Over the course of the four debates (three presidential and one vice presidential) environmental and climate issues have been all but ignored. The first debate spent the most time on climate change, although that was less than a minute and a half and unsurprisingly, Hilary Clinton did most of the talking. Donald Trump has avoided the topic altogether.
According to Grist the conversation on climate in the first presidential debate amounted to just 82 seconds! By the fourth debate it declined to around 2 seconds.
Another Grist article by Emma Foehringer Merchant says that there was a total of five minutes and twenty five seconds spent talking about climate change and other environmental issues in the first two presidential debates.
She breaks it down as follows, 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. In the final debate Hilary very briefly mentioned climate change.
Some say the reason that so little time was attributed to climate change is the fact that the debate moderators did not ask related questions.
Climate and environment were ignored by moderators despite a public attempt to push moderators to ask the questions.
In September, the League of Conservation voters, Daily Kos, Fiends of the Earth, and Media Matters circulated a petition calling for more climate questions in the debate.
Joe Romm from Climate Progress’, called the lack of interest by moderators “criminally irresponsible’ and the New York Times referred to the “failure of journalism.”
However, as climate denier Anthony Watts points out, the reality is that the absence of questions reflect the general lack of interest in climate change.
“in the real world, few people care anymore,” Watts said. He then cites polls that corroborate his thesis. According to Watt, in a survey of U.S. Voters, climate change came in last. Watt cites a worldwide poll conducted by the U.N. suggesting that climate ranks “dead last” in 2016 with almost 10 million votes cast. Finally he points to a September 2016 poll from the Associated Press that indicates 42 percent would not want to pay even a dollar more for electricity to combat climate change.
This begs the question “what are a journalists responsibilities?” Is a journalist meant to pander to popular ignorance? According to Watt the answer is yes.