Will Chris Wallace Ask These Climate Questions at Tonight's Debate or Is He a Coward?

Drink every time a debate question sucks!
Drink every time a debate question sucks!
Photo: Eric Baradat (Getty Images)

Tonight is first debate between an uninspiring moderate presidential candidate in former Vice President Joe Biden and an absolute monster in our current president, Donald Trump. Can’t wait!


Ahead of the show, Fox News host Chris Wallace, who’ll be moderating the train wreck, announced the six topics he’ll focus on in his questions. They include the candidates’ records, the Supreme Court, the pandemic gripping the country and the economy, election integrity, and, “race and violence in our cities.”

This is problematic for many reasons. For one, “race and violence in our cities?” What on Earth is that framing? Also, he left something pretty important out: the climate crisis, the gravest threat humanity has ever faced.

But look, I’m not calling Chris out, I’m calling him in. I’m simply here to offer him advice. And it’s not too late to make some changes! This is Earther, where as one commenter put it, “everything is about climate change.” Here’s how to work climate questions into each of these six topics.

The Trump and Biden Records

An easy one! Wallace should ask Trump about his absolutely horrific environmental record. There are tons of options here, so he can get creative! Maybe you’d like to ask about the administration’s decision to decimate the Endangered Species Act? Or the Clean Power Plan? Or protections for clean and safe water? Maybe he could ask Trump how he responds to polls showing U.S. voters think his awful environmental policy is his biggest weakness!

There’s also plenty of opportunity to ask old Joe how he plans to undo as much of these horrors as he can at the first possible opportunity—and to ask about the sore spots in his record, too. Maybe Chris ask Biden why he’s counted folks with deep ties to the fossil fuel industry as close climate advisors. Or for a reall gotcha question, he could even ask why Biden has repeatedly said that he played a major role in the Paris Climate Agreement, even though former White House officials don’t seem to remember that being the case.

The Supreme Court

Again, easy. The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left the fate U.S. climate policy hanging in the balance. My man Chris could ask the candidates about the youth climate case, or about how the courts can hold Big Oil accountable for decades of climate deception. Ask Joe what the Democrats should do to block Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett from the high court. Options, baby!



There’s tons of data showing people exposed to air pollution are more vulnerable to covid-19. Given that, shouldn’t the candidates be forced to say what they’ll do to protect people from air pollution?


The Economy

The price of fossil fuels is plummeting and millions of Americans are newly unemployed. As we at Earther have argued, that means this is the time to invest in real, transformative climate policy. Green stimulus, anyone? Ask the candidates why they’re not taking this opportunity. Please, Chris. Do it for us.


Wallace could also ask Trump how he can pretend to be a man of the people when he’s consistently prioritized the economic interests of fossil fuel industry CEOs. Then he could ask Joe how he plans to take on the climate crisis without a plan to stop oil and gas production, and how he plans to shield workers and communities from the economic impacts of the clean energy transition.

Ask both of them about the wildly popular proposal to start a public employment program to build clean energy infrastructure and clean up pollution. They both say they want to get Americans back to work, right?


Race and Violence in our Cities

Hey Chris, why not pivot from this weird framing to talk about the many kinds of violence poor people of color disproportionately bear, including environmental injustice? All kinds of polluting infrastructure is often built near poor communities of color, and those unsafe conditions can beget even more violence. Why not push the candidates to say if they’ll prioritize putting an end to that pollution? If that’s too played out, you also could question them about the disproportionately high utility bills that Black, Latino, and Indigenous families face in this country. Doubt they’ll see that coming! (Even though they should absolutely have plans to reduce that burden.)


The Integrity of the Election

The election will be more fair and legitimate if lots of people vote, right? That way, it’ll reflect the opinions of more of the American population. So here’s where Wallace could ask the candidates how they plan to ensure Americans can vote even if their polling places are hit by wildfires or hurricanes or other climate emergencies. Early voting? Extended registration deadlines? Maybe, uh, enacting a plan to rapidly draw down greenhouse gas emissions so that these kinds of emergencies don’t get worse and thereby get in the way of holding free and fair elections in the future?


These are just some of my suggestions. Chris, if you need any more ideas, hit me up.

Earther staff writer. Blogs about energy, animals, why we shouldn't trust the private sector to solve the climate crisis, etc. Has an essay in the 2021 book The World We Need.


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CW: Mr. Biden, a climate question given to me by a nature blog called Earther from one of its incessant commenters.

Carbon dioxide in atmosphere is typically reported as a mole fraction or more colloquially, parts per million. What would that be in micrograms of carbon dioxide per cubic meter of air as a gaseous-phase mixture?

JB: STP or ambient temperature and pressure?

CW: Why not both?