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Missing from the Election: Climate Change

J. Mijin Cha

A robust vice-presidential debate continued a noticeable trend in this election season: climate silence. As tracked by Climate Silence, a joint project of Forecast the Facts and Friends of the Earth Action, climate change has not been mentioned even once in either the Presidential or Vice-Presidential debates. By comparison, in 2008, both presidential candidates not only discussed climate change, but both promised mandatory caps on carbon pollution.

Beyond the debates, climate change barely appears in stump speeches, even though the two candidates have differing positions on the issue. At the Democratic National Convention, President Obama stated that climate change was not a hoax while at the Republic National Convention, Mitt Romney stated, “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise. . . is to help you and your family.” It seems it is an issue area where a stark contrast could be drawn that would appeal to voters and recent polling found that 75 percent of likely voters have noticed the change in extreme weather patterns, are concerned about it, and want to hear about potential solutions.

The political silence on climate change is compounded by a constant media narrative that legitimizes climate deniers, even though their beliefs are counter to the vast majority of climate scientists. As we wrote earlier this week, American media leads the world in the amount of time and attention it gives to climate deniers. Taking the two together, we are not only refusing to talk about climate change, we are not engaging in the increasingly important conversations of how to best address the climate challenge.

For example, our energy future will not only impact climate change but also our economic future. Instead of devoting our attention to “all of the above” energy plans, we should be focusing our attention on targeted investments that grow alternative energy production and distribution. By doing so, we move closer to energy independence, diversify our energy sources so we are not overly dependent upon one source and can shield ourselves from the supply disruptions and sudden price increase we see now, and we build a stronger economy. Yet, there has yet to be a substantive discussion between the candidates on their vision for our energy future, let alone how they plan to address all the impacts from climate change.

Ignoring climate change won’t make it go away.  By not discussing it, we ensure that we will bear the full economic and environmental impacts of climate change. In this case, the silence is not only deafening, it is deadly.