CLEVELAND, Ohio — Folks from around Ohio will tune in to watch the first presidential debate tonight in Cleveland, and some environmental groups are hoping they won't see a rerun. In the past two presidential races, candidates were not asked a single question about climate change by a debate moderator.
National Wildlife Federation president and CEO Collin O'Mara said climate change has only worsened since then, and is currently manifesting in massive fires, storms and flooding. In Ohio, O'Mara said, climate impacts are threatening clean water and the tourism industry.
"Over the last few years, we've seen massive algal blooms on Lake Erie — algal blooms that have led to massive fish kills, made it impossible to drink the water in places like Toledo, affected communities like St. Mary's," O'Mara said. "In the southern half of the state, we're seeing climate impacts on the Ohio River."
O'Mara and other conservationists are urging debate moderators to make sure the candidates for president and vice president are asked how they will address climate change and prioritize the solutions needed to reverse this global crisis.
O'Mara added that polling shows a majority of voters want to hear questions about climate change during the debates.
"All Americans should be able to hear very concrete plans for how we're going to reduce emissions — specifically, plans around how to reduce emissions in the electrical sector, in the transportation sector. On working lands, how we're going to restore lands to sequester more carbon," he said.
Chris Wallace of Fox News moderates tonight's debate, and the subjects selected include the candidate's records, the Supreme Court, the pandemic, race and violence, the economy and election integrity. O'Mara said he agrees those are crucial issues, but added climate change is just as important.
"If we act on climate, we can improve people's health, we can create millions of jobs for too many Americans that have been left behind and we can also help grow our way out of the recession," he said. "So we view it kind as the linchpin to some of the greatest challenges we face. And it shouldn't be an afterthought."
Dozens of House and Senate Democrats signed letters sent to the Commission on Presidential Debates demanding climate change be a central focus of the debates in the 2020 presidential election.