Fact Checking The Presidential Debate, Topic: Climate Change

On September 29, at 9 p.m. EST the first presidential debate of the year started. This debate will go down in the history books for a multitude of reasons. One them being that it was the first debate in 12 years that had the moderator ask a question about climate change. But the responses and statements made in correlation were not all factual. Here’s a fact-check of some statements made about climate change.

“I was able to bring down the cost of renewable energy to cheaper than or cheap as coal and gas and oil.” -Joe Biden

Mostly True

The 2009 economic stimulus bill from the Obama administration included $50 billion to promote renewable energy, which is the largest single investment in renewable energy in the nation’s history. While it did have some failures, including the bankruptcy of Solyndra (a solar power company), overall there was a boost in growth and drove down the cost of win and solar power. In some places in the country where it is particularly windy and sunny, wind and solar energy is cheaper than coal or gas, but in other parts of the country coal and gas is still cheaper. 

“It was driving energy prices through the sky.” -Donald Trump


Chris Wallace (the moderator) asked Trump why he rolled back Obama’s Clean Power Plan that was designed to curb planet-warming from coal fired power plants, by insisting the plan was causing coal and gas prices to skyrocket. However, the Clean Power Plan was never implemented and was halted by a 2016 Supreme Court Order, and was never reinstated before the Trump administration finally rolled it back last year. 

“Every year, I get the call. California is burning. California is burning. If that was cleaned, if you had forest management, you wouldn’t be getting those calls.” -Trump


This was Trump’s response to Mr. Wallace’s question, “Do you believe that human pollution, gas, and greenhouse gases contribute to global warming?” The California wildfires have been a reoccurring issue for years now and are  known to be caused because of climate change. Trump refuses to acknowledge this and has attributed the wildfires to the state government(even though most of the land with the wildfires is on federal, not state property) not picking up the leaves and sticks being left on the floor. 

“They want to take out the cows.” – Trump


Trump was referring to the Green New Deal when he made this statement (The Green New Deal is a plan to combat climate change made by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). It’s important to note that this is not Joe Biden’s plan to fight climate change. While the Green New Deal would alter transportation and agriculture sectors, it does not eliminate all cows or the consumption of meat. 

“I’m OK with electric cars too. I’m all for electric cars. I have given big incentives for electric cars.” -Trump


Trump stated  this when trying to prove that he cares about reducing carbon emissions. Cars are not the only cause of rising carbon emissions, and switching to electric cars will not eliminate carbon emissions. Additionally, Trump never actually provided “big incentives,” he actually tried to take away tax incentives for consumers who buy electric cars. 

“I want crystal clean water, and air. I want beautiful clean air. We have the lowest carbon. Look at our numbers now. We are doing phenomenal.” -Trump


Over 100 environmental laws and rules have been rolled back and weakened by Trump’s administration, including clean-water regulations that were designed to reduce pollution in the nation’s river, lakes, and wetlands. He also rolled back multiple Clean Air Act regulations that were designed to reduce pollution for planet-warming greenhouse gases. 

While carbon emissions are the lowest they have been in years, it is not because of Trump’s plans. It’s actually due to the Covid-19 outbreak that had everyone stay home. People weren’t taking planes, driving, or littering as much since they were all inside. 

“You know we’re planting a billion trees, the billion tree project.” -Trump

Mostly False

In January, Trump announced that the U.S. would officially join the 1 Trillion Trees Initiative, whose goal is to plant 1 trillion trees not a billion. However, there is no evidence that the U.S. hasn’t planted a single tree as a part of this initiative. Planting trees also would not solve climate change.

Davenport, Coral. “Fact-Checking the First 2020 Presidential Debate.” The New York Times, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/09/29/us/debate-fact-check. 

Gross, Paul. “Fact-Checking Climate Change Comments in First Presidential Debate.” WDIV, WDIV ClickOnDetroit, 30 Sept. 2020, http://www.clickondetroit.com/features/2020/09/30/fact-checking-climate-change-comments-in-first-presidential-debate/. 

Osaka, Shannon. “We Fact-Checked Trump’s Climate Responses from the First Presidential Debate.” Grist, 30 Sept. 2020, grist.org/politics/trump-debate-climate-change-fact-check/. 

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