Romney, Obama Make History with Failure to Mention Climate Change in Last Debate

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

The final foreign-policy-focused presidential debate made history Monday when candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama failed to mention climate change. Despite historic drought and record melting of Arctic sea ice, failure to visit the topic marked the first time since the 1980s climate change hasn’t come up in a presidential debate. Some argued the climate should have come up, as almost every major international issue—food prices, military operations and energy access—have an embedded climate component. As Sec. of State Hillary Clinton told an audience in Georgetown recently, energy, climate and foreign policy are all really deeply intertwined.

Energy—the yin to climate’s yang—did come up Monday, it was not nearly as dominant a topic as it was in the second debate last week. Clean energy was mentioned in a short exchange, with Obama and Romney examining the role basic research funding plays in keeping pace with other nations.

It took getting away from the Republicans and Democrats, but three of the four third-party presidential candidates—Gary Johnson, Virgil Goode, Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson—did treat climate change as a serious issue. In a debate televised on C-Span Tuesday, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party called climate change “a greater long-term security risk to the United States than terrorism.”

Is the U.S. Helping Asian Economies Save on Energy Costs?

So far in 2012, U.S. coal exports are setting a record pace. In fact, they are forecasted to reach near 125 million tons—surpassing the previous all-time high of 113 million tons set in 1981. Growing demand in Asia may be a factor, raising the question of whether taxpayers are essentially helping Asian economies save on energy costs. ThinkProgress breaks down the issue ultimately concluding “Americans are paying for large companies to dig up coal at bargain prices, sell it to other countries at market prices, and subsidize their global warming pollution.”

The world’s largest producer of oil, meanwhile, plans to switch to 100 percent renewable energy. Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud said he sees solar playing a large role in the transition—with the nation’s vast oil reserves being used to create other goods such as plastics and polymers, rather than burned in power plants. It turns out that Saudi Arabia’s days as world’s largest oil producer may be numbered: the U.S. is now on track to take the spot after a recent surge in production that included the largest one-year gain in over 60 years.

In the U.S., more than 200 scientists are protesting the use of two invasive grasses for advanced biofuel feedstock under the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard. In a letter sent to the Obama administration, they write: “While we appreciate the steps that federal agencies have made to identify and promote renewable energy sources and to invest in second- and third-generation sources of bioenergy, we strongly encourage you to consider the invasive potential of all novel feedstock species, cultivars, and hybrids before providing incentives leading to their cultivation.” The New York Times says the authors fear a repeat of what happened when government-financed programs introduced kudzu—“the vine that ate the South”—in the 1930s.

Convictions a “Fundamental Misunderstanding of Science”

An Italian court, this week sentenced a group of scientist to six years in prison for failing to properly communicate the risk ahead of a deadly 2009 earthquake. Mother Earth called the courts actions a “fundamental misunderstanding of what science can and can’t do.” The verdict outraged those in the scientific community, who claim predicting the absolute date, time and risk is nearly impossible.” The real problem is helping people understand how risk works,” Erik Klemetti, a geoscientist at Denison University in Ohio, told LiveScience. “You can’t expect that scientists can come in and tell people ‘an earthquake will happen here on October 28, 2013.’ Instead, they must understand that there is an increased probability of earthquakes or eruptions in certain areas—and that they must take responsibility for understanding the risks of where they live.” The Guardian reports these claims may be a bit overstated, noting “the prosecutors, and the devastated families they represent, are well aware that scientists cannot predict earthquakes. The accusation they make is not that experts failed to predict the earthquake, but that they failed to properly assess and communicate the risks, telling residents they were safe without any scientific basis for doing so.”

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

One Reply to “Romney, Obama Make History with Failure to Mention Climate Change in Last Debate”

  1. Tim

    I’m a Duke grad (twice over) and an eco-theologian. Love the Climate Post. Keeps me up to date easily.

    Lecturing next week to a large class of pastors-in-training on the current state of climate science.
    Do you have a recommendation for a good up-to-date layperson’s summary that might be available? Online stuff is great.


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