Where Are the Candidates on Climate Change?

President Obama and Governor Romney have yet to seriously address the climate crisis in their campaigns. And time is running out.

Remember global warming? Yeah, well, judging by the campaigns so far, our presidential candidates don’t. And that’s a big problem because the climate crisis has not gone away. To the contrary, communities around America and the world are already suffering from its impacts, and things continue to get worse.

The basic science behind the climate crisis has been widely understood for decades. Polls show that 97% of practicing climate scientists now view global warming as a serious risk. And the dire consequences of inaction are becoming clearer with each passing year. Earlier in 2012, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s foremost body on the climate crisis, issued a new, detailed report confirming the connection between climate change and extreme weather events, such as heat waves, droughts, and floods.

Polls show that 97% of practicing climate scientists now view global warming as a serious risk.

Global warming is no longer a future threat; it’s a present reality. And it’s exacerbating and intensifying many of the existing problems we’re already struggling to cope with, including poverty, natural disasters, political instability, and global terrorism.

Now, I’m not into doom and gloom, but the reality around the climate crisis is grim, and hiding from it does no good. Millions of people face hunger/famine and malnutrition around the world today. One to two billion will lack access to clean water this century. Millions are experiencing coastal and inland flooding. And an estimated 200 million will become climate refugees by 2050. This does not take into account those suffering violence from energy and resource-based conflicts, or the drastic impacts the climate crisis is having on the rest of God’s groaning creation. These are some of the tragic consequences of our unsustainable lifestyles and our collective inaction.

The longer we wait to do something, the larger these numbers become, and the harder it will be to turn things around. But it’s not impossible—especially if we start now.

Here’s what we know needs to happen: we need an international treaty with legally binding targets for countries to reduce their global warming pollution to sustainable levels. We know what to aim for: 350ppm (parts per million) is the stable level of atmospheric carbon dioxide; the planet is currently hovering around 400ppm. Moreover, we’ve had success with similar global treaties, such as the Montreal Protocol (which tackles ozone-depleting CFC pollution).

For the world to act, however, America must lead. For America to lead, we need Congress to unite and pass comprehensive climate legislation that centers around putting a price on carbon pollution and also includes addressing deforestation, ocean acidification, and aid for communities to adapt to existing impacts. For Congress to unite, we need two things: 1) a President who will provide strong leadership, and 2) a broad-based movement fighting for this cause.

Scientists tell us that global greenhouse gas emissions must peak and begin to decline during the next presidential administration (specifically, between 2015-2017) if we are to avoid even more catastrophic impacts of climate change. This means that the upcoming election will be the most important one we’ve ever had, or may ever have, when it comes to climate change. It means that it’s crucial for President Obama and Governor Romney to make overcoming the climate crisis a campaign promise and a national priority.

Over the last several years, however, the climate deniers (often propelled with funding from Big Oil and Big Coal) have worked hard to undermine the scientific consensus and turn global warming into a politically toxic issue.

President Obama, once a champion of climate action, has largely gone silent on the issue, and has even begun defensively promoting his support of the fossil fuel industry. He did finally note in a recent Rolling Stone interview that, “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.” It was an encouraging step but there’s still a long way to go, and we need to hold the President to his word here.

Currently, then, neither of the major candidates is showing the courageous leadership we will need from whoever becomes President after November.

Governor Romney also once believed in human-caused climate change but, on the way to becoming the Republican Nominee, he flip-flopped under pressure: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.” The former governor actively campaigns on his support of the fossil fuel industry and ran a TV ad promising that, if he becomes President, one of his first actions will be to approve the highly controversial Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Currently, then, neither of the major candidates is showing the courageous leadership we will need from whoever becomes President after November. This must change, and grassroots groups like 350.org and Young Evangelicals for Climate Action are stepping up to hold them accountable.

In the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” It is time for the Presidential Candidates to take a stand on the climate crisis. It may be politically tough, but it’s the right and urgent thing to do.

4 Comments

85,118

MN Christian commented…

While I'm all for taking care of this earth God's given us, vastly altering all of our lifestyles because of a boogey man is pointless. Global Warming is being discredited more and more, with the realization that it's simply natural.

tim

3

tim commented…

I'm tempted to take on MN Xn's "discredited" thing on- the article already mentioned that 97% of climate scientists are agreement. That's universal- it's very difficult to get that type of agreement. Human activity's role in the warming is a near certainty.

But let's just take on the facts, regardless of if the above is true. It is measurable that humans have altered the content of the ocean and of the air. You can see a garbage patch 2x the size of Texas in the Pacific. We now eat 1/2 the living things on earth and eliminated 1000s of species. There are huge portions of ocean "dead zones" that cannot support any life because of human contaminants.

You don't have to believe in "Global Warming" for any of that. You can see picture or measure. them. the fact is, we make a huge, huge impact on creation. And we have to account for it.

85,118

Anonymous commented…

Climate change as being caused by human emissions and deforestation is beyond dispute among scientists whose job it is to understand climate.

And fixing this problem will create more non-outsourceable jobs in retrofitting buildings and adding distributed generation with solar, geothermal and community wind than carrying on with Business As Usual.

Remember, there's a correlation between poverty and being employed in the extraction industries. (see: the middle east and Appalachia).

But above all -- we're running out of the cheap stuff where fossil fuels are concerned. Coal has been going up 7%/year for the last 7 years all over this nation, and gas is pegged to go up. And oil is our bane, we already know, for price and spills...

I am glad this site is writing this up. Will it take a corn crop failure this hot hot year for the red states to demand action on climate change? They're already making nice bucks from wind power....

85,118

Toddljensen commented…

To MN Christian:
I don't know what you are reading but how can you say global warming is being discredited when all of the national scientific academies on the planet say it is happening and is mostly due to humans burning fossil fuels? What are your authoritative sources who completely negate what the vast majority of real experts (and the obvious heat waves, fires, and storms increasing in intensity) are saying? This was predicted as a physical consequence of putting more CO2 into the atmosphere and now it is happening but you say it is not? You can disagree but nature and physics don't care what you think. It is going to get worse until we act to change things.

If you think altering your lifestyle some is a problem, just wait until food prices go through the roof. It has already happened to the cattle industry in Texas due to the worst drought they have ever had and 90% of the Michigan apple crop has failed this year thanks to the 80 degree heat in spring causing early blooming followed by frost killing them off.

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