Climate Change Got Exactly 2 Seconds of Time in the Final Debate

That’s 2 seconds more than in all of 2012.

Tonight's debate was brought to you by the number 2.Iraidka/iStock

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This story was originally published by Grist and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Five minutes and twenty-seven seconds were spent on climate change and other environmental issues in the three presidential debates, 2 percent of the total time—and that was pretty much all Hillary Clinton talking. (Surprise, surprise.)

There wasn’t a single question on climate policy, and only one that directly related to energy—thank you, Ken Bone.

How does that compare to debates in past years? We ran the numbers on the past five election cycles to find out.

The high point for attention to green issues came in 2000, when Al Gore and George W. Bush spent just over 14 minutes talking about the environment over the course of three debates. The low point came in 2012, when climate change and other environmental issues got no time at all during the presidential debates. Some years, climate change came up during the vice presidential debates as well.

2016 total: 1 minute, 22 seconds in the first presidential debate, and 4 minutes, 3 seconds in the second. Climate got just a split-second in the vice presidential debate. Clinton only name-dropped climate change once in the final debate, adding a whole two seconds to the grand total.

2012: 0 minutes.

2008: 5 minutes, 18 seconds in two presidential debates. An additional 5 minutes, 48 seconds in a vice presidential debate.

2004: 5 minutes, 14 seconds in a single presidential debate.

2000: 14 minutes, 3 seconds in three presidential debates. 5 minutes, 21 seconds in a vice presidential debate.

In total, over the five election seasons we looked at, climate change and the environment got 37 minutes and 6 seconds on the prime-time stage during the presidential and vice presidential debates. That’s out of more than 1,500 minutes of debate. Not an impressive showing.

A note about how we arrived at these times:

We parsed questions asked of candidates and searched the transcripts for keywords like “climate,” “environment,” “energy,” and “warming.” We cross-referenced the transcripts with video of the debates. Only the mentions that pertained to fighting climate change, cleaning up the environment, and reducing emissions counted. President Obama’s passing reference to clean energy jobs in 2012 didn’t count, nor did discussions of energy security, because they were in the context of the economy and not fighting climate change.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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