Presidential Candidates Are (finally) Starting to Publicly Talk Climate

With the election right around the corner, President Obama has started to address climate change — after two years of hibernation — by publicly voicing the matter-of-fact science behind it and the need to address it. Unfortunately, according to this article by Mark Clayton from the Christian Science Monitor, Obama’s motivation may have come from Governor Romney’s recent derogatory statements towards climate change action. Unlike the 2008 election, when the public heard agreement on climate change belief from both political party candidates, in this presidential election, climate change is a controversial topic that will potentially impact the votes of Americans across the country.

In swing states climate change considered critical election issue

Cross-post from Alaska Dispatch

by Mark Clayton

Earth from Apollo 17, Creative Commons Photo

Climate change, a signature issue for President Obama, has thus far been absent on the campaign trail. Here’s why you can expect it to soon dominate the debate.

In Tampa, Mitt Romney threw down the gauntlet to Barack Obama, for whom global warming – and the consequent sea level rise – has been a signature issue since he promised in 2008 to do something about it as president.

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet,” Mr. Romney told GOP delegates in Tampa, a smile on his face. “My promise [long pause – audience laughter] is to help you and your family.”

But that laugh line appears to have been just too much for Mr. Obama, who is fighting for support in a neck-and-neck campaign where the economy – not climate change – is the front and center issue. So he let fly.

“Yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet – because climate change is not a hoax,” the president shouted to delegates in Charlotte, N.C. “More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.”

That high-profile statement, political analysts say, may have marked a major turnabout for the president, who has scarcely mentioned global warming – or the more scientific designation of “climate change” – in recent months.

Ever since an attempt to pass cap-and-trade legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions failed in 2010, the president has seemed almost mute on the topic – with a few rare exceptions mostly when speaking overseas, frustrated environmentalists say.

“Two years ago the White House communications shop decided this was not a good issue to talk about,” says Joe Romm, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and a former acting assistant secretary of energy. His blog, called “Climate Progress,” has tracked the issue closely.

“My guess is that Obama, who is an incredibly competitive guy, was just annoyed at mockery and laughter and wanted to respond personally,” Mr. Romm says. “But I also think that he’s been trying to think about how to inject climate into the debate. Romney gave him an opening to do just that.”

But there are also indications that Obama, scratching for support among independent voters in Ohio, Iowa, and other swing states, may have been warming to the idea of once again more publicly embracing climate change.

“It’s been easy for the other side to pour millions of dollars into a campaign to debunk climate-change science,” Obama told Rolling Stone magazine in April. “I suspect that over the next six months, [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.”

Be that as it may, Obama and his campaign would be unlikely to be so undisciplined as to get into a national high-profile fight over climate policy if he were going to lose credibility with a public more hungry for jobs than fixing global warming.

But what if climate change turned out to be a good issue – not a boat anchor? That’s exactly what public opinion researchers at George Mason, Yale, and Stanford universities have been finding in national polls last year and this year.

In a nonpartisan national poll released by George Mason and Yale in March, 72 percent of Americans surveyed said global warming should be a very high (12 percent), high (28 percent), or medium (32 percent) priority for the president and Congress. Among registered voters, 84 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents, and 52 percent of Republicans said global warming should be a priority.

Read the full article here.

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