Clinton vs. Trump: Will the presidential hopefuls make climate change a focus for Sunday's debate?

By Amanda Schmidt
October 10, 2016, 5:04:20 PM EDT

Despite their sharp contrast on climate change, the subject has not been a major topic of discussion in the 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

In the first debate between Clinton and Trump on Sept. 26., only one minute and 22 seconds was spent on climate change and other environmental issues.

In comparison with presidential debates since 2000, this is the second least amount of time spent on environmental policy. Although it has been a hot-button issue, it was not discussed at all in the 2012 presidential election between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

The high point for green issues came during the 2000 presidential debates between Al Gore and George W. Bush.

2016: so far: 1 minute, 22 seconds in one presidential debate. 2012: 0 minutes. 2008: 5 minutes, 18 seconds in two presidential debates. An additional 5 minutes, 48 seconds in a vice presidential debate. 2004: 5 minutes, 14 seconds in a single presidential debate. 2000: 14 minutes, 3 seconds in three presidential debates. 5 minutes, 21 seconds in a vice presidential debate. This data is provided by

While Clinton believes that it is an urgent issue, Trump has called climate change a “hoax" in the past.

In the first debate, Clinton accused Trump of believing that climate change is "a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese."

Trump interjected and said that was false. However, as social media users quickly discovered, he had said exactly that in a 2012 tweet.

Thus far, climate change has not been highly stressed in the current presidential election, despite President Obama’s focus on the issue of climate change. Obama is known for saying that he believes that climate change is the greatest threat facing the world.

President Obama believes that his efforts to slow the warming of the planet will be the most consequential legacy of his presidency, he told the New York Times in September.

Although the current president’s top emphasis is on climate change, it has not been largely discussed throughout the 2016 presidential election.

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In a previous AccuWeather poll from February 2016, 58 percent of voters said that a candidate's stance on climate change would not influence their vote in the election.

Though Trump’s rejection of climate science will not influence everyone’s vote, it may help Clinton reach millennial voters. According to a Harvard study, three out of four millennials believe in climate change.

"… Never thought when I gave my acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention that I would have to put in the following sentence: I believe in science," Clinton said to the University of New Hampshire campus on Sept. 28.

Young voters have consistently ranked climate change as an important issue, and Clinton's position is a major divide with both Trump and Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate.

Clinton's environmental allies are urging her campaign and debate moderators to keep climate change in the spotlight as the political campaign continues.

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