Will PBS' Jim Lehrer, Moderator of First Presidential Debate, Ask Obama and Romney About Climate Change?

Will the presidential candidates address mounting concerns about global warming during the debates?
Will the upcoming presidential debate finally incite a discussion on climate change between the candidates? (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Aug 24, 2012· 1 MIN READ
The director of the Public Trust Project, Alison Fairbrother has written for Grist and Politics Daily, among others.

Candidates for the highest office in the land should discuss their positions on climate change during the upcoming presidential debates, according to the League of Conservation Voters (LCV).

The organization released a petition this week urging Jim Lehrer of PBS NewsHour, the moderator of the first presidential debate on October 3rd, to ask President Obama and Governor Romney to address the topic.

“Climate change is happening, and the effects will only get worse if our government does not take action soon,” the petition to Lehrer reads. “We ask that you…generate the substantive discussion about global warming on the national stage that our country needs to have right now.”

A growing number of concerned citizens now connect extreme weather with manmade climate change, after a summer of sizzling temperatures, floods, and other climate debacles.

Leading climatologists like NASA’s James Hansen assure us that patterns of extreme weather will only get worse. 98 percent of working climatologists believe that climate change is real and caused by humans.The first presidential debate will be held in Colorado, a state that was devastated by wildfires in July. Tens of thousands of Coloradans fled their homes, four people were killed, and insurers are estimating nearly $450 million in damage to homes.

Despite the scientific consensus, both Obama and Romney have steered clear of specifics about their positions on climate change during the campaign season.

Earlier this week, when Romney unveiled his energy plan, he didn’t mention climate change once. The Massachusetts Governor has called for stripping the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

In April, Obama promised to make climate change a priority on the campaign trail. But in an address on energy this spring, he omitted all references to climate change, greenhouse gases, and air pollution.

This isn’t the first time the League of Conservation Voters has pointed out the reticence of candidates to address the state of the planet.

In 2007, LCV analyzed questions asked of then-presidential candidates, Obama and John McCain, by leading television journalists. Of the nearly 3,000 questions posed over the course of 171 interviews, just six questions related to climate change and global warming.

To put that in perspective, as Shawn Lawrence Otto did in his book Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, they also asked three questions about UFOs.

Will the unconfirmed presence of unidentified flying objects play a larger role in presidential discourse on October 3rd than our imminent global disaster? Or will our leaders wake up and smell the forests burning?