by Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts
Nearing the home stretch, the presidential campaign continues to fail to seriously address global warming, although there are glimmers of change in Barack Obama’s corner. The Republican candidate continues to tout climate denial, while the Democratic candidate is still only willing to admit that climate change is a threat to future generations.
In a campaign stop in Van Meter, IA, Mitt Romney joked about the carbon-fueled drought in the middle of a rant against environmental regulation, including action on climate:
The regulatory burden under this administration has just gone crazy. The President’s regulations as it relates to farming are kind of interesting. One is, the EPA tried to get into, er, the government tried to get into regulating rainwater in ditches on farms. It used to be that there was rainwater in Iowa, and people care about that — we hope it’s coming back soon! But in addition, they want to regulate dust, they want to impose duplicate rules on pesticides, there was an effort — you recall this — to prevent teenagers from being able to work certain functions on farms. And then there’s pushing cap and trade. I understand if they push cap and trade, it will not only massively affect income of farms, but it will take millions of acres out of farming. My own view on regulation is very different. You have to have regulation, you need regulation for markets to work effectively. But I’m going to cut back on regulation. I’m going to put a cap on regulation.
Romney’s mindless attacks on environmental regulation require a rejection of scientific knowledge — including the awareness that carbon pollution from fossil fuels is a driver of the terrible drought gripping this nation.
Speaking to college students at Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, President Barack Obama reiterated his convention line that “climate change is not a hoax,” telling the young audience that the deadly impacts of climate change are “a threat to your future”:
And my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet, because climate change is not a hoax. More drought and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to your future. And we’ve got to make sure that we meet the moment. That’s why I’m running.
In this campaign, Obama has been careful to describe climate change only as a distant threat, one that will only affect future generations or people overseas. On Monday in San Francisco, Obama told supporters that the climate impacts are “a threat to our kids’ future.”
A careful review of Obama’s statements on climate and energy finds that the last time the president clearly linked climate change to present impacts on U.S. soil was in his Earth Day speech in 2009, in which he described “shifting weather patterns that are already causing record-breaking droughts, unprecedented wildfires, more intense storms.” That speech was also one of the last times he made a detailed call for a hard, scientifically based cap on carbon pollution.
The president’s rhetorical shift from describing climate change as a present enemy in 2009 to a future threat in 2012 goes against the evidence of his first term — a litany of billion-dollar climate disasters, year after year after year.
With the selection of climate denier Paul Ryan as a running mate and carbon baron Harold Hamm as his energy adviser, Mitt Romney’s climate-destroying agenda is unambiguous (even if he dusts off the Etch-a-Sketch in the coming weeks). In contrast, it’s possible that President Obama’s campaign team is beginning to wake up to the political benefits of honesty about the dire climate threat. As Obama said recently, “If you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth.”
Brad is managing the Climate Silence campaign, which demands that the candidates provide climate leadership.