Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Democratic presidential candidates take part in the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on June 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

'Downright Irresponsible and Shameful': DNC and NBC Ripped for Democratic Debate That Spent Less Than 10 Minutes on Climate Emergency

"Our survival is worth more time than vague, irrelevant, and trivial questions posed 80 minutes into the debate."

Jake Johnson

After 2020 Democratic presidential candidates spent less than ten minutes on the global climate emergency during the first primary debate in Miami, Florida Wednesday night, environmentalists and progressive critics argued it is now clearer than ever that the DNC must agree to host a debate focused specifically on the crisis that poses an existential threat to human civilization.

"It's absurd to host a debate in Miami and spend only a few minutes on the climate crisis. This is downright irresponsible and shameful."
—Varshini Prakash, Sunrise Movement

Climate journalist Kate Aronoff noted in a blog post for The Guardian that it took "nearly an hour and a half" for NBC moderators to ask the first direct question about the climate emergency, which "could make large swathes of the planet horrifically uninhabitable by the end of this century."

"NBC should be ashamed of itself. So should [DNC] chairman Tom Perez," Aronoff wrote. "Members of the Sunrise Movement—which pushed the idea of the Green New Deal into the national spotlight late last year—are sitting in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., pushing the DNC to organize a debate dedicated solely to the potential end of human civilization. As tonight proved, it's desperately needed."

Tamara Toles O'Laughlin, director of 350 Action, echoed Aronoff's assessment in a statement after the debate came to a close, pointing out that more time "was spent fixing microphones" than discussing the crisis that is already wreaking havoc across the planet.

"This sets up the election of our lifetimes with a tone of insufficient seriousness to address the magnitude of the climate crisis, its impact on communities, and the courage it requires to invest in real solutions," O'Laughlin said. "It is tone deaf to the calls of the people and a show of selective hearing from the Democratic National Committee."

When asked by moderator Chuck Todd to name the "greatest geopolitical threat" to the United States, just four of the ten Democratic candidates on the stage—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Beto O'Rourke, Julian Castro, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)—answered "climate change."

O'Laughlin pointed out that the Green New Deal, a far-reaching and popular proposal to confront the climate emergency while creating millions of decent-paying jobs, was not mentioned once during the debate.

According to a Washington Post transcript, the phrase "climate crisis" was used just twice Wednesday night—both times by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee—while "climate change" was mentioned eleven times over the course of the two-hour debate.

As HuffPost reported, "Only five of the ten candidates onstage had a chance to respond to four questions on the issue directed at individual contenders, making it impossible to compare everyone's stances. Discussion of a topic that only first came up 10:22pm local time ended abruptly at 10:29pm."

O'Laughlin said she is "unimpressed by the ongoing disregard for a real presidential platform for candidates to dig deep and commit to real action and solutions to the crisis at hand."

"We deserve a climate debate to give these issues a serious hearing, where we can truly inspect the candidates leadership as we face this existential crisis as a nation."

The first of two scheduled debates in Miami came as youth activists with the Sunrise Movement camped out at the headquarters of the DNC to pressure the committee to host a climate-specific 2020 debate.

As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, Perez announced that the DNC would not host a climate debate despite grassroots demands, but promised that the primary debates would feature "more robust" climate discussions than ever before.

But Wednesday night's debate suggested that Perez's promise was hollow, green groups said.

"It's absurd to host a debate in Miami—a city where millions of people could lose their homes due to sea level rise that's also only 20 miles from the Everglades where massive fires are out of control—and spend only a few minutes on the climate crisis," Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, said in a statement. "This is downright irresponsible and shameful."

"Tonight's debate made it crystal clear that the media and the political establishment are out of touch with our generation. Our survival is worth more time than vague, irrelevant, and trivial questions posed 80 minutes into the debate to a few minor candidates."

While expressing disappointment with Wednesday night's debate, Prakash said the fact that tens of thousands are speaking up and pressuring the Democratic leadership to treat the climate crisis with the urgency it deserves is a reason to be hopeful.

"There is something big happening in this country," Prakash said. "Young people are 32 hours into a sit-in at the DNC. Tens of thousands of people are organizing and raising their voices to demand our leaders start taking the climate crisis seriously. We are growing stronger every day and we are going to win."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'I Don't F—ing Care That They Have Weapons': Trump Wanted Security to Let Armed Supporters March on Capitol

"They're not here to hurt me," Trump said on the day of the January 6 insurrection, testified a former aide to ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Jake Johnson ·


'Morally Bankrupt' G7 Slammed for 'Caving' to Fossil Fuel Lobby on Climate

"People in poverty around the world will pay the highest price for this backtrack by some of the wealthiest countries," one activist warned of the group's new statement on gas investments.

Jessica Corbett ·


Police Brutality on Display as Protesters Rail Against Post-Roe World

"Both the Dobbs decision and state repression of protest against it violate human rights," said the president of the National Lawyers Guild.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Yeah, And?': Ocasio-Cortez Embraces GOP Freakout Over Helping Women Skirt Abortion Bans

"Republicans are mad because I am sharing this information," said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. "Too bad!"

Julia Conley ·


WATCH LIVE: Top Meadows Aide Cassidy Hutchinson Testifies at Surprise Jan. 6 Hearing

Hutchinson, who has spent more than 20 hours in deposition with the House panel, is expected to provide more damning evidence of the role that Meadows played in Trump's coup attempt.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo