Watch CBS News

Where Trump and Clinton stand on climate change

The third and final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Wednesday night in Las Vegas covered a wide range of issues from abortion to foreign policy to the national debt, but there was one glaring omission — climate change

Six months after world leaders signed the Paris Agreement, a sweeping accord designed to combat global warming, climate change was only brought up tangentially, in one brief moment, on the debate stage. It was mentioned early on as “a real issue” by Clinton in her answer to an unrelated question. Other than that, moderator Chris Wallace, of Fox News, did not pose any questions about climate policy and neither of the candidates brought up specific proposals about how they would handle the challenges it presents — despite this being a year of record-breaking temperatures, drought, and destructive storms

On social media, some observers decried the absence of climate change discussion at any of this year’s debates. Paul Krugman of the New York Times called the oversight “really disgraceful.”

Oddly enough, the closest question to touch on the issue of climate change came from the red sweater-wearing, meme-worthy audience member Ken Bone at the second presidential debate. An undecided voter, Bone asked the candidates, “What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job layoffs?”

In response, Trump said: “I will bring our energy companies back ... They’ll pay off our national debt. They’ll pay off our tremendous budget deficits, which are tremendous. But we are putting our energy companies out of business. We have to bring back our workers.” 

Clinton specifically used the term “climate change” in her answer: “So I have a comprehensive energy policy, but it really does include fighting climate change, because I think that is a serious problem,” she said. “And I support moving toward more clean, renewable energy as quickly as we can, because I think we can be the 21st century clean energy superpower and create millions of new jobs and businesses.”

Beyond that exchange, climate change has largely been left out of discussion.

So, with less than three weeks to go until Election Day, where do the two candidates stand on climate change? Here’s an overview:

Donald Trump

Back in a January interview with Fox News, before he clinched the Republican nomination, Trump said, “Climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change.” 

He added, “I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China — obviously I joke — but this is done for the benefit of China.” 

On his official campaign website, Trump does not have a section focused on climate change listed under “Positions.” There is, however, a section on the candidate’s energy policy.

The Trump campaign website says the presidential hopeful will “make America energy independent, create millions of new jobs, and protect clean air and clean water.” 

It says he “will conserve our natural habitats, reserves and resources,” and “will unleash an energy revolution that will bring vast new wealth to our country.”

Trump’s team writes that his administration would “rescind all job-destroying Obama executive actions,” including that “Mr. Trump will reduce and eliminate all barriers to responsible energy production, creating at least a half million jobs a year, $30 billion in higher wages and cheaper energy.”

The word climate change appears nowhere on the page.

Trump has previously suggested he considers global warming a hoax “created by and for the Chinese,” as he put it in an oft-referenced 2012 tweet. 

In March he also told The Washington Post that he is “not a big believer in man-made climate change.” 

But despite his public skepticism, Trump applied for a permit to build a seawall next to his golf course and hotel in County Clare, Ireland, to prevent erosion, according to a Politico report from earlier this year. In his application, he included an environmental impact statement that mentions “global warming and its effects.” 

Trump’s stance on climate change would make him unique among world leaders if elected. A study from The Sierra Club that compiled statements from leaders of 195 countries found that Trump would be the only head of state to declare climate change a hoax. 

Hillary Clinton

“I believe in science. I believe that climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs,” Clinton said during her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in July. 

On her official campaign website, Clinton has a section devoted to climate change under “Issues.” On the page, the campaign writes, “Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time. It threatens our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures.” 

The page also states that the former secretary of state will “deliver on the pledge President Obama made at the Paris climate conference” and will not rely on “climate deniers in Congress to pass new legislation.” Her campaign says a Clinton administration would aim to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30 percent in 2025 relative to 2005 levels and put the country on a path to cut emissions more than 80 percent by 2050.”

Clinton would likely have a lot of high-level help in fulfilling Mr. Obama’s climate change initiatives, given that one of the key actors on climate in his administration was her own campaign chairman, John Podesta.

Among the policies highlighted on the site, Clinton announces that she will launch a $60 billion “Clean Energy Challenge” that would partner with rural communities, states, and cities to cut carbon pollution “and expand clean energy, including for low-income families.” 

Clinton supports cutting tax subsidies on oil and gas companies. 

The campaign also says she would create an Environmental and Climate Justice Task Force to focus on the “health, economic, and environmental impacts of pollution and climate change in vulnerable communities.” 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.