Climate Change Gone Missing — First in Quarter-Century of Debates

Photograph by NASA

This image, captured by NASA's MODIS satellite sensor, shows the Antarctica's Larsen B ice shelf mid-disintegration, spewing a cloud of icebergs adrift in the Weddell Sea.

For the first time in almost a quarter century, global warming was missing from the presidential or vice-presidential debates this year, disappointing “climate-change people” who see it as an urgent threat to the U.S. and the world.

Environmentalists aren’t pleased after seeing the drought and wildfires this year as evidence that the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is already changing weather patterns.

Greater threats lie ahead if the use of fossil fuels isn’t cut by 80 percent, according to the Web site ClimateSilence.org, which is run by the environmental group Friends of the Earth Action.

“In 2008, both political parties nominated presidential candidates — Barack Obama and John McCain — who promised to address the climate crisis with mandatory caps on carbon pollution,” the Web site reports. “Four years later, the arithmetic of climate change has become even more dire. Yet the rhetoric of the 2012 candidates has moved in the opposite direction.”

Obama and Romney did tussle in their Oct. 22 debate about the administration’s support of green energy, and what Republican Mitt Romney said is President Barack Obama’s effort to shut down production of oil, natural gas and, especially, coal. CNN reporter Candy Crowley, moderator of the Oct. 16 debate, said she had a question ready “for all of you climate-change people,” but ran out of time.

“President Obama, climate change has gone from an ‘urgent’ challenge worthy of major speeches and comprehensive legislation, to an afterthought,” according to ClimateScience.org.  “Romney, meanwhile, has backpedaled from weak acknowledgment of the basic science to outright mockery of the carbon crisis.”

Independent public opinion researchers say Obama may be missing a political opportunity, as voters who have yet to pick a candidate to support back action to tackle climate change.

Undecided voters “are much more similar to likely Obama voters than likely Romney voters across a range of climate change and energy-related beliefs, attitudes and policy preferences,” the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, said in a paper last month.

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