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Not debating the issue of climate change, said one leading scientist, is nothing less than "cowardice." (Photo: AP)

Final Presidential Debate: With No Mention of Climate, Just More of the Same?

'Climate change is too big a threat to America not to be front and center in the presidential debates'

Deirdre Fulton

To the extent it actually addresses issues at all, the third and final presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Wednesday night is expected to cover "debt and entitlements," immigration, the economy, the Supreme Court, "foreign hot spots," and "fitness to be president."

This list, chosen by moderator Chris Wallace and announced last week by the Commission on Presidential Debates, is notable for what's not on it: namely, for many environmentalists, the critical matter of climate change, which has gotten the short shrift thus far.

"So far, the issue has tallied up two mentions," Clark Mindock wrote Wednesday at International Business Times. "First, during the first debate when Clinton brought it up and accused Trump of calling the phenomenon a hoax (Trump denied the claim on stage but had actually said that in the past). The second mention came in the second debate when red sweater-adorned Ken Bone asked about coal policies. Moderators, notably, haven't touched the subject yet."

Kerry Emanuel, a leading climate scientist, mused to the Guardian about the omission of what he called "the great issue of our time."

"It's like a sort of collective cowardice," he said. "It really is fiddling while the world burns."

Noting that several of the topics on the docket for Wednesday night "have been amply covered in previous debates," the Bloomberg editorial board said of the absence of climate change:

This is difficult to comprehend and harder to justify. It's not as if it's an unimportant or uncontroversial issue.

[...] Too much time in the debates thus far has been spent on the tawdry and embarrassing. Partly this is inevitable—those have been the defining characteristics of the 2016 campaign, after all—but it needn't be this way. Wallace should make room for climate change in the discussion. On one of the most momentous and difficult issues facing their nation and the world, Americans deserve better than a blackout.

Even Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, in a lecture Tuesday at American University, said he wants Wallace to ask about climate change. "I think it should be very simple: Basically, state a position on climate solutions," he offered as a suggested question for the moderator.

To this end, the Center for Biological Diversity's (CBD) Frostpaw the Polar Bear and other climate activists will be outside the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on Wednesday night, calling for urgent action to stem global warming.

"Climate change is too big a threat to America not to be front and center in the presidential debates," said CBD's Steve Jones. "From disappearing sea ice in the Arctic to devastating drought risk in the Southwest, every corner of our planet is at risk from our bad bet on dirty fossil fuels. We've got to quit gambling with our climate future and start leaving polluting coal, oil, and natural gas in the ground."

Still, Greenpeace blogger Cassady Sharp noted Tuesday that "[c]limate change applies to each and every topic" on Wednesday's agenda.

For instance, on foreign policy: "National security experts and advisers from all over the world warn that climate change cannot be underestimated when it comes to civil unrest across the world."

"We want to hear from our future president—as well as other key policy advisers and politicians—about factoring climate change into plans for peacekeeping," Sharp wrote.

To see whether climate comes up during the third debate, watch a live-stream below:

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