Obama and Romney Are Decidedly Not Climate Change Debaters

Beyond a few stock statements, the candidates are not talking much about the environment.

The next leader of the free world is very silent on climate change. (Photo: Richard Carson/Reuters & Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

This morning, The New York Times “Green” blog observed that, “Attuned to the public’s ambivalence, both political parties and their presidential candidates are playing down the climate issue. Instead, what passes for an energy debate in the United States is rivalry over which party is more devoted to extracting oil and gas from the ground and the seabed.”

Times columnist John M. Broder noted that, “On the day he clinched the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, Barack Obama declared that future generations would look back and say, ‘This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.’ He made addressing climate change...a central tenet of his campaign platform and a top priority of his first year in office. Then the president backed off, hamstrung by an economic crisis and implacable opposition from Republicans, who were cheered on and financed by their ideological allies and fossil fuel companies.”

Over at Grist, David Roberts took a more nuanced approach, saying earlier today that if Obama is reelected, he “will get very little done on climate or energy domestically, especially if Republicans keep the House, most especially if they win the Senate too.”

MORE: Climate Change Is Screwing Your Commute

“But I’ve been thinking lately that Obama might still be able to make progress on climate through foreign policy...What’s needed is for Obama to put bottom-up solutions at the center of his foreign policy. That means deals and treaties between states, regions, and other subnational entities. It means bilateral and multilateral deals among small groups of countries with common interests. It means, rather than one Climate Solution, a focus on the various bits and pieces of a solution: cities, sea-level rise, deforestation, solar manufacturing, carbon sequestration, and the like.”

And what if Romney is elected? I’m afraid that sound you hear is Mitt flip flopping again.

The Los Angeles Times reported that, “During his first 18 months as governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney spent considerable time hammering out a sweeping climate change plan to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. As staff briefed him on possible measures and environmentalists pressed him to act, Romney frequently repeated a central thought, people at those meetings said: That climate change is occurring, that the United States has the resources to handle its vast impact but that low-lying poor countries like Bangladesh would suffer greatly.” (emphasis mine)

But in May, Romney attended a fundraiser organized by Bob Murray, CEO of Murray Energy, the country’s largest independent, family-owned coal producer, and an outspoken climate-change denier. The Huffington Post quotes him as saying, “I finally figured it out...[Obama] is for all the sources of energy that come from above the ground, which means wind and solar. I like all above the ground and below the ground, and we’ll develop those resources to get America free of our dependence on foreign energy.”

This all provides food for thought, but it’s not much of a debate. That’s probably why The Times “Green” blog said, “Over the new few months, we hope to jump-start a discussion about energy and climate policy in the United States.”

Let’s hope that they succeed.

Will Obama and Romney’s views on climate change affect your vote?

Lawrence Karol is a freelance writer and editor who lives in New York City in a mid-century-modern-inspired apartment with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet editor, who enjoys writing about design, food, and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence | TakePart.com

Comments ()