By: Bob Lucore
Tonight will be our last opportunity to see the candidates in a debate. In the previous debates neither the President nor his opponent has mentioned global warming. The moderators have failed to ask about it.
Although energy issues were discussed at length in last week’s debate, energy’s relation to climate was sadly ignored, as the transcript excerpt in this Think Progress piece demonstrates. Climate change is an issue of extreme urgency with gigantic consequences. It should be a central campaign issue.
If you are not yet convinced of the urgency of the problem, read Bill McKibben’s outstanding article in Rolling Stone. Or pay attention to International Energy Agency’s chief economist Fatih Birol, who recently said "I am very worried—if we don't change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever."
Voters want candidates to address climate change. For example, this study from Yale University found that 80 percent of undecided voters understand that global warming is real. Only three percent do not. Sixty percent of undecided voters say that global climate change will be among the important issues determining how they vote. It would seem that the President should be seeking out opportunities to discuss his administration’s accomplishments and plans, because the contrasts with the climate “denialism” of Governor Romney’s party are stark.
The candidates are correct to assume that jobs and the economy loom large in the public mind. President Obama has attempted to draw attention to his job-creating investments in wind, solar, renewables, and battery technology. Although Republicans, and many in the media, have denigrated green energy investments, this study from Brookings shows the huge contributions to economic growth and employment that are being made by this sector.
Dominique Browning, of Mom’s Clean Air Force, points out that it isn’t too late to get this issue into the debates. Tonight, the final debate is slated to address foreign policy. In many ways this issue has important foreign policy implications. After all it was Romney who said that we call it “Global Warming, not America Warming.”
It is also important to look for ways to keep this issue in the forefront beyond this fall’s election. Bill McKibben (whose Rolling Stone article was cited above) is now leading efforts to put pressure on the fossil fuel companies directly. He says:
“The fossil fuel industry has behaved so recklessly that they should lose their social license—their veneer of respectability…. You want to take away our planet and our future? We’re going to take away your money and your good name.”
We are nearing the final countdown for the election, but the climate change clock is ticking too. Our chance to reverse global warming will slip by if we do not halt the increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases soon. Both the voters will reward a candidate who moves decisively to address this issue and future generations will remember.
Bob Lucore, a long-time ADA board member, is the former Director of Research and Policy for the United American Nurses and has worked for the Teamsters and the Department of Economic Research at the AFL-CIO. . He taught economics for several years at Centre College and Colorado State University and is currently studying Library and Information Science at San José State University. Bob is a member of UAW Local 1981, the National Writers Union.