- Climate change and clean energy issues were discussed during Tuesday evening's tumultuous presidential debate, but it is not clear that voters learned anything new from the 10-minute exchange.
- President Trump believes humans are impacting the climate "to an extent," but called the Paris climate accord a "disaster" for the United States economy and said he rolled back the Clean Power Plan's carbon emission limits "because it was driving energy prices through the sky."
- Vice President Joe Biden vowed there will be no more coal or oil-fired power plants built, called for the weatherization of 4 million buildings, and said his climate plan will lead to thousands of clean energy jobs. His energy platform calls for the United States to reach a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions "no later than 2050."
Energy issues and climate change were not on the original list of topics issued by the Commission on Presidential Debates, but made a surprise appearance about 50 minutes into a rancorous event marked by crosstalk and frequent interruptions by the candidates.
Moderator Chris Wallace, a FOX News journalist, asked Trump "What do you believe about the science of climate change and what will you do in the next four years to confront it?"
Trump responded that he wants "crystal clean water and air" and said the country has done "phenomenally" when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.
"But I haven't destroyed our businesses. Our businesses aren't put out of commission," Trump said. "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."
Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accord in 2017. The pact aimed to limit global warming to 2°C this century, translating into an 80% economy-wide decarbonization for the U.S. by 2050.
Trump placed blame for West Coast wildfires on the need for "forest management" but also said he believes humans are responsible for climate change "to an extent." And he said he rolled back the Obama-era Clean Power Plan effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions "because it was driving energy prices through the sky."
Trump also said he has "given big incentives for electric cars," but called California's approach to fuel economy "just crazy."
The White House in March finalized a rule that weakened Obama-era fuel efficiency guidelines, requiring corporate average fuel economy and carbon emissions standards to increase 1.5% from 2021 to 2026, rather than 5% annually. The Trump administration has also taken steps to revokes states' authority to issue their own fuel standards, specifically targeting California rules to encourage higher fuel efficiency and the deployment of emissions-free vehicles.
By contrast, Biden embraced a clean energy future as a way to create new jobs and said he would rejoin the Paris climate accord in one of his first energy actions as president.
"Nobody's going to build another coal-fired plant in America. No one's going to build another oil-fired plant in America," said Biden. "They're going to move to renewable energy."
Biden called for installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations on U.S. highways, and said his climate plan would "build an 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" to reduce energy consumption and emissions.
"There's so many things that we can do now to create thousands and thousands of jobs," Biden said. "We can get to net zero, in terms of energy production, by 2035."
Biden did not embrace the Green New Deal in the debate, which Trump falsely claimed would cost $100 trillion and includes a ban on cows. Biden's own plan has been estimated to cost about $2 trillion over four years, to rapidly decarbonize the economy.
"No, I don't support the Green New Deal," Biden said. To which Trump replied, "That's a big statement. ... You just lost the radical left."
Biden did not campaign on the ambitious Green New Deal, though his campaign site calls it "a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face." Supporters of the plan, which calls for an intense 10-year decarbonization and clean energy push, said after the debate they support Biden.
"The movement for a Green New Deal is going to defeat Donald Trump and his fossil fuel cronies," Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, D, tweeted. "We're going to elect Joe Biden and fight to pass the aggressive climate action which we need."