We've entered the final stages of election season, and the presidential campaigns are in high gear — they're unleashing all the hand-shaking, stump-speechifying, and attack ad-ing a poor voter can take. And though Barack Obama has broken into a clear lead in most polls, the media is still squeezing every last drop of sensationalism out of the proceedings, as they will till the end. Every notable utterance, reaction, or gesture makes the cycle; which makes it doubly depressing that neither Obama nor Romney are talking about climate change.
Despite campaigning to the backdrop of one of the hottest summers on record, replete with wildfires, epic drought, wild weather events (remember the derecho?), and an Arctic that melted to record lows, the would-be presidents are both mum on climate.
Sure, Obama told some college kids that fighting global warming is important, and he made a little noise at the DNC, when he noted that "climate change is not a hoax." But acknowledging that a roundly proven scientific phenomenon is not in fact fantasy hardly counts for much.
Romney's worse. Most of the time, he says he doesn't know whether humans are causing global climate change. Other times, he says he does believe they are, but that the government shouldn't take action. Still other times, he appears to mock the concept of addressing climate change altogether, as he did in a joke he delivered at the RNC.
Meanwhile, our entire mass media complex is clueless. Reporters and broadcasters are unwilling to pose climate-related to questions to either candidate, and they don't do segments comparing or challenging their views on climate policy. Hell, they don't even cover climate change itself, as it's happening under their noses — a recent Media Matters study found that the major TV networks did three times as many stories about Paul Ryan's P90x workout regimen as it did about the melting arctic. Cable did six times as many.
And so, with the media unwilling to make the candidates answer any uncomfortable questions about climate change, we get what we have here today: nothing. Silence. Silence on what is arguably the single most important issue of our day. That silence is not just unacceptable; it's surreal.
As such, two green groups, Friends of the Earth and Forecast the Facts, have launched a new effort to get the candidates to "break their climate silence." Called, aptly, ClimateSilence.org, the site charts Romney and Obama's history of climate quietude, and allows visitors to sign a petition urging them to speak up. It reads:
"I implore you to explain how you will address the growing climate crisis if elected to the nation’s highest office, not only for the Americans being affected right now, but for the sake of future generations, including your children."
A worthy challenge. Meanwhile, the League of Conservation Voters joined with eight other green groups to deliver over 160,000 petitions to Jim Lehrer, beseeching him to challenge the candidates on their climate views when he moderates the upcoming debate. Here they are:
Clearly, it will take more than a few petitions to move the president's and the would-be-president's to commit to exploring climate policy solutions, but this kind of activist mobilization helps push some important pressure points — on both the media and the candidates themselves. Our leaders are essentially having no political dialogue at all about climate change while it's slapping us in the face. It's time indeed to end this silent farce.