Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, stands with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton before the first presidential debate at Hofstra University, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. Image: Evan vucci/AP


After being totally ignored during the 2012 presidential debates, climate change was finally addressed on Monday night when Republican nominee Donald Trump squared off in his first debate against Democrat Hillary Clinton...

The result was a mixed bag of policy goals, distortions, and outright lies. In short, it wasn't exactly the policy-focused discussion that climate advocates were hoping for, but there could not be a starker choice between two candidates when it comes to climate change.

Clinton, the former secretary of state, features taking action on global warming as a large part of her platform. 

"Some country is going to be the clean energy superpower of the twenty-first century," she said, bringing up the subject of climate change on her own, in response to an economic question from moderator Lester Holt.

"Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax, perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it's real," she said. "And I think it's important that we grip this and deal with it, both at home and abroad," Clinton said.

Trump, who tweeted on Nov. 6, 2012, that global warming "was created by the Chinese" to benefit their manufacturing sector, denied that he fails to recognize the science of climate change and said it was an orchestrated hoax.

"I did not. I do not say that," Trump said. 

In other words, Trump denied that he is a climate denier.

His claim that he does not view human-caused climate change as a hoax, or at least not a Chinese-orchestrated hoax, is further undercut by more recent statements. 

In an interview with the Washington Post editorial board in March of this year, Trump said he does not believe in human-caused global warming. 

"I think there’s a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. I’m not a great believer," Trump said.

"They call it all sorts of different things; now they’re using “extreme weather” I guess more than any other phrase," Trump said, in response to a question from the Post's editorial page editor Fred Hiatt. "I am not – I know it hurts me with this room, and I know it’s probably a killer with this room – but I am not a believer. Perhaps there’s a minor effect, but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change."

During Monday night's debate, Clinton said that, if elected, she would deploy half a billion solar panels and build an electric grid that could more easily add forms of renewable energy. 

"We can deploy a half a billion more solar panels," she said. "We can have enough clean energy to power every home. We can build a new modern electric grid. That's a lot of jobs. That's a lot of new economic activity." 

Trump implicitly brought up the 2011 failure of the federally-backed federal loan given to the failed solar company Solyndra in his response. 

"She talks about solar panels. We invested in a solar company, our country, that was a disaster," he said. "They lost plenty of money on that one," Trump said.

His answer glossed over the fact that renewables, including solar, are now growing faster than other sources of electricity in the U.S. and are projected to continue growing, depending on government policies.

Trump also said nuclear weapons are the biggest threat the U.S. faces: "Not global warming"

In 2015, for example, the majority of new power added to the electrical grid came from renewable sources, primarily wind and solar, according to a sustainable energy report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), which is a division of Bloomberg LP that tracks energy trends around the world.

"Now look, I'm a great believer in all forms of energy, but we're putting a lot of people out of work. Our energy policies are a disaster. Our country is losing so much in terms of energy, in terms of paying off our debt," he said. "You can't do what you're looking to do with $20 trillion in debt."


Clinton: Trump called climate change a Chinese hoax...

Later in the debate, Trump said nuclear weapons are the biggest threat the U.S. faces: "Not global warming, like you think and your president thinks."

Trump has laid out an energy plan that would promote coal, oil and natural gas, and has prominent climate deniers involved in advising his campaign on energy and environment issues. 

He also favors pulling out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which the Obama administration was instrumental in helping to negotiate.

Clinton favors moving forward with U.S. participation with the Paris Agreement and continuing to build on the Obama administration's clean air policies. 

Last week, 375 top scientists, including 30 Nobel laureates as well as famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking warned against Trump's plan to pull out of the Paris agreement.

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