For 11 minutes climate change took center stage in the September 29th presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio. This is not only the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden it is the first presidential debate to focus on climate change for any protracted period of time.
The debate featured Trump’s flagrant disregard for civility and showcased his nightlong battle with both Biden and Fox News moderator Chris Wallace. However it was his failure to condemn white supremacists that made headlines. After Charlottesville no one should be surprised. What was truly surprising was Trump’s tepid admission that anthropogenic GHGs are driving global warming. Here is the transcript from the section of the debate on climate change starting at the 48 minute mark.
Chris Wallace: I’d like to talk about climate change.
Vice President Joe Biden: So would I.
Chris Wallace: Okay. The forest fires in the West are raging now. They have burned millions of acres. They have displaced hundreds of thousands of people. When state officials there blamed the fires on climate change. Mr. President, you said, I don’t think the science knows. Over your four years, you have pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord. You have rolled back a number of Obama Environmental records, what do you believe about the science of climate change and what will you do in the next four years to confront it?
President Donald J. Trump: I want crystal clean water and air. I want beautiful clean air. We have now the lowest carbon… If you look at our numbers right now, we are doing phenomenally. But I haven’t destroyed our businesses. Our businesses aren’t put out of commission. If you look at the Paris Accord, it was a disaster from our standpoint. And people are actually very happy about what’s going on because our businesses are doing well. As far as the fires are concerned, you need forest management. In addition to everything else, the forest floors are loaded up with trees, dead trees that are years old and they’re like tinder and leaves and everything else. You drop a cigarette in there the whole forest burns down. You’ve got to have forest management.
Chris Wallace: What do you believe about the science of climate change, sir?
President Donald J. Trump: I believe that we have to do everything we can to have immaculate air immaculate water and do whatever else we can that’s good. We’re planting a billion trees, the Billion Tree Project and it’s very exciting for a lot of people.
Chris Wallace: You believe that human pollution, gas, greenhouse gas emissions contributes to the global warming of this planet.
President Donald J. Trump: I think a lot of things do, but I think to an extent, yes. I think to an extent, yes, but I also think we have to do better management of our forest. Every year I get the call. California’s burning, California’s burning. If that was cleaned, if that were, if you had forest management, good forest management, you wouldn’t be getting those calls. In Europe, they live they’re forest cities. They call forest cities. They maintain their forest. They manage their forest. I was with the head of a major country, it’s a forest city. He said, “Sir, we have trees that are far more, they ignite much easier than California. There shouldn’t be that problem.” I spoke with the Governor about it. I’m getting along very well with the governor. But I said, “At some point you can’t every year have hundreds of thousands of acres of land just burned to the ground.” That’s burning down because of a lack of management.
Chris Wallace: But sir if you believe in the science of climate change, why have you rolled back the Obama Clean Power Plan which limited carbon emissions and power plants? Why have you relaxed…?
President Donald J. Trump: Because it was driving energy prices through the sky.
Vice President Joe Biden: Why have you relaxed fuel economy standards that are going to create more pollution from cars and trucks?
President Donald J. Trump: Well, not really because what’s happening is the car is much less expensive and it’s a much safer car and you talk it about a tiny difference. And then what would happen because of the cost of the car you would have at least double and triple the number of cars purchased. We have the old slugs out there that are 10, 12 years old. If you did that, the car would be safer. It would be much cheaper by $3,500.
Chris Wallace: But in the case of California they have simply ignored that.
President Donald J. Trump: No, but you would take a lot of cars off the market because people would be able to afford a car. Now, by the way, we’re going to see how that turns out. But a lot of people agree with me, many people. The car has gotten so expensive because they have computers all over the place for an extra little bit of gasoline. And I’m okay with electric cars too. I think I’m all for electric cars. I’ve given big incentives for electric cars but what they’ve done in California is just crazy.
Chris Wallace: All right, Vice president Biden. I’d like you to respond to the president’s climate change record but I also want to ask you about a concern. You propose $2 trillion in green jobs. You talk about new limits, not abolishing, but new limits on fracking. Ending the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity by 2035 and zero none admission of greenhouse gases by 2050. The president says a lot of these things would tank the economy and cost millions of jobs.
Vice President Joe Biden: He’s absolutely wrong, number one. Number two, if in fact, during our administration in the recovery act, I was in charge able to bring down the cost of renewable energy to cheaper than are as cheap as coal and gas and oil. Nobody’s going to build another coal fired plant in America. No one’s going to build another oil fire plant in America. They’re going to move to renewable energy. Number one, number two, we’re going to make sure that we are able to take the federal fleet and turn it into a fleet that’s run on their electric vehicles. Making sure that we can do that, we’re going to put 500,000 charging stations in all of the highways that we’re going to be building in the future. We’re going to build a economy that in fact is going to provide for the ability of us to take 4 million buildings and make sure that they in fact are weatherized in a way that in fact will they’ll emit significantly less gas and oil because the heat will not be going out. There’s so many things that we can do…
Vice President Joe Biden: Gas and oil because the heat will not be going out. There’s so many things that we can do now to create thousands and thousands of jobs. We can get to net zero, in terms of energy production, by 2035. Not only not costing people jobs, creating jobs, creating millions of good-paying jobs. Not 15 bucks an hour, but prevailing wage, by having a new infrastructure that in fact, is green. And the first thing I will do, I will rejoin the Paris Accord. I will join the Paris Accord because with us out of it, look what’s happening. It’s all falling apart. And talk about someone who has no relationship with foreign policy. The rainforests of Brazil are being torn down, are being ripped down. More carbon is absorbed in that rainforest than every bit of carbon that’s emitted in the United States. Instead of doing something about that, I would be gathering up and making sure we had the countries of the world coming up with $20 billion, and say, “Here’s $20 billion. Stop tearing down the forest. And If you don’t, then you’re going to have significant economic consequences.”
Chris Wallace: What about the argument that President Trump basically says, that you have to balance environmental interests and economic interests? And he’s drawn his line.
Vice President Joe Biden: Well, he hasn’t drawn a line. He wants to make sure that methane’s not a problem. You can now emit more methane without it being a problem. Methane. This is a guy who says that you don’t have to have mileage standards for automobiles that exist now. This is the guy who says that, the fact that-
President Donald J. Trump: Not true. Not true-
Vice President Joe Biden: It’s all true. And here’s the deal-
President Donald J. Trump: He’s talking about the Green New Deal. And it’s not 2 billion [crosstalk 00:55:45] or 20 billion, as you said [crosstalk 00:55:46]. It’s $100 trillion.
Vice President Joe Biden: I’m talking about the Biden plan [crosstalk 00:55:51]-
Chris Wallace: Let him go for a minute, and then you can go.
President Donald J. Trump: And rebuild the building.
Vice President Joe Biden: No.
President Donald J. Trump: It’s the dumbest-
Vice President Joe Biden: That is not-
President Donald J. Trump: … most ridiculous [crosstalk] where two car systems are out-
Vice President Joe Biden: Not true-
President Donald J. Trump: … where they want to take out the cows too.
Vice President Joe Biden: Not true.
President Donald J. Trump: That’s not true either, right?
Vice President Joe Biden: Not true.
President Donald J. Trump: This is a 100 trillion-
Vice President Joe Biden: Simply… Look-
President Donald J. Trump: That’s more money than our country could make in 100 years [crosstalk 00:02:10]-
Vice President Joe Biden: That is simply not the case-
Chris Wallace: All right. Let me [crosstalk 00:02:12]. Wait a minute, sir. I actually have studied your plan, and it includes upgrading 4 million buildings, weatherizing 2 million homes over four years, building one and a half million energy efficient homes. So the question becomes, the president is saying, I think some people who support the president would say, that sounds like it’s going to cost a lot of money and hurt the economy.
Vice President Joe Biden: What it’s going to do, it’s going to create thousands and millions of jobs. Good paying jobs [crosstalk 00:02:41].
Chris Wallace: Let him finish, sir.
Vice President Joe Biden: He doesn’t know how to do that-
President Donald J. Trump: 100 million dollars.
Vice President Joe Biden: The fact is, it’s going to create millions of good paying jobs, and these tax incentives for people to weatherize, which he wants to get rid of. It’s going to make the economy much safer. Look how much we’re paying now to deal with the hurricanes, deal with… By the way, he has an answer for hurricanes. He said, maybe we should drop a nuclear weapon on them, and they may-
President Donald J. Trump: I never said that at all-
Vice President Joe Biden: Yeah, he did say that-
President Donald J. Trump: They made it up.
Vice President Joe Biden: And here’s the deal-
President Donald J. Trump: You make up a lot-
Vice President Joe Biden: … we’re going to be in a position where we can create hard, hard, good jobs by making sure the environment is clean, and we all are in better shape. We spend billions of dollars now, billions of dollars, on floods, hurricanes, rising seas. We’re in real trouble. Look what’s happened just in the Midwest with these storms that come through and wipe out entire sections and counties in Iowa. They didn’t happen before. They’re because of global warming. We make up 15% of the world’s problem. But the rest of the world, we’ve got to get them to come along. That’s why we have to get back into the Paris Accord.
Chris Wallace: All right, gentlemen-
President Donald J. Trump: Wait a minute, Chris. So why didn’t he do it for 47 years? You were vice president-
Vice President Joe Biden: For 47-
President Donald J. Trump: So why didn’t you get the world… China sends up real dirt into the air. Russia does. India does. They all do. We’re supposed to be good. And by the way, he made a couple of statements. The Green New Deal is a hundred trillion dollars.
Vice President Joe Biden: That is not my plan [crosstalk 00:58:10]. The Green New Deal [crosstalk] is not my plan. [crosstalk]-
President Donald J. Trump: He made a statement about the military. He said I said something about the military. He and his friends made it up, and then they went with it. I never said it.
Chris Wallace: Okay. [crosstalk] Mr. Vice President-
President Donald J. Trump: He called the military stupid bastards.
Vice President Joe Biden: I did not say that-
President Donald J. Trump: He said it on tape. [crosstalk]-
Chris Wallace: Please, sir. [crosstalk] Stop.
President Donald J. Trump: I would never say that [crosstalk]-
Vice President Joe Biden: Play it. Play it-
Chris Wallace: Stop. Go ahead-
President Donald J. Trump: You’re on tape-
Chris Wallace: Mr. Vice President answered his final question.
Vice President Joe Biden: The final question is, I can’t remember which of all his rantings [crosstalk 00:04:44].
Chris Wallace: I’m having a little trouble myself, but…
Vice President Joe Biden: Yeah.
Chris Wallace: And about the economy and about this question of what it’s going to cost.
Vice President Joe Biden: The economy-
Chris Wallace: The Green New Deal and the idea of what your environmental changes will do-
Vice President Joe Biden: The Green New Deal will pay for itself as we move forward. We’re not going to build plants that, in fact, are great polluting plants-
Chris Wallace: So, do you support the Green New Deal?
Vice President Joe Biden: Pardon me?
Chris Wallace: Do you support the-
Vice President Joe Biden: No, I don’t support the Green New Deal.
President Donald J. Trump: Oh, you don’t? Oh, well, that’s a big statement.
Vice President Joe Biden: I support [crosstalk]
President Donald J. Trump: You just lost the radical left.
Vice President Joe Biden: I support [crosstalk 00:59:17] the Biden plan that I put forward.
Chris Wallace: Okay.
Vice President Joe Biden: The Biden plan, which is different than what he calls the radical Green New Deal.
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