Maybe this time around the Dems will debate climate change for more than six minutes.
Maybe this time around the Dems will debate climate change for more than six minutes. Doug Pensinger / Staff

In 2016, the presidential debates covered climate change for all of five minutes and 27 seconds. Tractor imports got more attention than the greatest existential crisis facing humanity.

This time around, presidential hopeful Jay Inslee would like to change that.

In a letter obtained by the Daily Beast, Gov. Inslee asks DNC chair Tom Perez to consider holding a debate solely on climate change. “The Democratic Party’s response to climate change cannot only be a few quick questions in the first debates where, in 60 seconds, candidates merely agree that this issue is important, and move on,” the governor reportedly wrote. “We need a full debate to really wrestle with who has the best plans to defeat this existential crisis, who has demonstrated the commitment it will take to get this job done, and who understands the scale of ambition necessary to see this mission through to completion.”

It's not a bad idea. If anything will make Americans start to take climate change seriously, it's 739 presidential candidates debating it on a stage repeating talking points. Ok, that might not be the catalyst but it would be good to hear what kind of proposals these people actually have to deal with climate change. I doubt any of the Democratic hopefuls are climate change deniers, but their environmental proposals do vary.

Joe Biden, for instance, released his climate plan on Tuesday. He says he supports the Green New Deal and wants to shift to a fully clean energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. To achieve this, Biden, unlike, for instance, Bernie Sanders, supports using nuclear energy (Inslee has said he supports further research on nuclear as well, although he doesn't support giving government subsidies to the nuclear industry). But while many scientists say that nuclear is key to reducing emissions, this stance is not likely to win Biden many fans among activists (and Chernobyl fans) who argue that nuclear power is inherently unsafe—and it's not hard to see why. Besides the well-known accidents, nuclear fuel is radioactive (and dangerous) for thousands of years after it's been used in reactors, and we still haven't figured out safe ways to dispose of it long-term. That said, nuclear power is also highly efficient, reliable, and with greater capacity than renewables like solar and wind power, which are dependent on weather conditions. And if the DNC actually listens to Jay Inslee (they won't) voters would actually get to hear the men and women who may be our next president battle these policy positions out.