Climate Change: An Inconvenient Electoral Issue

Despite a near constant barrage of presidential campaign news and appearances - a trend that, unfortunately, has only worsened as we rapidly approach the Iowa caucuses - we have still heard surprisingly little of substance regarding one of our time's most pivotal issues, climate change. As Ellen Goodman, a syndicated columnist with The Boston Globe, noted this past week, climate change - notwithstanding an upsurge in public awareness and general handwringing - has remained low on most candidates' lists of priorities:

"The inconvenient truth of the 2008 election year is that climate change is still way down the dance card of most-talked-about topics. It's ranked No. 12 among Democratic candidates, and No. 15 among Republicans.

Indeed, the environment has made little more than a cameo appearance on the campaign trail. Climate showed up in the last Iowa debate at the Tinker Bell moment when Republican candidates were asked to raise their hands if they believed climate change was a real threat. It got a star turn in July when an animated snowman at the YouTube debate asked the Democrats if his little snowson would live a "full and happy life.""

We recently highlighted the results of a Yale survey indicating that about 40% of Americans would consider a candidate's position on climate change a key factor in their voting decision - the implication being, of course, that 60% of the electorate cares little to zilch about it. While that may be too defeatist a stand to take, we certainly can't say that we've been pleased with the news coverage, or lack thereof, of climate change as an issue on the campaign trail; how much of a role that has played in rendering climate change almost a non-issue is debatable - though we'd venture that it has, in fact, mattered quite a bit.

Instead of asking the candidates to address some of this year's most salient climate and energy issues - the role of biofuels in our renewable energy policy and the need for more research into technologies such as CCS, just to name a few - our elite class of pundits and opinion-makers has deemed it more worthwhile to discuss such weighty topics as... the presence of UFOs, the candidates' team preferences and their appearances. Because candidates are constantly pressured into submitting to the vagaries of the top reporters' desired narrative, it stands to reason that we have therefore heard little to-date about their science and energy policies.

The League of Conservation Voters has seen it fit to highlight the inanity of these and other questions in their "What Are They Waiting For?" campaign; one could argue that it is too little, too late - especially given the proximity of the primaries and caucuses - but we believe it still needs to be said. Grist's recent climate change debate, as we've previously remarked, only managed to attract 3 candidates - all of which were Democrats.

With grassroots initiatives such as Sciencedebate2008 now taking off, there's still hope that we can make climate change and - to a broader extent - science part of the electoral debate again.

Via ::Enviroblog: What have they been waiting for? (blog), ::The Seattle Times: Global warming doesn't seem to be heating up campaign trail (newspaper)

See also: ::How Do We Break The Climate Taboo In Presidential Debates?, ::Time for a Real Presidential Debate on Science, ::Americans Want Climate Change Leadership ... Or Do They?, ::
Presidential Candidate Profiles On Climate Change: A Hillary Clinton Update