Obama and Romney Mum on Climate Change in Second Presidential Debate

Rising temperatures and changing rainfall may benefit the Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito, a carrier of West Nile virus. Credit: CDC/Jim Gathany

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney tussled over energy production during last night’s presidential debate, but both candidates were disappointingly silent on an inextricably linked issue: climate change.


During post-debate analysis, MSNBC's Chris Hayes likened the omission to discussing smoking without discussing cancer, the Hill’s E2-Wire reports.


After last night’s event the moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley, indicated that she had planned to ask a question on the topic, which wasn’t brought up during the first debate, either.


“Climate change, I had that question,” she said. “All you climate change people.  We just - you know, again, we knew that the economy was still the main thing, so you knew you kind of wanted to go with the economy, maybe the gas prices again was something that hadn't come up.”


The thing is, “climate change people” aren’t the only ones who have a vested interest in the subject—everyone does. Climate change will affect our economy, our energy supply, our health (increased temperatures and extreme weather events may drive up incidence of allergies, asthma, vector-borne and zoonotic diseases such as West Nile virus, and cancer, for instance).


Despite the urgent need for action on climate change, it’s barely been mentioned on the campaign trail. In fact, the candidates haven’t touched on environmental issues much at all (both campaigns did submit answers to 14 science questions posed by Scientific American and ScienceDebate.org).


As Brad Plumer writes in "Has the Environment Become a Non-Issue in the 2012 Presidential Debate?" in the current issue of Audubon:


“It’s pretty clear that there’s been a conscious decision on both sides not to engage with these issues this year,” says Robert J. Brulle, currently a fellow at Stanford and a professor at Drexel University who studies environmental politics and media effects.


Still, experts from across the political spectrum agree that the next president will face a variety of challenges—deciding whether to expand regulations on carbon dioxide, for instance, or dealing with the boom in shale-gas fracking. So there’s a lot at stake in this election, whether the candidates want to acknowledge it or not.

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