Energy & Environment

Democratic senators want NBC primary debate to focus on climate change

Three Senate Democrats are calling on NBC News to have its first presidential debate focus exclusively on climate change.

Sens. Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Martin Heinrich (N.M.) said in a letter to NBC's top brass that the 2016 debates improperly shortchanged a topic of high interest to Democratic voters.

"There are many ways to address the climate crisis, and voters want to know what policies each candidate supports," the trio wrote in a letter to NBC News Chairman Andy Lack. "Voters deserve a vigorous debate with an informed moderator that can press candidates for detailed answers and hold them accountable."

Environmental groups and several 2020 candidates have also called for a climate-centric debate. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined that chorus last week, following a similar request from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D).

The senators said in Thursday's letter, first reported by the Daily Beast, that the 2016 debates devoted just five minutes to climate change, while recent polling shows the topic is of increasing concern to party voters.

"Democratic voters across the country have accepted the facts about climate change, are seeing its impacts, and are having real debates on solutions. In this consequential election year, it's time for our candidates to do the same," they wrote.

An April poll from CNN found that 82 percent of registered voters who identified as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents listed climate change as a "very important" top priority they would like to see as the focus of a presidential candidate.

The first 2020 Democratic primary debates are slated for the end of June.

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