Viewers of the vice presidential debate held in Kentucky last night didn’t have to look very hard to notice a distinct election season pattern: climate change, the most pressing issue facing our planet, was completely ignored. Vice President Biden and Representative Ryan sparred over numerous issues regarding both domestic and foreign policy, but the topics of greenhouse gases and clean energy were barely acknowledged.
Energy policy did appear once in the 90-minute debate, though only under the framing of the economic stimulus. However, the topic was quickly dismissed between partisan quarreling and the moderator, Martha Raddatz of ABC News, did not follow through with any specific questions on the matter.
Given the attention climate change was given at last week’s presidential debate — which is to say, none at all — this disappointing turnout does not especially break the mold. Last week in Denver, moderator Jim Lehrer chose to ignore 160,000 petitions sent to him by League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club and other environmental groups asking him to include a question about climate change. Friends of the Earth Action president Erich Pica called the lack of climate change discussion in that debate “striking,” and noted that it is “impossible to talk about the economy, healthcare or role of the government without talking about climate change.”
While the trend to ignore this essential issue is clear in both the campaigns and much media coverage, studies show it would benefit candidates to take a firm stance on climate change. A recent poll demonstrated that a majority of undecided voters know climate change to be human-caused and will consider it in their top issues that decide their choice for president. This consideration is bolstered by a different study that found that a majority of Americans are connecting extreme weather events — such as the drought and wildfires this summer — with climate change.
Whatever the forum, it must be acknowledged that the climate silence seen in this electoral season is pervasive and harmful. America needs candidates that can speak openly about the climate and put forth plans to slow the its deterioration and adapt to the process’s effects. You can take action to urge the candidates to end their climate silence at http://climatesilence.org
Photo credit: Christopher Dilts, flickr.com