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Climate change barely covered in US presidential debate

After a marathon debate between Biden and Trump lasting over an hour and a half, climate change got its brief moment under the spotlight – lasting around a grand total of 90 seconds.

In what seemed more like an afterthought than a planned discussion, the global crisis barely made the agenda between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

It was the first time the two had squared off since October 2020, and both have had their respective issues in that period. Father time appears to have caught up with the acting president, while Trump remains in the grip of a historic court case.

The majority of their verbal tennis (or golf) match focused on the usual topics: immigration and the economy. Moderators Dana Bash and Jake Tapper, meanwhile, struggled to steer the ship as Biden stumbled through responses and Trump threw out typically out-of-pocket remarks.

Midway through, Bash asked a question about the climate crisis, to-which Biden lauded his administration’s efforts in promoting clean energy technologies, while Trump danced around actual policy, instead declaring his love for ‘immaculate clean water’ and ‘clean air’.

He reminisced about the ‘best environmental numbers ever’ from his term. Fantasy aside, we know his volatile tenure saw the rollback of over 200 environmental protections.

Oddly, Trump then boasted about his decision to exit the Paris Agreement, calling it a ‘ripoff,’ and somehow connected climate discussion to his support from police groups and Biden’s border policies. Why are we protesting, again?

Biden wasn’t shy about touting his record either, citing the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. To be fair, this is something of a heavyweight in climate legislation, thanks to its $369 billion earmarked for clean energy and other initiatives. He also highlighted the establishment of the American Climate Corps, aiming to get young people hands-on with eco-friendly projects.

Despite these mentions, the conversation was brief and in true debate fashion, overshadowed by laughable quibbles. I wonder what handicap Biden is actually working with.

And then there’s Trump, who managed to blame the federal deficit on not exploiting enough oil and gas and called Biden’s climate efforts the ‘green new scam.’ His stance remains as clear as mud: sometimes a hoax, other times real – just not that serious.

Despite the gravity of climate issues, the debate skimmed over them lightly, sparking a blend of disappointment and sarcasm from climate experts and the public alike. Our expectations were already at ground zero, but we didn’t realise that level had a basement.