Presidential debate lacks meaningful discussion of climate change

Plus, Oklahoma attempts to push Christianity in public schools.

While the fallout of the first presidential debate settles, little has been made of the absence of meaningful policy surrounding the world’s most pressing issue: man-made climate change. Neither President Joe Biden nor former President Donald Trump provided substantial insight into how either leader would manage — or mismanage — the existential threat of anthropogenic warming which has caused record-breaking heat waves this summer. And if carbon emissions are not dramatically curbed, it could devastate everything from food supplies to the existence of large swaths of coastal cities. 

While CNN’s moderators did ask the candidates about how their administration will approach climate change, both Biden and Trump failed to bring clarity on what the next four years of climate policy could look like. 

“I want absolutely immaculate clean water and absolutely clean air,” Trump said when asked about his climate angle. “And we had it. We had H2O, we had the best numbers ever, and we were using all forms of energy, everything.”

To Biden’s credit, the incumbent president referenced the success of the Inflation Reduction Act, a bill his administration created to invest in clean energy. Additionally, Biden mentioned the rollout of his new American Climate Corps, a federal jobs program that sends recent college graduates to work on conservation projects, renewable energy installations and green-focused initiatives. 

However, the urgency of the matter — and the need to build on recent successes in emission reduction — was not properly focused in the debate: The candidates dedicated more time to discussing their golf handicaps. 

The circumstances are especially bewildering given that climate change is a position of strength for Biden, and research by climate experts has found that a second Trump term would be a disaster for the environment. 

“A victory for Donald Trump in November’s presidential election could lead to an additional 4bn tonnes of US emissions by 2030 compared with Joe Biden’s plans,” an analysis by Carbon Brief found earlier this month. 

“This extra 4bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2030 would cause global climate damages worth more than $900bn, based on the latest US government valuations.” 

Oklahoma schools will now be mandated to teach the Bible in public schools

On Thursday, Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters announced that, “effective immediately,” all public schools in the state will be directed to include the Bible in their curriculum. 

“The Bible is a necessary historical document to teach our kids about the history of this country, to have a complete understanding of Western civilization, to have an understanding of the basis of our legal system,” Walters said in an announcement. 

“Every teacher, every classroom in the state, will have a Bible in the classroom and will be teaching from the Bible in the classroom.”

The move is par for the course for Walters. Since assuming office, the former public school teacher has pushed a reactionary education agenda that has included book bans, barring trans athletes from competing in sports and attacking Joe Biden’s so-called “radical agenda.” 

And in March, Walters announced plans to introduce new parental rights standards which  “would allow parents to object to any curriculum that doesn't align with their personal beliefs on sex, morality, or religion,” according to the ACLU. “These rights also force parents to disclose any changes to their child's mental health status and gender identity.”

Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s education outcomes continue to flounder.  Research published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation — which charts the well-being of children and their families — this year found that Oklahoma ranked 49th in education. Walters also received bipartisan grilling at a hearing last week after his administration revealed it did not have access to one of its own websites for over two years.

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Jamie Larson