“I’d like to talk about climate change,” Wallace
said during the second half of the debate, introducing a topic that was not included on the initial list provided by the Commission on Presidential Debates. According to the original list, Wallace’s discussions were to focus on the candidates’ records, the Supreme Court, the Chinese coronavirus, economy, race and violence in communities, and the integrity of the election.
However, Wallace seemingly introduced the topic by presenting the issue as settled science, putting the president on defense and asking Trump what he would do in the next four years to confront it.
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 U.S. 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?
“I want crystal clean water and air. I want beautiful, clean air,” Trump said. “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.”
The Paris Accord, he continued, was a “disaster from our standpoint.” Trump also emphasized the importance of forest management in terms of addressing the raging wildfires in the West.
“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,” he said.
However, his answer did not suffice for Wallace, who pressed, “What do you believe about the science of climate change, sir?”
“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,” he continued, prompting Wallace to specifically ask if Trump believed that “human pollution, gas, [and] greenhouse gas emissions contribute to the global warming of this planet.”
“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,” Trump continued, emphasizing practical solutions, such as forest management.
At that point, Wallace asked, “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…?”
“Because it was driving energy prices through the sky,” Trump responded.
Wallace then gave Biden a chance to respond to what he called Trump’s “climate change record.”
Notably, Biden ultimately said that he did not support the Green New Deal, to the dismay of Sanders supporters:
Following the debate, Wallace
received a wave of backlash from Trump allies who said he showed favoritism toward the former vice president: