President Obama and Mitt Romney square off during the final Presidential debate of the 2012 U.S. election. No mention of global warming was made in any of the 2012 debates. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Stephen Stromberg
23 October 2012

In their last presidential debate Monday night, the two presidential candidates began with Libya and stayed in the Islamic world for almost the entire evening. They talked about “divorcing” Pakistan, arming Syrian rebels and rallying allies against Iran. In this exchange, Romney offered few serious counterproposals to Obama’s current policy, and Obama offered little more about his vision for the next four years. The president promised to keep Americans safe, insisted that the United States needs to “rebuild at home” and attacked Romney as too fickle and inexperienced to run foreign policy. Romney tried to convince people that he is a calm hand who wouldn’t start another boots-on-the-ground war. Romney’s failure to contrast his plans with the president’s record and Obama’s attacks on Romney’s promiscuous attitude toward policy added up to a win for the president.

But, as in previous debates, the victory rings hollow for all the issues that the candidates did not address. Aided by the moderator’s questioning, they spent exactly no time on one of the greatest challenges the world’s governments must face, and foremost among them the United States’. This problem threatens the lives and livelihood of millions, particularly in poor countries, but, left unchecked, it also poses hazards to plenty of Americans and American interests. It will require possibly very expensive choices for developed and developing countries and delicate international negotiations. This challenge is climate change.

Global warming is, well, global. Emissions here count just the same as emissions anywhere else. So, ultimately, facing up to the challenge will require many countries moving in the same direction with enough speed. Without adequately discussing climate change in a global context, the candidates’ foreign policy agendas and even their economic plans, so preoccupied as they are with energy policy, are utterly incomplete.

Romney’s plan is to concentrate on keeping fossil fuels plentiful and domestically sourced. Under his scheme, reducing America’s carbon emissions would be nice, but that wouldn’t be the primary goal. Achieving any emissions cuts of significance with existing technology would be expensive, the argument goes, and since China, India and others might not also clamp down, emissions could continue to build up too-rapidly, regardless of what the United States does. But Romney must explain why American leadership stands to fail in the case of climate change, yet seems to be his solution to every other major global crisis. Why is the best option to wait and see, even though the scientists tell us we shouldn’t? […]

Obama won the third presidential debate, but what about climate change?


By Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
23 October 2012

(The Guardian) – The Pentagon ranks it as a national security threat and, left unchecked, climate change is expected to cost the US economy billions of dollars every year – and yet it has proved the great unmentionable of this election campaign.

Amid unprecedented melting of the Arctic summer sea ice, new temperature records in the US and a historic drought, the last of three presidential debates wound up on Monday night without Barack Obama or Mitt Romney ever uttering the words climate change.

It was the first time since 1988, the year Congress was first briefed on the emerging threat by the scientist James Hansen, that there had been no mention of climate change in an election debate.

The question cropped up in the vice-presidential encounter between the Republican Dan Quayle and the Democrat Lloyd Bentsen. Both agreed then it was time to act.

But this year's vice-presidential contenders, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, also failed to mention climate change during their single encounter, making for a total of six hours of primetime television debate without a single reference to climate change.

The omission – or "climate silence" – has proved hugely frustrating to campaigners.

It spawned a website which urged Obama and Romney to give climate change the attention it had in the 2008 election and a petition drive before the first debate, which gathered 160,000 signatures demanding debate moderators put climate on the agenda.

The two candidates did engage in a heated back-and-forth about gas prices in their town hall encounter last week. But the exchange saw Obama trying to one-up Romney in his support for oil and coal – fossil fuels rather than renewable sources of power.

CNN's Candy Crowley, the debate moderator, later told Slate there had been questions from the audience about climate change, but she thought the economy was the priority.

"Climate change, I had that question," she was quoted as saying. "All you climate-change people. We just, you know, again, we knew that the economy was still the main thing." […]

US presidential debates' great unmentionable: climate change

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