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.This statement contrasts sharply to what Obama himself suggested back in April, in his Rolling Stone interview:
“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.
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.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 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.”
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.Yuck.
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)