Dem Senators to NBC: Make First Debate About Climate Change

By sam.stein@thedailybeast.com (Sam Stein)
Photos Getty

A trio of Democratic senators wrote a letter to the top official at NBC News on Thursday calling on the network to make climate change the primary focus of the first 2020 presidential primary debate, which the network is set to host next month.

“We are writing to strongly encourage NBC News and MSNBC to devote a significant amount of time to a discussion on climate action at the upcoming Democratic presidential primary debate,” reads the letter from Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) to NBC News Chairman Andy Lack. “The facts are clear. Democratic voters across the country have accepted the facts about climate change, are seeing its impacts, and are having real debates on solutions. In this consequential election year, it’s time for our candidates to do the same.”

The senators’ letter is the latest in a growing effort by Democratic officials to not just see climate policy prioritized during the primary process but to make it central to the actual debates. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is running for the nomination himself, has called on the Democratic National Committee to ensure that at least one of the primary debates is solely about climate change and environmental policy platforms.

The DNC, to this point, has resisted making such a commitment, stressing that only two of the likely dozen primary debates have been planned and scheduled.

The first of those debates is to take place over two nights in June in Miami. In addition to calling for climate policy to play a significant role in the debate itself, Schatz, Whitehouse, and Heinrich also asked Lack to ensure that the debate was moderated by a moderator who was “informed” about the intricacies of climate policy. In their letter, the trio noted that just over five minutes of the three general-election debates in 2016 was devoted to climate change, or roughly “2 percent of the total time.”

“There are many ways to address the climate crisis, and voters want to know what policies each candidate supports,” the senators wrote. “Voters deserve a vigorous debate with an informed moderator that can press candidates for detailed answers and hold them accountable.”

READ THE FULL LETTER

Andy Lack, Chairman

NBC News and MSNBC

30 Rockefeller Plaza

New York, NY 10111

Dear Mr. Lack,

We are writing to strongly encourage NBC News and MSNBC to devote a significant amount of time to a discussion on climate action at the upcoming Democratic presidential primary debate.

According to a recent national poll, nearly all Democratic voters – 96 percent – named climate change as a top issue when choosing a presidential candidate for 2020. In a poll of young voters, a majority of both Republicans and Democrats view climate change as a problem, including a clear majority of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats. They are looking for a candidate who will take meaningful action, and currently 73 percent of young voters disapprove of the approach Donald Trump has taken on climate change.

This should not be surprising. The impacts of climate change are happening now—from wildfires in California, to flooding in the mid-west, to sea level rise on the coasts. It is an issue that is impacting people’s daily lives and endangering their future safety and prosperity. It is as real as their concerns about health care and the economy, and people deserve to hear how their potential candidates will address this problem.

There are many ways to address the climate crisis, and voters want to know what policies each candidate supports. Voters deserve a vigorous debate with an informed moderator that can press candidates for detailed answers and hold them accountable.

In 2016, the three presidential debates devoted just over five minutes to climate change, two percent of the total time. What’s worse is the fact that with the little time devoted to climate change, one candidate actively misled the American people by denying that climate change even exists.

The facts are clear. Democratic voters across the country have accepted the facts about climate change, are seeing its impacts, and are having real debates on solutions. In this consequential election year, it’s time for our candidates to do the same.

Sincerely,

Brian Schatz

Sheldon Whitehouse

Martin Heinrich


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