An Open Letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates: It's Time to Talk About Climate Change

Co-authored by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz and Sheldon Whitehouse

An open letter to Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. and Michael D. McCurry, co-chairs of the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), and Chris Wallace, the host of the next and final presidential debate.

Dear Messrs. Fahrenkopf, McCurry, and Wallace:

We have a simple message: it is time to talk about climate change.

There have now been two 90-minute presidential debates, plus the vice presidential debate, during which less than a few minutes were spent discussing what independent, nonpartisan experts have called the greatest threat to public health, human rights, and the world economy. Unfortunately, moderators at all three chose not to ask about how we can address climate change in a meaningful way.

The scientific community overwhelmingly agrees that climate change is real and caused by human activity. The United States is the second-highest emitter of the carbon pollution driving climate change, and our next president will be in one of the most important positions in the world to tackle this problem. Last year, the New York Times found 74 percent of Americans want the federal government to do a substantial amount to combat climate change. Nonetheless, Congressional action has been blocked by a network of fossil fuel special interests seeking to protect their bottom lines. It is vitally important that American voters hear the candidates' plans for addressing this crisis.

The Commission and moderator should devote a segment of the final debate to a robust and serious policy conversation about climate change. Its impacts on our economy, on our national security, and on global immigration trends are only increasing. The global community, the U.S. military, President Obama, and American voters all recognize this. But the CPD and the debate moderators have yet to do so.

To conduct three presidential debates without a substantive discussion on climate, clean energy, and the environment is a disservice to American voters, to future generations, and to the Commission itself. We urge you to ask the candidates about climate change this Wednesday night in Las Vegas.


Brian Schatz
U.S. Senator

Sheldon Whitehouse
U.S. Senator