Virtually every area of politics will be affected by global heating. So why couldnt moderators be bothered to ask Democratic candidates about it?

The climate crisis was everywhere and nowhere to be found in Tuesday nights Democratic presidential primary debate. American foreign policy and wars in the Middle East, especially are deeply bound up in the politics of oil, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. The conflict in Syria discussed at length can be linked to historic droughts fueled by rising temperatures, which pushed many people off land they could no longer farm. The Wall Street banks Elizabeth Warren worked to regulate through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau an agency Joe Biden took credit for creating have funneled $1.9tn into the fossil fuel industry since the adoption of the Paris agreement. And the billionaires Bernie Sanders hopes to eliminate have some of the largest carbon footprints on Earth.

Given that its the context in which all politics over the coming century will play out, ever-accelerating climate impacts can already be found in virtually every policy field brought up on stage last night. Several candidates Sanders, most frequently used questions about them as a bridge to talk about rising temperatures and a Green New Deal. Debate moderators with CNN and the New York Times just couldnt be bothered to mention it.

What did we get instead? An entire round of questioning was kicked off by asking Bernie Sanders about his recent heart attack, and the last of the night asked candidates to opine on a surprising friendship like the one between Ellen DeGeneres and George W Bush. Amy Klobuchar now polling at 1.6% was asked to speculate about whether Democrats could get elected by running on universal programs like Medicare for All.

After hosting a seven-hour town hall about the climate crisis several weeks back inaccessible to anyone who didnt have cable CNN seems to have patted itself on the back for a job well done, having checked the box of having to talk about the potential end of human civilization. Devoting that much programming to an issue it hardly every discusses on air was laudable, but hardly a substitute for continuing to press candidates on how they plan to rapidly decarbonize the economy.

The Democratic National Committee chairman, Tom Perez, shares plenty of the blame too. As organizers with the Sunrise Movement demanded that Democrats hold a debate dedicated to the climate crisis this summer, Perez fought each step of the way to make sure it wouldnt happen. His reasoning explained in a defensive Medium post was that there was no reason for a dedicated debate on something candidates were sure to bring up regularly. I have the utmost confidence that, based on our conversations with networks, climate change will be discussed early and often during our partys primary debates, he wrote then, doubling down on a DNC rule that would penalize candidates for participating in any unsanctioned debates. So what happened?

It could be that there just wasnt any money in it. Since the town hall was a ratings loser, the network might have figured it should just skip over climate entirely this time around to keep its numbers up. It wouldnt be the first time: an analysis by Media Matters found that, in 2015, CNN gave five times more airtime to advertisements from fossil fuel companies than to climate coverage. The network repeatedly fails to connect the dots between extreme weather and climate breakdown. And while the New York Times regularly features quality and in-depth climate coverage, the company as a whole frequently run advertorials from fossil fuel interests, paid content disguised as journalism.

As Fox News pumps out wall-to-wall coverage of a Green New Deal trying to build the case against any sort of climate action CNN should be ashamed of itself for letting a network perhaps best described as state media define the conversation about such a grave threat, failing to give advocates for that policy suite as much airtime as theyve given to huckster climate deniers in the name of presenting both sides of a debate over science that never really existed.

And they certainly shouldnt be trusted to host any more debates.



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