s Chicago Tonight)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Network: WICS (Springfield, Decatur, and Champaign ABC affiliate), WMAY (Springfield, Illinois Radio)
Moderator: Adam Rife (anchor, WICS)
Panelists: Bernard Schoenburg (political writer and columnist, The State Journal-Register), Jim Leach (news and program director, WMAY Radio), Jordan Abudayyeh (political reporter, WICS)
Climate Question(s): Abudayyeh asked the following question: “The Paris climate agreements go into effect a few days before the election. Do you think that climate change is real and that it’s a man-made exasperated problem? And what would you support in order to help combat climate change?”
 
Duckworth answered, “Of course climate change is real. And I support an all-of-the-above approach attacking climate change -- everything from moving our country towards being carbon-neutral, moving our country towards clean energy.” She also called for increased use of wind energy in Illinois. Kirk replied that he has voted that “climate change is happening and it’s also caused by man.” Kirk also claimed that “the best thing we can do for climate change is to make sure that China converts to a more nuclear future.” Duckworth responded by noting Kirk’s inconsistent record on climate change, including votes for and against the Clean Power Plan, and stated, “One of the head-scratching moments from many things that my opponent has said was when he said that he didn’t believe in global warming because Greenland is called ‘Greenland’ so it must have been green at some point” (the climate denial statement from Kirk that Duckworth referenced is available here).
 
See the candidates’ full responses beginning at the 1:18:42 mark in the video below:
Network: ABC 7 Chicago
Moderator: Kathy Brock (anchor, ABC 7 Chicago)
Panelists: Charles Thomas (political reporter, ABC 7 Chicago), Erika Maldonado (anchor, Univision Chicago)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.

Indiana Senate

Major Party Senate Candidates: Todd Young (R), Evan Bayh (D)

Senate Debates

Network: WFYI (Central Indiana PBS station)
Moderator: Ken Owen (executive director of media relations, DePauw University)
Voter-Submitted Questions: The Indiana Debate Commission provided an online form for voters to submit questions.
Climate Question(s): Owen noted the Indiana Debate Commission received several questions about climate change, but the one he chose to ask misrepresented the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change by giving climate science deniers equal standing to the vast majority of climate scientists. Owen stated: “And now a question submitted by a voter to the Debate Commision. We received several questions regarding climate change. Some, as you know, argue that human activities play a key role in climate change, and then others, as you know, say the very notion of climate change is a myth. Where do you stand on the spectrum, and how should the U.S. prioritize its energy sources?”
 
Bayh replied that “climate change is real,” and that he supports renewable energy, energy efficiency, “clean coal,” and ethanol, but opposes a “cap-and-trade system” and the Clean Power Plan. Young answered, “Well, this is a global issue. It’s not a Hoosier problem,” and added, “We don’t want to wreck our economy trying to deal with it” via “carbon taxes.”
 
See the candidates’ full responses (and that of Libertarian candidate Lucy Brenton) here:

Indiana Governor

Major Party Governor Candidates: Eric Holcomb (R), John Gregg (D)

Gubernatorial Debates

Network: The debate was broadcast on public television stations and webcast to schools across the state. [IndyStar.com, 9/21/16, 8/23/16]
Moderator: Laura Merrifield Albright (University of Indianapolis political science professor)
Focus: “Education issues”
Voter-Submitted Questions: The Indiana Debate Commission provided an online form for voters to submit questions.
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Date: October 3
Network: The debate was broadcast on public television stations.
Moderator(s): John Ketzenberger (Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute President)
Focus: “Jobs and the economy” [IndyStar.com, 9/21/16]
Voter-Submitted Questions: The Indiana Debate Commission provided an online form for voters to submit questions.
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Network: The debate was broadcast on public television stations. [IndyStar.com, 9/21/16]
Moderator(s): Mizell Stewart III (vice president of news operations for Gannett and the USA Today Network)
Focus: “Health and social issues” [IndyStar.com, 9/21/16]
Voter-Submitted Questions: The Indiana Debate Commission provided an online form for voters to submit questions.
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.

Missouri Senate

Major Party Senate Candidates: Roy Blunt (R), Jason Kander (D)

Senate Debates

Network: Via livestream on the Springfield News-Leader’s website, and broadcast on Missouri’s public access channel and C-SPAN.
Moderator: David Lieb (chief correspondent in Jefferson City, Associated Press)
Panelists: Bill Miller Sr. (editor and publisher of the Washington Missourian, Carol Stark (editor of The Joplin Globe), and Ken Newton (senior reporter for the St. Joseph News-Press)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.

Missouri Governor

Major Party Governor Candidates: Eric Greitens (R), Chris Koster (D)

Gubernatorial Debates

Network: Via livestream on the Springfield News-Leader’s website.
Moderator: David Lieb (chief correspondent in Jefferson City, Associated Press)
Panelists: Bill Miller Sr. (editor and publisher of the Washington Missourian, Carol Stark (editor of The Joplin Globe), and Ken Newton (senior reporter for the St. Joseph News-Press)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.

Montana Governor

Major Party Governor Candidates: Greg Gianforte (R), Steve Bullock (D)

Gubernatorial Debates

Date: June 26
Network: Montana Broadcasters Association stations (including KRTV, several local ABC affiliates, SWX, and Montana PBS)
Moderator: Ron Davis (Chairman of the Montana Broadcasters Association Board and the Vice Chairman for the Greater Montana Foundation)
Panelists: Becky Hillier (anchor and host of Wake Up Montana on KULR), Jay Kohn (assistant news director, KTVQ), and Julie Weindel (news director, NBC Montana)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Network: KULR8
Moderator: Becky Hillier (anchor and host of Wake Up Montana on KULR)
Panelists: Tom Lutey (reporter, Billings Gazette), Jackie Yamanaka (news director, Yellowstone Public Radio), Greg Lamotte (anchor, KULR8 News)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Date: October 8
Network: Montana Television Network, which includes KTVH (Helena NBC affiliate), KGBF (Great Falls NBC affiliate), The CW (Helena), KTVQ (Billings CBS affiliate), KPAX (Missoula and western Montana CBS affiliate), KRTV (Great Falls CBS affiliate), KXLH (Helena CBS affiliate), KXLF (Butte CBS affiliate), KBZK (Bozeman CBS affiliate) and KAJ (Kalispell CBS affiliate) [KTVQ.com, 11/3/15]
Moderator: Tim McGonigal (anchor, Montana Television Network)
Panelists: Mike Dennison (chief political reporter, Montana Television Network), Donna Kelly (anchor, Montana Television Network), Jay Kohn (assistant news director, KTVQ)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.

Nevada Senate

Major Party Senate Candidates: Joe Heck (R), Catherine Cortez Masto (D)

Senate Debates

Network: KLAS-TV (Las Vegas CBS affiliate), KINC-TV (Univision/Entravision)
Moderators: Denise Valdez (anchor, KLAS-TV), Tsi-Tsi-Ki Félix (political anchor, KINC-TV), Steve Sebelius (host, KLAS-TV; columnist, Las Vegas Review Journal)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate. 

New Hampshire Senate

Major Party Senate Candidates: Kelly Ayotte (R), Maggie Hassan (D)

Senate Debates

Network: WMUR (ABC affiliate)
Moderator: George Epstein (chairman, The Echo Group)
Climate Question(s): Epstein asked Ayotte the following question: “Is the earth getting warmer? Is it getting warmer as a result of human activity? And if the answer to those things is yes, what should the United States Senate and you as a senator do about it?” Epstein also posed the question to Hassan, stating, “Maggie Hassan, same question. Is the environment being affected by human intervention? And what would the U.S. Senate do about it?”
 
Here’s how the candidates responded:

Date: October 3
Network: New England Cable News (NECN), WKXL (Concord radio), WGIR-AM
Moderator: Mike Nikitas (anchor, NECN)
Panelists: Allison King (political reporter, NECN), Allie Morris (reporter, Concord Monitor), Chris Ryan (host of New Hampshire Now on WKXL)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Network: WGIR-AM (Manchester Radio)
Moderator: Jack Heath
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate. 
 
Network: New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR)
Moderator: Laura Knoy (host of NHPR’s The Exchange)
Panelists: Josh Roger, (senior political reporter, NHPR), Jeff Feingold (editor, NHPR)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Network: NH1 TV (Independent New Hampshire TV station)
Moderators: Paul Steinhauser (political director, NH1 News), Keke Vencill (anchor, NH1 News)
Voter-Submitted Questions: Citizens could vote for climate change questions at the Open Debate Coalition website. The Open Debate Coalition said half of the debate questions would come from the Top 30 vote-getters there.
Climate Question(s): During a lightning round of questioning in which candidates were asked for a “yes” or “no” response or “extremely short answers,” Steinhauser asked the following question: “Climate change. Do you believe it is man-made?” On-screen, NH1 aired another climate change question that had received the fourth-most votes on the Open Debate Coalition website (NH1 had committed to drawing half of the debate questions from the top-30 vote-getters on the Open Debate Coalition website).
 
In response to the question of whether she believes that climate change is man-made, Hassan replied, “Yes, I do,” and then touted her work on combatting climate change and noted that Ayotte doubted whether human-caused climate change was real when she first ran for the Senate. Ayotte replied, “I do believe that it is real, and Governor Hassan again needs to understand that I was the first Republican in the country to support the president’s Clean Power Plan, that I’ve crossed party lines, even taken criticism from my own party to protect New Hampshire’s environment, and that goes back to my time as Attorney General.”
 
See the candidates’ full responses below:

Network: WMUR-TV (Manchester ABC affiliate)
Moderator: Josh McElveen (political director, WMUR)
Panelists: Kevin Landrigan (reporter, New Hampshire Union Leader), John DiStaso (political reporter, WMUR), Allie Morris (reporter, Concord Monitor)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.

New Hampshire Governor

Major Party Governor Candidates: Candidates: Chris Sununu (R), Colin Van Ostern (D)

Gubernatorial Debates

Network: New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR)
Moderator: Laura Knoy (host of NHPR’s The Exchange)
Panelists: Josh Rogers (reporter, NHPR), Bob Sanders (staff writer, New Hampshire Business Review)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Date: October 5
Network: New England Cable News (NECN), WKXL (Concord radio), WGIR-AM
Moderator: Phil Lipof (anchor/reporter, NECN)
Panelists: Allison King (political reporter, NECN), Ella Nilsen (reporter, Concord Monitor), Chris Ryan (host of New Hampshire Now on WKXL)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Network: NH1 TV (Independent New Hampshire TV station)
Moderators: Paul Steinhauser (political director, NH1 News), Keke Vencill (anchor, NH1 News)
Voter-Submitted Questions: Citizens could vote for climate change questions at the Open Debate Coalition website. The Open Debate Coalition said half of the debate questions would come from the Top 30 vote-getters there.
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate, even though a climate question was among the top vote-getters on the Open Debate Coalition website.  
 
Network: WMUR-TV (Manchester ABC affiliate)
Moderator: Josh McElveen (political director, WMUR)
Panelists: Dave Solomon (reporter, New Hampshire Union Leader), Adam Sexton (political reporter, WMUR), Allie Morris (reporter, Concord Monitor)
Climate Question(s): There were no climate change questions at this debate, but there was a lengthy discussion of energy policy beginning at the 11:26 mark of the video here.

North Carolina Senate

Major Party Senate Candidates: Richard Burr (R), Deborah Ross (D)

Senate Debates

Network: The debate was broadcast live to about 30 TV stations and on the N.C. News Network’s radio stations, representing every television market in the state. [The News & Observer, 9/16/16]
Moderator: Jonathan Karl (chief White House correspondent, ABC News)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.

North Carolina Governor

Major Party Governor Candidates: Pat McCrory (R), Roy Cooper (D)

Gubernatorial Debates

Date: June 24
Network: Various stations
Moderator: Gray Wilson (past president of the North Carolina Bar Association)
Panelists: Loretta Boniti (Senior Political Reporter, Time Warner Cable News), Gerald Owens (anchor/reporter, WRAL), and Jamie Boll (anchor, WBTV)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Network: UNC-TV (North Carolina PBS affiliate)
Moderator: Chuck Todd (NBC News Political Director)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Network: The Oct. 18 debate aired live on WRAL-TV and be streamed live on WRAL.com and will be available to other media outlets statewide. [WRAL.com, 10/10/16]
Moderators: David Crabtree (anchor WRAL-TV), Laura Leslie (Capital Bureau Chief, WRAL-TV)
Voter-Submitted Questions: Questions could be submitted by filling out a form at the WRAL website (form is no longer available following the debate).
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.

Ohio Senate

Major Party Senate Candidates: Rob Portman (R), Ted Strickland (D)

Senate Debates

Network: WFMJ (Youngstown-Warren NBC affiliate)
Moderator: Derek Steyer (anchor WJFM)
Panelists: David Skolnick (political writer/columnists, The Vindicator), Leslie Barrett (anchor, WFMJ), Glenn Stevens (reporter, WFMJ), Bob Black (retired anchor, WFMJ)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Network: WBNS (Columbus CBS affiliate)
Moderator: Jerry Revish (anchor, WBNS)
Panelists: Scott Light (political anchor, WBNS), Tracy Townsend (news anchor, WBNS), Darrel Rowland (public affairs editor, The Columbus Dispatch). Kristyn Hartman (anchor, WBNS) joined via live feed from a WBNS studio to share questions from viewers.
Voter-Submitted Questions: WBNS-10TV accepted video questions that could appear live during the debate. Video questions were submitted here (link was altered following the debate).
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.  
 
Network: WEWS (Cleveland ABC affiliate)
Moderators: Danita Harris (anchor, WEWS-TV), Karen Kasler (bureau chief, Statehouse News Bureau)
Climate Question(s): An audience member asked the following question: “Public health agencies are preparing for more heat-related deaths and new insect-borne diseases. Water infrastructure agencies are expecting damage from more and intense rainstorms and flooding. Experts are concerned about water levels and algae blooms in our great Lake Erie and increased smog during heatwaves as well. Our native species might not be able to adapt. In fact, the National Audubon Society has found that half of all the North American bird species are at risk from climate change. If elected, what are your plans to protect the people, the wildlife, and the natural areas in Ohio from the current and potential threats of a changing climate?”
 
Portman did not mention climate change or global warming in his answer. Instead, he touted his work on energy efficiency, which he said would “deal with carbon emissions and help to create a cleaner environment,” and the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, which he said has also made “a concrete difference" in terms of emissions. Strickland responded, in part, by stating, “science tells us that our climate is changing in large part because of human activity. And I believe that, and I accept it. My opponent does not.” He added that Portman has “been unwilling to say that human activity is significantly involved in climate change.” Indeed, while the world’s major scientific institutions say climate change is the main cause of global warming, Portman voted against a Senate amendment affirming that human activities “significantly” contribute to climate change and he wrongly claimed that “scientists have a lot of different views” on the degree of human involvement. Strickland also noted that he supports the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, while Portman opposes it.
 
See the candidates’ full response here:

Pennsylvania Senate

Major Party Senate Candidates: Pat Toomey (R), Katie McGinty (D)

Senate Debates

Network: KDKA (Pittsburgh CBS affiliate)
Moderator: Ken Rice (anchor, KDKA)
Panelists: Jon Delano (money and politics editor, KDKA), Lynne Hayes-Freeland (reporter, KDKA)
Climate Question(s): Delano asked McGinty the following question based on the false premise that there is a “war on coal”: “Ms. McGinty, are you engaged in a war on coal, believing, as many environmentalists do, that we need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels like coal? And if so, what do you say to employees in this region and throughout the state in the fossil fuel industry who might think that their jobs are at stake if you get elected senator?” McGinty responded, in part, by stating, “We can’t be a climate denier like [Toomey] is, we’ve got to be honest about real problems and challenges. But let’s create jobs in tackling them.”
 
Following McGinty’s remarks, Delano noted that “there are many Super PACs that are supporting fossil fuels” that have been running ads against McGinty, and then asked Toomey, “Do you reject the science behind global warming, and if re-elected, will you oppose efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels?” In his response, Toomey contradicted the scientific consensus that human activities are the main cause of global warming. He stated: “Any honest, objective look at the record shows that the surface temperature of the planet has risen over the last 100 years, and common sense suggests that human activity has contributed to that. But it’s a fact that we don’t know exactly how much human activity has contributed to it.” Toomey also baselessly claimed that “China and India will do nothing” to address climate change.
 
Here are the candidates’ full responses:

Network: WPVI (Philadelphia ABC affiliate)
Moderator: Jim Gardner (anchor, WPVI)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate, but a student did ask both candidates the following question about energy policy: “What are you going to do to bring green energy to the state of Pennsylvania, rather than focusing mainly on coal and fossil fuel energies?” Toomey answered that “whatever makes economic sense is what we ought to have,” and criticized McGinty for supporting the production tax credit for wind energy, which he claimed “forces your tax dollars to go to people who cannot produce energy efficiently.” McGinty responded: “I think it’s interesting that [Toomey] should say, ‘Well, these energy companies need to make it on their own,’ when he’s one of the biggest defenders of billions of dollars every year of tax breaks to Big Oil.”
 
See the candidates’ full responses here:

Vermont Governor

Major Party Governor Candidates: Phil Scott (R), Sue Minter (D)

Gubernatorial Debates

Date: August 22
Network: Vermont PBS
Moderators: Peter Hirschfield (reporter, Vermont Public Radio) and Lola Duffort (staff writer, Rutland Herald)
Focus: “Education and other subjects”
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change posed by the moderators, but in the portion of the debate where candidates were allowed to ask each other questions, Sue Minter posed the following question to Phil Scott:  

Phil, I know you’ve said climate change is a problem, but you won’t acknowledge that climate change is significantly driven by human activity, even though 97 percent of the world’s scientists, and Republican governor Jim Douglas, disagree with you on that point. So how can Vermonters know you are going to be a governor focused on reducing carbon emissions, cutting costs for ratepayers, and focusing on how we continue to transform our energy future and address the very real challenge of climate change?”

Network: WDEV (Vermont radio station)
Moderator: Mike Smith (host, WDEV)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Network: Vermont Public Radio, ORCA Media
Moderator: Anne Galloway (founder/editor, VTDigger.org)
Focus: “Women’s issues”
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Network: Cable access station.
Moderator: Anne Galloway (founder/editor, VTDigger.org)
Focus: “Issues related to school-aged Vermont youth and their families”
Climate Question(s): This debate was broadcast on a cable access station and is not currently available online. However, a representative from the non-profit organization Windsor County Partners, which hosted the debate, told Media Matters: “This forum focused on youth-specific issues. Since climate change is a more global issue, it was not addressed at this event.”
 
Network: PEGTV, Rutland Community Access, Channel 21
Moderators: Mark Johnson (senior editor and reporter, VTDigger). According to VTDigger, “Castleton University students will be on hand to assist moderating questions pertaining to college tuition, financial aid and the economic prospects for young adults in Vermont.”
Focus: Reader questions
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Date: October 6
Network: Vermont PBS
Moderator: Joe Merone (Former Executive Producer, Vermont PBS). Neal Goswami (bureau chief, Vermont Press Bureau) also posed questions to the candidates.
Climate Question(s): Merone asked Minter, “Would you like to clarify your position on the carbon tax?” After Minter answered, Merone allowed Scott and third party candidate Bill Lee to respond (see 24:24 mark in video below). Additionally, Merone briefly brought up climate change in a transportation-related question, when he said: “I don’t think anyone would argue that Vermont’s bridges, roads, infrastructure never seems to get the maintenance and the maintenance dollars needed for repair and upkeep. Furthermore, pollution, climate change concerns relative to carbon emissions is always very much an issue. With the gasoline tax an uncertain and unpredictable source of income, how do we pay for our transportation needs going forwards?” (see 14:10 mark in video below).
Date: October 17 (Roundtable)
Network: Vermont PBS
Moderator: Cathy Resmer (associate publisher, Seven Days)
Focus: “The conversation will be focused on public-policy priorities identified by the Vermont Technology Alliance:
* Positioning Vermont: Incorporating innovation and tech into the Vermont story
* Addressing Infrastructure: This includes access to broadband, expanding a support ecosystem for entrepreneurs, and training students for 21st century jobs
* Examining policies and legislation that affect tech businesses in Vermont” [Innovation Week 2016, accessed 10/17/16]
Voter-Submitted Questions: Roundtable organizers crowdsourced questions in advance of the event on Twitter using the hashtag #innov802. They also accepted short video questions — 90 seconds or less addressing the topic areas above — through this online form. Video questions had to be submitted by October 6.
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
 
Network: WCAX (Burlington CBS affiliate)
Moderators: Kristin Kelly (anchor and executive producer, WCAX), Darren Perron (reporter and executive producer, WCAX). Julie Kelley (anchor, WCAX) monitored social media for topics Vermonters wanted to hear about and read and introduced viewer-submitted questions.      
Climate Question(s): Kelley read a question submitted on Facebook, by a voter who asked, “If the legislature passes a carbon tax, will you veto it or sign it into law?” Scott promptly responded that he would “veto it.” Minter replied that “climate change is real and it is here and it is affecting our economy and we have to address it.” She added that “I am not supporting a carbon tax,” but that she would invest in renewable energy and “build on” the success of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative by reducing fuel use in the transportation sector.  
 
See the candidates’ full responses here:

Network: Channel 17/Town Meeting Television
Moderator: Adam Silverman (president, Vermont Press Association)
Panelists: Amy Ash Nixon (reporter, The Caledonian-Record), Michelle Monroe (reporter/executive editor, St. Albans Messenger)
Voter-Submitted Questions: The public and press were encouraged to call in to the debate at 802-862-3966 to ask the candidates questions. According to VTDigger.org, “[q]uestions also will be solicited from the public attending the debates.” [VTDigger.org, 10/14/16]
Climate Question(s): Nixon asked the candidates, “How would you change our energy policies in order to protect our natural resources against the impacts of climate change?” Minter also raised climate change in response to the previous question about renewable energy. She stated that promoting renewable energy is part of the solution to climate change, noted that “ski areas had to close” last winter because it was “the winter that didn’t happen,” and said that the “oil tycoons” Charles and David Koch are funneling money through the Republican Governors Association to attack Minter because they “are very interested in defeating a candidate who is interested in addressing climate change.”
 
See the full discussion of climate change, beginning with Minter’s response to the renewable energy question at the 02:23:25 mark:
Network: WPTZ (Burlington, VT and Plattsburgh NY NBC affiliate)
Moderators: Stewart Ledbetter (senior reporter, WPTZ), Stephanie Gorin (anchor, WPTZ), Brian Colleran (anchor, WPTZ). Lee Anne Denyer (anchor/reporter, WPTZ) read questions submitted via social media.
Climate Question(s): Denyer read the following question, which was submitted on Facebook: “Should Vermont create a tax on carbon fuels to discourage fossil fuel use and under what circumstances would you sign that bill?”
 
Here are the full responses from Liberty Union candidate Bill Lee, Scott, and Minter, who extensively discussed climate change in her reply:

Network: Vermont Public Radio
Moderators: Bob Kinzel (reporter, Vermont Public Radio), Jane Lindholm (host, Vermont Public Radio)
Voter-Submitted Questions: There were two ways listeners could submit questions for the debate:
1. Record your question on your smartphone's voice memo app and send it to vermontedition@vpr.net.
2. Submit your question using the online form here.
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change posed by the moderators, but there was a discussion of renewable energy based on a viewer-submitted question, beginning around the 9:00 mark of the video available here. Minter addressed the need to fight climate change in her remarks. Minter also extensively discussed climate change during the portion of the debate in which the candidates were allowed to ask each other questions, following a question from Scott about whether she would support a “regional carbon tax.” You can listen to Scott’s question and Minter’s response around the 53:30 mark of the video available here.

West Virginia Governor

Major Party Governor Candidates: Bill Cole (R), Jim Justice (D)

Gubernatorial Debates

Date: October 4
Network: West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Moderator: Ashton Marra (assistant news director, West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
Focus: “Organizers have outlined ten general areas of interest: No. 1 – Current Events/Disaster Response & Recovery; No. 2 – Economic Development/Job Creation; No. 3 – Issues Facing West Virginia’s Aging Population; No. 4 – Substance Abuse; No. 5 – Second Amendment Rights; No. 6 – Access to Health Care; No. 7 – Infrastructure: Highways and Broadband; No. 8 – Size of Government; No. 9 – Taxes & Revenues; No. 10 – Education” [West Virginia Press Association, 9/9/16]
Voter-Submitted Questions: Questions and suggestions could be emailed to debate@wvpress.org
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 
Network: The debate was “aired live across the state on both television and radio.” [West Virginia Broadcasters Association, 8/12/16]
Moderator: Hoppy Kercheval (Host, Talkline on WV MetroNews)
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.

Wisconsin Senate

Major Party Senate Candidates: Ron Johnson (R), Russ Feingold (D)

Senate Debates

Network: The hour-long debate was offered statewide to Wisconsin television & radio stations for live broadcast and/or re-broadcast. [Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, 9/30/16]
Moderator: Jill Geisler (Bill Plante Chair in Leadership and Media Integrity at Loyola University, Chicago)
Panelists: Stacy Engebretson, (anchor/reporter, WGBA), Mike Kemmeter, (news director, WHBY Radio), Tom Milbourn, (anchor, WLUK), Kris Schuller, (anchor/reporter, WFRV), Mike Murad, (Social Media Desk Manager, WLUK)
Voter-Submitted Questions: In an email to Media Matters, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association noted that Wisconsin citizens could suggest questions on Twitter during the debate, using the hashtag #wbadebate.
Climate Question(s): The Social Media Desk Manager Mike Murad read a climate question submitted by a citizen via Twitter that read, “What will you do as a senator ([F]eingold and Johnson) to move us towards more renewable energy and combat climate change?” Murad then added, “I want to focus on the energy part. And basically my question is, what do you see as the most important energy source of the future, and what’s one thing that can be done to help us get there?”
 
Johnson did not address climate change in his response. Feingold responded, in part, by noting that Johnson “doesn’t even believe there’s man-made climate change,” and also stated that “the climate has changed in this state in my lifetime. It’s a frightening prospect.” See the candidates’ full responses here:

Network: WISN-TV (Milwaukee ABC affiliate)
Moderator(s): Mike Gousha (WISN-TV)
Focus: “Domestic and foreign policy” [WISN.com, 8/28/16]
Climate Question(s): There were no questions about climate change at this debate.
 

*Our tally of climate questions only includes questions from moderators, panelists, and audience members, not questions that candidates asked each other.

Graphic by Denise Robbins

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