Both US presidential candidates are campaigning on the future of America and its children, but their rhetoric about what is important to those children is very different.
Before Hurricane Sandy, climate change was not a priority in the race for the White House. For the first time since 1988, climate issues were not raised during the three presidential debates. Former communications director for Vice President Al Gore, Kalee Kreider, told BuzzFeed last week:
“Without a doubt, climate change is missing from the conversation.”
Mitt Romney opened his speech to the Republican National Convention with a jibe at Obama’s concern over climate change.
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans [he paused for the audience to laugh] and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”
Barack Obama countered Romney’s attack at the Democratic National Convention.
“Climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future.”
The president has said he will continue to invest in wind and solar energy if he wins a second term but details of these plans are yet to be released.
The 2012 Republican platform downplayed the issue mentioning climate change once, while the 2012 Democratic platform addressed it as “one of the biggest threats of this generation”. Despite that, this year Obama has not called for a cap and trade system or any other broad national policy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in contrast to his 2008 campaign.
Romney has consistently attacked Obama for waging a war on the coal and gas industry. “People in the coal industry feel like it’s getting crushed by your policies,” Mitt Romney told Obama during their first debate. At a rally this week he asked, “Did his war on coal and gas and oil put new jobs in the marketplace?” to which the audience answered “No!”
Last week, Independent Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg changed his thinking about the presidential campaign after Hurricane Sandy announcing his support for President Obama. Up to that point Bloomberg had criticised both presidential candidates and did not endorse either of them in the 2008 election.
“Mitt Romney has a history of tackling climate change,” Bloomberg said.
“As governor of Massachusetts, he signed on to a regional cap-and-trade plan designed to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels…But since then, he has reversed course, abandoning the very cap-and-trade program he once supported.”
Bloomberg said he wanted “our president to be on the right side of history”.
“One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics,” he said.
Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan have both questioned how much effect humans have on the climate. Their policy is built around energy security to tackle climate change. This strategy includes more drilling for oil, nuclear power and using available fossil fuels. In November 2011 Romney said, “I exhale carbon dioxide, I don’t want those guys [Environmental Protection Agency] following me around with a meter to see if I’m breathing too hard.”
Mr. Romney has also said: “We don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”
Romney’s campaign website is silent on climate change. But in his 2010 book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, he wrote that “I believe that climate change is occurring — the reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor. I am uncertain how much of the warming, however, is attributable to factors out of our control.”
Romney is promising jobs for families while Obama is asking for more time to deliver change. In the current political climate it might be some time before either candidate warms to significant action.– Nigel Gladstone
Top photo from Moms Clean Air Force flickr.