Climate change received little attention at the first Republican presidential debate Wednesday evening, with Vivek Ramaswamy dismissing it as a “hoax” in what was the most forceful comment on the matter throughout the night.
Moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum broached the subject early, taking a viewer question concerning recent disasters such as Canadian and Hawaiian wildfires and record heat, as well as the issue’s importance to younger voters. Ramaswamy called climate change a “hoax,” to some boos from the audience, and implied the other candidates were unwilling to say the same due to being “bought and paid for.”
The discussion of climate change transitioned into verbal sparring between Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, after which the subject was not broached for the remainder of the debate.
Of the candidates who were present on the debate stage, only North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has taken or proposed policy action to reduce carbon emissions, pledging to make his state carbon-neutral by 2030. Burgum has called for the state, where the oil industry is a major employer, to achieve this milestone through carbon capture rather than active reduction.
Candidates also frequently called for increased domestic energy production, with former Vice President Mike Pence hailing the Trump administration as “unleash[ing] American energy” and Ramaswamy calling to “drill, frack, burn coal, unleash nuclear.”
The absent front-runner for the GOP debate, former President Trump, has also falsely claimed climate change is a “hoax.”
None of the GOP candidates have said they would remain in the Paris Agreement as president when asked by The Hill. Candidates who explicitly said they would leave the climate agreement were Ramaswamy, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Pence.
President Biden has presided over some of the most aggressive climate action of any president, including the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act, rejoining the Paris Agreement, and a since-ended temporary freeze on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands. However, in recent months he has also drawn the ire of environmentalists with moves like oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the approval of the Willow Project, a massive Alaskan oil drilling project.