Saturday’s Democratic presidential debate began with a question about the ongoing controversy over a breach in the Democratic National Committee’s voter database and ended with a question about the changing role of a president’s spouse. In between, ABC News’ David Muir and Martha Raddatz steered the candidates through several substantive issues, from ISIS to taxes to Black Lives Matter. There was one major topic, though, they failed to ask about: climate change.
The only brief mentions of global warming during the entire night came during Bernie Sanders’ opening statement and Martin O’Malley’s closing one, and both of those were largely throwaway lines. “I'm running because we need to address the planetary crisis of climate change and take on the fossil fuel industry and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy,” Sanders said at the start of the debate. “The other big challenge we have is climate change,” O’Malley said more than two hours later.
Making ABC’s decision not to ask about climate change all the more glaring was the fact the debate came only one week after the United States and 194 other countries signed a historic climate agreement in Paris. Hillary Clinton’s and Sanders’ respective responses to that deal were telling. In a statement, Hillary congratulated President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for striking the agreement, adding: “We cannot afford to be slowed by the climate skeptics or deterred by the defeatists who doubt America's ability to meet this challenge." Meanwhile, Bernie—the only major presidential candidate ever to explicitly back a carbon tax—was less than impressed with the outcome of the U.N. climate summit. "The planet is in crisis,” he said in his own statement. “We need bold action in the very near future and this does not provide that.”
Given those different postures, not to mention the importance of the issue, it would have been nice to hear both candidates talk climate policy. Instead, the most viewers heard about global warming on Saturday night came from a pair of ads paid for by Tom Steyer’s climate group