by Robert J. Brulle, excerpted from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
In a summer dominated by heat waves and a devastating nationwide drought, it would seem that climate change would be a major issue in the US presidential campaign. However, quite the opposite is happening. Neither President Barack Obama nor the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, has focused any attention on this critical issue.
In a recent speech on the Senate floor, Senator John Kerry characterized the political discourse in the United States as a “conspiracy of silence … a story of disgraceful denial, back-pedaling, and delay that has brought us perilously close to a climate change catastrophe.” This silence means that we can expect further delays in addressing climate change, delays that we cannot afford.
Presidential politics. Both presidential campaigns have ignored climate change on their web sites. The Romney site advocates vigorous energy development of coal, gas, oil, and nuclear power. Obama’s site focuses on an “all of the above” energy strategy, which advocates the development of all energy sources, including “clean” coal and alternative energy. The statements by the candidates echo this approach….
Public concern. The failure of either candidate to address climate change has had a significant effect on the level of public concern about this issue. Social science research shows that public opinion is heavily influenced by cues from elites — for example, statements issued by prominent politicians and their parties. Citizens use media coverage of controversial issues to gauge the positions of elites they find credible, and then interpret the news based on ideology and party identifications. In a recent study, my colleagues and I found partisan statements to be the largest single factor explaining the ups and downs of public worries about the threat of climate change — and a much more important factor than extreme weather events….
To read the entire piece, go to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Robert J. Brulle is a Professor of Sociology and Environmental Science at Drexel University.
- Brulle: “By failing to even rhetorically address climate change, Obama is mortgaging our future and further delaying the necessary work to build a political consensus for real action.”