The world's scientific community has determined that global warming is a human-caused crisis of the highest order, threatening our economic prosperity, international security, environmental stability, and the survival of millions. The need to act is urgent: the chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says, "If there's no action before 2012, that's too late. What we do in the next two or three years will determine our future."
It's obvious to nearly everyone that energy and global warming are two of the most important issues the next president will deal with. Most of the candidates understand that these are central issues for the country, and all of them know voters care. Every Democratic candidate has a plan and addresses the issue on her or his website. Of the Republicans, website coverage ranges from none (Romney, Huckabee, Paul), to a slight nod (Giuliani), to flat-out acceptance and concern: McCain says in a video clip on his website, "I believe climate change is real. I think it's devastating. I think we have to act."The candidates are not alone—American business leaders, the mainstream media, local elected officials, and a large majority of voters get it: global warming is real; the need to deal with it is urgent; the time to act is now. So it's disconcerting to see that the country's top five political reporters have not joined the rest of us.
The League of Conservation Voters reviewed interviews held in 2007 by Tim Russert, Wolf Blitzer, George Stephanopoulos, Chris Wallace and Bob Schieffer, and found that out of 2,679 questions asked by the reporters, only three questions mentioned global warming. These elite reporters have taken the precious time they have with the candidates to ask more questions about UFOs, baseball, and Chuck Norris than about the candidates' plans to deal with climate change, one of the defining issues of our time.
I don't begrudge them some fun questions to lighten up a long campaign, but I do question their sense of priority. America and the world are facing an epochal challenge, and all of us, but especially those who have the chance to talk to the candidates so often, should be asking tough questions of the candidates about what they will do to make America a leader in rising to this challenge.
Too many of us didn't ask tough enough questions when the Bush Administration rushed the country into Iraq, and the cost to this country has been immense. Too many focused on the inside political game behind the war instead of asking the fundamental questions about its wisdom. Too many of us fiddled while Rome burned. Let's not make the same mistake again. The world is heating up—we can rise to the challenge, but it will take all of us working together to do so. I call on these enormously talented, well-placed reporters to join the rest of us: use your rare access to the candidates to challenge them on what they will do to deal with global warming and create a prosperous, clean energy future.
Each candidate hopes to be the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. Americans need to know how each of them plans to curb what could be, as McCain says, a "devastating" trend. It's incumbent upon the nation's reporters to make this a public discussion, to ask hard questions, to focus on the human race instead of the horse race.
The Sierra Club has a petition asking these reporters to start asking the important questions about this defining issue. We hope you'll sign it.