In last night’s debate, climate change was yet again ignored, while President Obama and Governor Romney touted their plans to burn more oil, gas, and coal. With only one debate left, there’s a real possibility that this will be the first series of debates since 1988 where climate change and carbon pollution is not mentioned at all.
After the debate, MSNBC contributor Chris Hayes responded with disgust to their climate silence, criticizing Obama and Romney for competing to be the candidate “who is most hastily speed our headlong flight of disaster”:
Having an energy conversation without talking about climate is like talking about smoking and not talking about cancer. You can’t talk about it unless you talk about what the stakes are for the climate. It’s unlikely we’ll see it in the third. Who is the more pro-coal candidate? Who is the more pro coal-candidate is who is going to most hastily speed our headlong flight of disaster towards a climate future in which we have not higher gas prices, higher temperatures. And the thing that’s so frustrating is the future farmers of america who will see livelihoods destroyed are not voting in the election. The people who live in inland coasts who will see their habitats destroyed are not voting in the election. the people working in coal companies now are voting in the election. I understand what their livelihood means to them. there’s an asymmetry between the people voting and the future people who aren’t. We talk about it all the time in terms of deficit be we don’t talk about it in terms of climate.
Moderator Candy Crowley pressed them on $4 gas but didn’t get to the consequences of a fossil-fueled future. After the debate, Crowley admitted that there was a person in the town hall audience who wanted to challenge the candidates on climate change, but wanted “all you climate people” to know she just couldn’t get to the question because “the economy was still the main thing.”
Time Magazine senior national correspondent Michael Grunwald responded to Crowley on Twitter that the “proper term for people affected by climate change is ‘people.’”
Before the debate began, CAP Fellow Van Jones recommended that President Obama break his climate silence and use global warming as a wedge issue to win voters in the key swing state of Ohio. Jones noted that Ohio is being ravaged by drought but also has had manufacturing jobs restored through the president’s clean-energy investment:
Climate change hasn’t been talked about at all. Just because it’s not part of political reality, doesn’t mean it’s not part of the drought and other things going on. He’s killing two birds with one stone by taking on climate change and talking about energy reform. I think he can do that in Ohio.
The inability of our presidential candidates to discuss the catastrophic consequences of a fossil-dominated energy policy is gaining increasing notice among media elites. Moderator Bob Schieffer is not expected to bring up climate change in the final debate next Monday, so it will be up to the candidates — or the American people — to choose to break the climate silence.
Brad Johnson is campaign manager of Climate Silence.