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It doesn't come as a surprise, but this makes it official, I guess (The Hill, 8/23/12):

A spokesman for President Obama’s reelection campaign suggested Thursday that climate change is unlikely to take center stage in the 2012 White House battle, noting that Obama’s contrast with GOP rival Mitt Romney is already apparent.

“Clearly [climate change] is something that is important to the administration, but right now we are obviously going to be focusing on jobs and the economy and talking about what our contrast is,” said Tom Reynolds.

This statement contrasts sharply to what Obama himself suggested back in April, in his Rolling Stone interview:
I suspect that over the next six months, this [climate change] is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we're going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way.
(Petition link - more below)

No need to wait for that now, it appears .... Here we are - facing a serious drought that's driving grain prices up, record low Arctic ice cover, widespread record heat wildfire, anomalously high amount of expensive weather disasters. But neither candidate can talk about the most difficult problem which drives all this: climate change.

How screwed up is that?

Various commentators have noted the disconnect (Columbia Journalism Review):

Nary a word has been spoken about climate change on the presidential campaign trail, and it’s a silence that some journalists find deafening.

The New York Times’s Felicity Barringer observed that the candidates are willing to talk about energy policy (as they did last week), largely because it is intimately related to the jobs debate. But “climate change has been the issue that national politicians seem to avoid at all costs,” Barringer wrote. That’s a problem, National Journal’s Amy Harder argued, since “the next president will have to address [global warming], no matter who wins in November.”

Apart from the heat waves, droughts, and wildfires that have “thrust climate change back into the spotlight,” Harder wrote, “the State and Transportation departments must address a European Union cap-and-trade law aimed at forcing airlines to pay fees for greenhouse gases emitted by all flights to and from Europe. Yet neither candidate is addressing these unavoidable realities—at least not yet.”

This is a serious problem on other levels as well - when leaders are silent about an issue, the public doesn't take it seriously as it would otherwise, creating a negative feedback loop of inaction. Robert Brulle, in an article entitled Conspiracy of silence: The irresponsible politics of climate change, wrote:
The failure of either candidate to address climate change has had a significant effect on the level of public concern about this issue. Social science research shows that public opinion is heavily influenced by cues from elites -- for example, statements issued by prominent politicians and their parties. Citizens use media coverage of controversial issues to gauge the positions of elites they find credible, and then interpret the news based on ideology and party identifications. In a recent study, my colleagues and I found partisan statements to be the largest single factor explaining the ups and downs of public worries about the threat of climate change -- and a much more important factor than extreme weather events.

Overall, climate change and other environmental issues have consistently ranked at the bottom of public concerns. A frequently used measure is the "most important problem" question asked by Gallup pollsters. Over the past 40 years, the percentage of respondents naming an environmental issue as the country's most important problem has rarely exceeded 3 percent. Within subcategories of environmental concerns, global warming or climate change is usually at the bottom. In recent monthly Gallup polls, environmental concerns were mentioned by only 1 percent of respondents as the most important problem facing the nation. Among those mentioning environmental concerns in the March 2012 poll, 78 percent worried a "great deal" or "fair amount" about toxic waste and water pollution. Out of seven environmental issues, global warming was ranked last, with only 55 percent of the public worried a great deal or a fair amount. The presidential campaigns follow these polls, and have thus concluded that addressing climate change is not a high priority. By avoiding the issue, the candidates further drive down public concern -- a circular process.


ACTION - Do sign the petition to get them to talk climate in the debates! (h/t beach babe in fl)

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for diary & for including the petition. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse, Supavash, tapu dali

    Hopefully, they'll have to be forced to make their views known and start a national discussion.

    Macca's Meatless Monday

    by VL Baker on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 07:33:13 AM PDT

    •  You're welcome (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      beach babe in fl, TJ, tapu dali

      it would be great if it gets on the debates. Thanks for posting the petition in the first place.

      However, the damage of elite silence is already in place, no matter what happens in the debates. The continual lack of mention by Obama (and of course Romney - that's a given) means many connections won't be made, people won't put it together, less urgency, and so on.

      And the likelihood of the action we need lessens.

      An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

      by mightymouse on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 07:41:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You push this climate discussion at your own peril (4+ / 0-)

      When Obama predicted climate change as topic in April, it means that he then thought, that it will be possible to sell the importance to the American public. If he does not emphasize it now, it means that the campaign came to the conclusion that a discussion about climate change will not help winning the election.

      The best thing you can do for working against climate change is to work hard to re-elect Obama and give him a Democratic congress to work with. The worst thing you can do is to goad progressives into misguided activism, feelings of betrayal, and of false equivalencies.

      It is obvious that Obama knows about the importance of climate change (many previous statements, and also he is not an idiot). Therefore your petition obviously will do nothing to increase the importance of that in President Obamas mind.

      If you could make enough waves to force Obama to emphasize climate change, then you may well help giving Obama the image of tree-hugger and frog-rescuer. It will counteract the hard-nosed image, which he currently has, and will cost him percentage points in the election. In a just and fair world that would not be the case. But you do not get to choose the world you live in!

      He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

      by Sophie Amrain on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 09:31:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  is it really obvious though? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tapu dali
        It is obvious that Obama knows about the importance of climate change (many previous statements, and also he is not an idiot). Therefore your petition obviously will do nothing to increase the importance of that in President Obamas mind.
        Obama has been remarkably quiet about this most important issue his entire term. His silence means fewer Americans are putting two and two together - this is the effect of silence of the elites note by Robert Brulle. The upshot to me is our response is slower and less effective.

        You argue "he is not an idiot." A lot of people are not idiots. However, they know which side their bread is buttered, and that influences how they act. If "not being an idiot" was all it took, we'd be a lot farther along now.

        and this:

        If you could make enough waves to force Obama to emphasize climate change, then you may well help giving Obama the image of tree-hugger and frog-rescuer.
        What we're looking for is leadership that reframes away from that. I think Obama could do it if he wanted. He doesn't want to.

        There is evidence that speaking out on climate does not carry an electoral price.

        An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

        by mightymouse on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 10:00:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Single issue voters almost always feel this way (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mightymouse, IndyReader, FG

          But elections are almost never about single issues. They are always about getting elected OTOH.

          Al Gore is an elite and he has not been silent on this for decades. Yet the debate still goes on, yes? What will have a much greater effect on public mood will be this year's bad corn crop. Getting hit in the wallet will do more to change public opinion than all the Gore and Obama speeches ever given.

          Perhaps by November this will be showing up in the groceries and at the McBurger drive-through. Maybe then the general public will decide it should damn well be a campaign issue. But one segment of the public cannot tell everyone else what the top issues are. We can try but we cannot force it.

          But if climate change does pop up for the debates, I think our man will make short work of their man. If it does come up as a big issue this year, that will happen only if vast numbers of Americans emerge from denial sometime between today and September.

          •  Al Gore is one guy. He has been less public (0+ / 0-)

            since 2008. that's a pretty weak argument there.

            When he was active Climate was a bigger deal publicly. We have no one like that now. We definitely have no political leader like that.

            and "single issue"? jeez. I have a lot of issues that you could apply that phrase to, but this isn't one of them.

            If Obama continues silent, people will care less, and we are less likely to do what's necessary.

            An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

            by mightymouse on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 11:36:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I am sorry I did not refer to you (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I was thinking about the quotes you provided. I expect the head of a climate change organization to approach the election from a single-minded POV. That is is his function. So I personally apply much salt to his predictions of what might happen if his advice is not followed. Getting his advice followed is, after all, his job.

      •  Amen, Sophie (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I get how important this is.

        This issue simply is not on the public's radar as urgent, and an attempt to force it upon them with a "sky is falling" message will backfire by muddying the waters distracting from the issues than can be effective, and trying to force the public to pay attention to something it just doesn't want to at this time. You cannot run or win an election by pushing an issue from the sidelines like this.

        I will tell you the main reason I have no interest in climate change, don't follow the issue, and won't sign any petitions. To me it's one of a bunch of extremely urgent issues NOT ONE OF WHICH can be addressed until we address the issue of who is in office and how they got there.

        If elections aren't fair, and are based on lies, money and voter suppression, NO important issues are addressed. Elections are the gateway to impacting climate change. That includes redistricting, which is on the ballot in Ohio this November. The Ohio Republicans will do ANYTHING to stop it because their power and control of the legislature and Congress depends on it. They've called lead group the League of Women Voters a "special interest snake in the grass group." They have written official ballot language so insanely misleading, the leaders of the initiative have taken them to court. They want to keep control, and their control means making us powerless to affect climate change.

        Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07.

        by anastasia p on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 11:04:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  strawman (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          No one is asking him to force a sky is falling message onto the public.

          Right now Obama won't even mention the word "climate." There is a LOT of room between total silence and "sky is falling" that he could successfully occupy. At very least, in his comments on energy, fires, and drought he could refer to climate change as an important consideration for how we respond to this stuff, our national commitment to each other, and so on.

          That would be a start.

          An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

          by mightymouse on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 11:40:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Just because its best for Obama (0+ / 0-)

        to avoid discussion of this, that doesn't mean that it best for the issue of climate change to be ignored.  I've been waiting and waiting for climate change to become a serious issue for candidates for years, and it just never happens.

        And as they point out, part of the reason it never becomes an issue is because nobody ever talks about it.

        What we are essentially going to have is a situation where only after massive climate change has already happened and many people have died as a result, will they finally start to talk about it, and after that long the damage may very well be irreversible.

        I don't want Romney to win, but I wonder what it would take to get people to actually think about this?

        Ignorance more frequently begets confidence then knowledge. Charles Darwin

        by martianexpatriate on Tue Aug 28, 2012 at 01:50:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Sadly, climate change is an.................... (4+ / 0-)

    issue that will not garner may votes for BHO; at least through emphasis in direct campaign advertising. Very few are yet to pay attention or are more concerned with more immediate problems. Money can be better spent on other issues such as Medicare, Social Security, Obamacare and the improving economy.

    BHO and the Dems will, however, begin to pick up some votes due to climate change. There are folks beginning to pay attention to the heat, drought conditions and severe weather. They are beginning to realize that the Rethugs and Kochs  are denying the obvious in a raw quest for power.  The issue will provide the "tipping point" for some.

    The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation--HDT

    by cazcee on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 07:36:44 AM PDT

    •  Too big a concept for many minds to grasp it seems (5+ / 0-)

      I once read a small book called Parkinson's Law, which discussed some effects of the human mind on behavior.  One example was that a board meeting to approve two items, the price per cup of coffee brewed in a community pot in the office, and a 7-million dollar addition to the company HQ would result in 30 minutes being spent on coffee, and a fraction fo that on the building contract.

      The sane question here is how satisfying would it be to have a nice little banking or real estate job in a Mad Max post-apocolyptic world?  

      •  that is a great example ... the big thing is scary (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tapu dali, Quicklund, cazcee

        so we talk about something else.

        to procrastinate is human ... if we ignore the giant problem, maybe things will take of themselves, and we didn't have to upset anyone.

        unfortunately today's problem will not take care of itself.

        that sounds like a board I was on once.

        An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

        by mightymouse on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 08:57:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's Obama's legacy, let him destroy it. (3+ / 1-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse, ffour, maryabein
    Hidden by:

    If he wants to go down as the last president who had an opportunity to mitigate the coming upheavals but chose to ignore it, them's the breaks.

    •  don't care about him so much (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tapu dali

      it's us I care about. the longer it takes for the big guys to publicly address the issue, the longer it takes to get anywhere.

      result will be more negativity, doomerism, disengagement, etc.

      An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

      by mightymouse on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 08:05:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If Obama had any intention to address this at all (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mightymouse, ffour

        the admin wouldn't have been working to kill even proposed emission limits the last four years.

        •  what ones were killed (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Diaries on kos have been praising obama for supporting new fuel/emissions standards.

          Furthermore, the epa smog rules are back and alive. They are on schedule to go into effect december.

          We need to MAKE them do it when they are wrong or need to do better.

          Abraham lincoln had to be made to do it by abolitionists and other groups.

          I feel mickey, we need to MAKE obama step it up.

          It should not have to come to this. No sugarcoating. Obama should be making first move.

          But its common throughout history for leaders to be pushed on some things.

          •  How can we push Obama? (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sreeizzle2012, TJ, Supavash

            The tar sands/XL actions were pretty good.

            What else?

            My impression is that he and/or his people simply don't get the urgency of public leadership around climate. He could be the guy, he's got the chops, but he won't. It appears he doesn't want to.

            And it's not just the election. He has shied away from public leadership on climate the whole time. We have a record upon which to base our judgments.

            An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

            by mightymouse on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 08:32:48 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  those actions are telling (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mightymouse, Supavash

              And problematic. True.

              A thinkprogress article suggests that obama has a wrong headed view that talking about climate change will cost him the election and cause obama's approvals to drop.  Well numerous polls still showed strong belief in climate change among independents. Tying climate change to green issues and jobs spurred strong support among politicians.

              Well obama needn't have to worry about climate change public opinion had he been more assertive and using his message to make congress and public push for strong legislation BEFORE the election year. Obama's actions on lgbt issues including marriage strongly shaped democratic senators and congressmen's views.

    •  Bleah (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lost and Found
  •  Change we'd better believe in. Ah well. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TJ, mightymouse

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 09:22:03 AM PDT

  •  Climate change doesn't happen (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse, tapu dali, Quicklund, FG

    on some neat little line.  If, perhaps, 2013 turns into a "colder than normal" weather pattern for much of the US, then all the preaching about global warming is considered a bunch of hooey by the electorate.  That is why the subject of climate change is considered a "hot potato" by any political person.  Understanding the science behind climate change is difficult, needing geography, geology, physics, chemistry, ecology (which, in itself, is a very new science), biology and meteorology (history is also indispensable).  It is impossible for even scientists to absorb it all, let alone the ordinary citizen.   Many of us here remember the jokes about President Carter's video about the sweater and saving energy.  Absolutely NO politician wants to replicate that.  And that is why all questions about climate change will be cream puffed in this election.  

  •  It's not much better in Canada either. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My information note to my Minister on the connection between climate change and extreme weather  was met with studied indifference. "Interesting take on the subject".


    I know you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. -- S.I. Hayakawa

    by tapu dali on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 10:33:48 AM PDT

  •  Bush did not campaign on ending Social Security (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse, FG

    The 2004 campaign was dominated by the Iraq war. But as soon as he was re-elected in 2004, Bush claimed he "had a mandate" to privatize social security. That came right out of the blue.

    What I am getting at is politicians campaign on the issues that get the most attention from the voters. This year the conversation has gravitated to economic issues. That does not mean the candidates do not differ on the other issues. It means both are trying to get elected. Both are responding to the issues that influence the most voters.

    But once in office every President returns to their own agenda. The task before us here is not to insist the climate becomes a campaign issue. Only the voters en masse can do that. Our task is to ensure climate change is high on President Obama's 2nd term agenda. the task before us is to deliver to Mr Obama a Democratic Congress.

    •  what is Obama's agenda? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TJ, Quicklund

      how do we know what he's committed to? is it all of the above energy? is it selling government coal to China? is it "clean coal"? (whatever that is). Is it "Environmentally safe fracking"? (ditto).

      I guess I have no confidence that he's committed to addressing climate at the scale necessary.

      Also, you compare climate and privatizing social security. I say these are two very different types of issue. Dealing with climate is like a good war. You need the people to understand why they have to sacrifice, or change. And they will, if the need is clear.

      That's not privatizing SS. So I would argue that your equivalence is not relevant.

      An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

      by mightymouse on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 11:32:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Of course they are different issues (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        No one will say Democrats addressing climate change is out of the blue.

        The point is, elections are about winning election. The topics that come up are not automatically the topics that become most important after election day.

        Push Mr Obama to the limit to do something about it. That is what needs doing. All I am saying is, there is no need for talk of despair if it does not end up being a major campaign issue.

        •  how to push him? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          How do you think we should be doing that? I am all ears. Really.

          and re the "despair":  I am convinced that public leadership from elected leaders is necessary part of addressing climate change and minimizing the damage.

          I haven't seen this from anyone, really. Obama is on the hot seat, since he's the high officeholder. He hasn't shown much in his first term. He (and his people) aren't showing ANYthing in election season.

          Time keeps ticking on and far too little is happening.

          this can lead to despair.

          An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

          by mightymouse on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 12:09:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I advise avoiding despair is all. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            There is no greater single issue. I am learning French, I am preparing to sell my house if need be, I am realistically considering a move to Canada, all driven by climate change concerns. And ... I live literally within a walking distance of Lake Michigan. I can count on fresh water ... but it was over 100 F here this summer.

            But I do not conclude all will be lost if this issue does not dominate the election year. Look, it would be a great sign if climate change did become an issue. That would indicate the dam of denial has burst. That dam will burst one day and soon. But we cannot predictably make it burst before Nov by making clever arguments. If that were possible it would have burst by now.

            So my advice here is to avoid fatalism. Don't claim all will be lost if the improbable does not happen. Read my tagline.

  •  Question about your research: who has more (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    cred with independent voters? The rest of us are more or less neatly bifurcated in belief.

    Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

    by the fan man on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 11:57:32 AM PDT

  •  a person says they're not a single-issue (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse, FG

    voter and yet all they seem to be able to write about is their single issue.

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