Debates never tackled climate change
October 23rd, 2012
06:00 PM ET

Debates never tackled climate change

We heard a lot about how the candidates feel about foreign policy in Monday night's debate. In fact, over three debates, we have seen the candidates debate any number of issues. But not climate change.

For whatever reason, President Obama and Mitt Romney never got around to tackling climate change in the debate forum. Neither, for that matter, did Vice President Joe Biden and GOP vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan.

This is the first debate cycle since 1984 that has not mentioned phrases such as "climate change," "global warming" or "environmental crisis." In 1988, the issue arose in the vice-presidential debate between Democratic candidate Lloyd Bentsen and Republican candidate Dan Quayle; both mentioned "the greenhouse effect."

Brad Johnson, campaign manager for the group Climate Silence, issued a statement circulating in the media highlighting this fact. The candidates "have failed to debate the greatest challenge of our time. Climate change threatens us all: The candidates' silence threatens to seal our fate," Johnson said in a statement, as quoted by Scientific American.

What do the candidates believe about climate change, then?

Politico summarizes that climate change almost never comes up for Romney, but he does criticize Obama's renewable energy policies. The president, on the other hand, does frequently mention energy and says he wants to support renewable energy and bring down pollution from power plants, but, Politico says, you'll rarely hear him say the words "climate change."

See for yourself what the candidates are planning officially: Here is Obama and Biden's plan for the "global climate crisis." And here is Romney and Ryan's agenda for energy.

In America generally, it seems that people just don't want to think about climate change, Bryan Walsh writes on He adds, "But the job of a leader — or someone who is applying to become a leader — should involve telling the occasional difficult, even inconvenient truth. That’s been missing in this campaign."

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Filed under: 2012 Election
soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. jessewilsonla

    Is this posted on CNN? The same CNN who moderated the first debate? The only debate in which any topic chosen by the moderator was fair game? Look into the mirror, CNN.

    October 26, 2012 at 2:49 am |
  2. mememine69

    My revenge for you fear mongers condemning my kids to a CO2 death is me and millions of others holding our noses and voting for Romneycon. Nice work girls. Family comes first.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  3. Scar1 so he hides records and money and we should trust him as President????

    October 24, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  4. mememine69

    Science has betrayed its own warnings of crisis:
    The millions of people in the global scientific community that are not reacting to the world walking away from their crisis "warnings", proves climate change was just an exaggeration.
    *In all of the debates so far, Obama hasn’t planned to mention climate change once.
    *Obama has not mentioned the crisis in the last two State of the Unions addresses.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  5. mememine69

    *Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets run by corporations.
    *Julian Assange is of course a climate change denier.
    *Canada killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).
    Science needs to step up to the plate and be honest with us

    October 24, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  6. Bubba

    Ermm, scientists now have found a better correlation between fluctuations in sun spots and our changing temperatures, rather than CO2 levels and temperature changes... the Earth gets hotter when the sun flares. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that one. However it is a shame that the environment wasn't brought up at all. We should be over the politics of climate change (and whether or not it is real and if it should be on your party's platform), and we should be moving on to how to take better care of our environment and better the world for our grandchildren (regardless of whether or not we are faced with a global catastrophe). It is a shame that we use the environment as a political toy or standpoint rather than trying to respect it and better it– after all, however you believe it came into being or was created, we could not be here without our environment.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • thisguyisoneofthem009

      You are wrong about that. There has been no correlation between sunspots and global temperature for the last thirty years. It's believed that there may have been a correlation pre-industrialization, but, if that correlation existed, it clearly no longer holds up based on the data. You should also know that correlation is not causation.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:06 am |
  7. moi

    ROMNEY IS POLITE AND A GENTLEMEN. HE LOOKS MORE CONFIDENT AND CALM. HE KNOWS THAT OBAMA'S MESS SPEAK BY ITSELF. (high unemployment, high gas prices, increase of income tax and business tax in 2013, high house foreclosures, no new businesses created than 2008, penalty fee for not having health insurance to all aemrican w/o insurance, etc). THAT'S WHY ROMNEY LOOKED AT OBAMA WITH PITY, WHAT'S HE'S TALKING ABOUT. OBAMA DOESN'T HAVE A PLAN TO GOVERN, HE LET CHINA TO SURPASS IT IN ECONOMY AND COPY RIGHTS. OBAMA DIDN'T DO ANYTHING WHAT HE PROMISED. HE ONLY PUT US IN 6 TRILLION DEBT....FACT SPEAKS....4 More year for the same result,,,,WHAY RISK....THE ONLY SMART CHOICE IS ROMNEY FOR PRESIDENT.....VIVA ROMNEY!!! TODOS A VOTAR POR EL

    October 24, 2012 at 12:19 am |
  8. Shelby

    Romney took global warming off the debate table with his quote at the Republican convention:

    "President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."

    October 24, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  9. ScottInSeattle

    The candidates didn't talk about climate change because people care more about their shiny handheld toys and what they will have for dinner tonight. And look at the comments here about this: many people still think climate change is not for real and that man is not causing it. Forget about extinct species, rising oceans, crop failures, changing weather patterns, and all the other clear indicators, Americans want to keep on living like the self-aborbed consumers that they are. They want to be batteries for the economy and they don't want to think about changing. The candidates know this, so talking about climate change would be a waste of time. The first one that talks about climate change will be called "out of touch" with American values. Pathetic.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • Polaris

      Climate change is not an issue because there has been no significant warming in 15 years, according to the British Bureau in charge of climate monitoring and weather, the MET Office. The global climate models are all wrong, since they are solely based on excess carbon dioxide and do not account for anything else. Clearly, we continue to emit continually many tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, yet we see no warming. The fact is this, the Earth's climate is dynamic, not static, and has continually changed throughout the Earth's history and there is no accelerated change occurring.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:22 am |
      • thisguyisoneofthem009

        You're quoting the Daily Mail, which is one of England's least reputable newspapers. The journalist who wrote that article misunderstood the data and wrote a sensationalist headline claiming warming had stopped 16 years ago. The Met Office disavowed his claims the next day, saying he was wrong and misleading. The fact is he took a very small window of time and tried to calculate an average off of it, when you actually need a large pool of data (a large window of time) to be able to make any sort of statements about temperature trends.

        October 24, 2012 at 12:56 am |
      • Polaris

        Since 1998, the average temperature of the Earth has been between 0.2 and 0.3 C warmer than the 30 year mean temperature. The overall trend has been about 0.1 C per decade for the past 32 years. There has not been any significant warming over the past 15 years. This is demonstrated in the MET data and in the global satellite temperature data.

        October 24, 2012 at 1:04 am |
      • thisguyisoneofthem009

        The Met Office explained that if you calculate an average temperature from August 1997 til today you'll see a very slight increase in temperature, but that if you calculate it from 1999 onward, you'll see a much more substantial warming trend. The explanation? Aug 1997 came on the heels of a particularly intense El Nino (warming cycle), whereas 1999 came on the heels of La Nina (the cool cycle). They point out that this is why you cannot determine a trend based on a short time period, but rather you need several decades worth of data.

        This is why climate change deniers have been able to hoodwink the general public. If you want to go on the internet and search out opinions that confirm your preconceived beliefs, it's very easy to do so. It's particularly easy when deniers can just manipulate data and put it up on a website without anyone having a chance to review it. Publishing a paper in a scientific journal is infinitely more difficult, because you have to put your findings and methodology up for peer-review. This is why the deniers have been so unsuccessful at convincing the scientific community. They are using emotion to arrive at conclusions, rather than science.

        October 24, 2012 at 1:17 am |
      • Primewonk

        Except, of course, that is simply yet another denier lie.

        List of 20 warmest years on record from 1900 to 2011 – globally (via NCDC):

        October 25, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • itzascam

      OK, I confess... I am one of those self-absorbed consumers, and an American. I would apologize for it, but Obama has done enough of that for America over the past four years.

      But please, tell me your secret on how to post messages on web sites without a computer or a smartphone? Inquiring minds want to know...

      October 24, 2012 at 12:32 am |
      • ScottInSeattle

        I built a computer with old recycled parts that were thrown away by others. I take the bus or ride my bike to work too. I'm one of those liberal freaks that actually believes that how I live affects our environment, and the purchases I make reflect a choice to either be part of the solution or of the problem.

        October 24, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  10. Wilberforce

    Did Van Jones write this?

    October 23, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  11. rskgreenwich

    It is unlikely that US (or China and India for that matter) will seriously try to address the climate change issue. Pressing economic issues like jobs will always take a higher priority. No candidate who is serious about getting elected will promise to reduce oil drilling or fracking for natural gas. Even if we continue making progress on wind and solar, by 2035, the US will still be getting 77% of it's energy from hydrocarbons. And the CO2 we emit stays in the atmosphere for 400 years – warming the planet. In other words, we need to stop crying about climate change and learn to adapt to a warming planet. There is no other solution. I am somewhat optimistic we will do that. After all, our hominid ancestors weathered super volcanoes and ice ages with nothing more than rocks and sticks at their disposal.

    October 23, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • itzascam

      @rskgreenwich – there are these living organisms called trees and plants and vegetation... they take that CO2 and use the C part for food and release the O2 part back into the atmosphere. Your "hominid ancestors" probably used some of these plants for food. If you are that concerned about climate change, you really need to quit eating vegetation. Oh yeah, and quit exhaling all that CO2 every few seconds, you're killing the planet.

      October 23, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
      • rskgreenwich

        @itzascam, No need to get snarky. Everyone knows that plants and algae absorb CO2. I am talking about the excess CO2 that is left unabsorbed even after the plants and algae have done their job. It is estimated that if we stop emitting CO2 today, it will still take the planet centuries to scrub all that we have added.

        BTW, if you don't believe that climate change is real and man made, you are free to publish your research in peer reviewed scientific journals disproving the case or cite researchers who have done so. The fact is that thousands of scientists around the world all agree that climate change is real and man made. It is the skeptics who have not produced any evidence to disprove it.

        October 23, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
      • Polaris

        I am a scientist who has studied the peer-reviewed literature on this subject for more than 12 years. I can honestly say that the climate scientists have done a very poor job, and have not proven anything. Their models do not work, their claims are often proven wrong by further research, and they have shown a disregard for transparency in their work. Some have manipulated data to make their case. They misuse statistics, not following most established rules of statistics,, according to a published study by the American Statistical Society.

        The fact that there has been no significant warming in 15 years is very telling.

        October 24, 2012 at 12:28 am |
      • kdmquito

        Polaris if you are this said scientist then perhaps you should cite some of your research so we can fact check it...I doubt that your evidence stands up to any scrutiny based on your comments abt the research that is out there!

        October 24, 2012 at 1:12 am |
      • thisguyisoneofthem009

        Polaris, you are just lying now. First, there is no group called the American Statistical Society. It's the American Statistical Associated (ASA (they were probably concerned about the alternative name's acronym)). And the ASA endorsed the views of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), specifically stating that the ASA agreed that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal," and this warming is "very likely due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations."

        Your claims are simply false. The only thing remotely close to what you're alleging is that the ASA urged statisticians to become more involved in climate research. Either you have very poor reading comprehension or you're just lying through your teeth.

        October 24, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • itzascam

      Two words: East Anglia. Anybody can publish reams of graphs and charts with cooked up numbers. Of course, the whole world is expected to just believe them because they have advanced degrees and are just so much more intelligent than the rest of us. What they could very well have is an agenda, be it anti-religion or global governance or millions of dollars in government grants and handouts like the Obama supporters who started Solyndra and other so-called "green energy" technologies. Hypocrites like Al Gore who cry about our fragile planet while jetting around the world and living in 15K square foot homes with huge carbon footprints, and who invest in this stuff in order to get taxpayer-funded grants and loans, have pretty much shown the world what a bunch of hype and folly it all is.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:17 am |
      • itzascam

        Sorry, forgot to mention... I can't help getting snarky when my hard-earned paycheck is getting decimated to fund all these pet projects to pay off political supporters while our nation teeters on the brink of bankruptcy.

        October 24, 2012 at 12:21 am |
      • kdmq

        uh ya – there are people that are more intelligent or educated than a lot of us on a lot issues! Its called EDUCATION! Good thing! But why bother talking w/ you abt that b/c clearly you look to not "believe" in science...but that's the great thing abt science its not a belief system! So carry on your path and when the scientist do anything to make your world better, e.g. create a vaccination, cure cancer or Alzheimer, find a way to get humans to mars, find alternative fuels or a way to solve the nuclear waste problem you can stick your head in the sand and say "oh those smart people what do they think they are doing w/ MY money how dare they!"

        October 24, 2012 at 1:22 am |
    • Tom

      One good sized volcanic eruption could also change the climate, see Mount Pinatubo 1991. Point is: stuff happens outside our control. While anthropogenic global warming states that the climate change we are experiencing is "man-made", the proponents of that theory lose credibility when they laugh at other explanations! You don't scoff, like Al Gore did, when confronted with NASA evidence of a similar polar ice retreat on Mars and then claim to speak for the scientific community! Now there are reports out of England that the warming period ended 16 years ago! Trustworthy source? I can't tell anymore. However, I think the reason they decided not to talk about it is because the political influence behind the science in this subject can no longer be hidden or denied. Therein lays the doubt of this theory, and I think the public has had enough.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  12. Tegiri Nenashi

    British Atlantic Survey temperature at south pole for the last 60 years:
    hopelessly flat

    October 23, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • thisguyisoneofthem009

      That's one data point. A better example is the average global temperature (the collection of all data points), which has exceeded the 20th century average for almost thirty years straight. The chance of that happening at random is 1 in 3.7X10^99. That's one time out of 3700000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 trials. Meaning, the temperature is rising without any doubt.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:47 am |
      • Polaris

        You are not correct. You can look at the NOAA temperature set, the MET global dataset, and the satellite data. The significant warming for the US, for example, which makes up a large part of the global instrument data, shows no significant warming trend from 1900 to 1980. Beginning in 1980, the temperature monitoring stations were moved from remote locations to near buildings and parking lots all across the US because they needed to be near sources of electricity. This caused most thermometers to read higher than normal temperatures by a few degrees F. This is why the satellite data is so critical to see what is happening.

        October 24, 2012 at 1:14 am |
      • jack

        Why is our temperature measurement, which is the best in the world, so woefully biased high. NOAA is not even following their own guidelines for thermometer placement... Right next to trash burn barrels, in the middle of asphalt parking lots, within 6 feet of air conditioning... If this is what you mean by "man made", then I guess you're right!

        October 24, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Polaris

      Thanks for the link. If you look at most stations, there is no significant temperature change over many decades, some stations near the coastal areas do show warming trends, but there are others that show cooling trends. In addition, the central portion of the continent has gained about 15 meters of thickness since the 1950s, while the coastal areas have seen shearing of ice into the surrounding sea. Overall, Antarctica doesn't show any significant change. (Yes, I know about the satellite thickness measurements.) The Arctic, though, is showing significant ice loss, both in area and in thickness. The explanation for these changes has yet to be fully determined. Global warming doesn't explain it, but changes in ocean currents may.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:59 am |
  13. billny

    haha, climate change is a joke.

    October 23, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
  14. Tim

    This is the first debate cycle since 1984 that has not mentioned phrases such as "climate change," "global warming" or "environmental crisis."

    That pretty much says it all. When I was in elementary school, in the 1970s, National Geographic was warning of the onset of a new ice age. Then we were going to run out of oil. Then it was acid rain that was going to end life as we know it, then the ozone layer, and yada yada yada. People are tuning you guys out because they're tired of hearing you call wolf. How does it feel to have a billion or so people collectively call BS? I'll bet you can see those grants disappearing before your eyes.

    October 23, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • thisguyisoneofthem009

      Your acid rain example is poor. The reason acid rain has stopped becoming a major issue is because the EPA adopted serious emissions standards for the pollution of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide in the early 90s. Because we've decreased these emissions (the causes of acid rain) by 2/3rds or more the phenomenon is less common. It didn't disappear by magic.

      Your ozone layer comparison is similar. We banned hundreds of chemicals that were responsible for depleting the ozone layer, and that fixed the problem. If anything these first two examples should convince you that reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be effective at addressing the climate change issue.

      Your complaint about a coming ice age from a National Geographic article is also a bad comparison. You're comparing one bunk article in an entertainment magazine to thousands of peer-reviewed publishings in hundreds of scientific journals, performed by tens of thousands of researchers over decades. There's no equivalency.

      Your understanding of peak oil is also poor, and not relevant to this discussion. There's enough oil in the Earth to last for hundreds of years. The question is how cheaply can we get to that oil? It's really easy to get oil in the Middle East: just kick over a pile of sand and black gold starts jetting out. It's not as easy to drill through the sea floor or extract it from oil shale or tar sands. It's even harder to drill through a mountain range. We'll have oil for a long time to come, it just means that we'll be paying more and more for it, because the techniques we need to use to get it will become more and more costly.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  15. harpman

    That's because "global warming" is the biggest hoax that has been pushed on us for the last decade or so. It has been blown out of the water in the last few years. It is a joke.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  16. aquietdragon

    The simple reason neither candidate addressed it is because they know man-made global warming is simply a farce, perpetrated by snake oil salesmen to make money off of a scientifically illiterate populous.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • harpman

      Amen! You are 100% correct!

      October 23, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • thisguyisoneofthem009

      Man-made global warming is very real and it is easy to explain even to someone without a science background.

      It works like this: certain gases can absorb heat, while others cannot. Air, for instance, does not have the capacity to absorb heat. However, gases like carbon dioxide, which is produced whenever we burn a fossil fuel, possess this ability.

      If you take a 2-liter bottle and fill it with air, then hold it under a heat lamp, you'll find it warms up much less than a bottle filled with half air and half CO2 placed under that same heat lamp. This is because the CO2 absorbs the heat whereas the air does not. The more CO2 in the bottle, the more it will warm up. This principle will hold up regardless of the size of the bottle and the heat lamp, even if the bottle is, say, the size of Earth's atmosphere, and the heat lamp is the size of the sun.

      The simple fact is that the more CO2 in the atmosphere, the warmer the atmosphere will get. We've known this for hundreds of years. We've also known that burning fossil fuels produces CO2. So it is a very simple to draw the conclusion that all the fossil fuels we're burning will result in higher temperatures. We now have data that unambiguously shows the atmosphere is getting hotter, so the data backs up the hypothesis.

      Think about this: why is Venus hotter than Mercury when Mercury is so much closer to the sun? The answer: Venus's atmosphere is composed of over 95% carbon dioxide, whereas Mercury has mostly gases that do not absorb heat. Despite the fact that Venus's clouds reflect 90% of the sun's rays back into space, it's average temperature is hotter than the side of Mercury that faces the sun. Clearly, atmospheric composition is extremely important in determining what a planet's climate is like, and that statement holds equally true on Earth.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:00 am |
      • Tom

        CO2 makes up 0.04% of the atmosphere. Your comparison "air" bottle has 78% nitrogen, 20% oxygen, etc.... Of course the CO2 bottle will heat up if 50% of the atmosphere is CO2! Thanks for the basic science lesson. Exhaling also produces CO2, so stop breathing. So does decomposition, so stop dying! By the way, water vapor comprises the majority of greenhouse gases, so we need to write our congressman and tell them to stamp out evaporation!

        October 24, 2012 at 12:53 am |
      • thisguyisoneofthem009

        Tom, you're neglecting the part where I said the more CO2 in the bottle, the warmer it would get. That means that 0.04% CO2 is going to be warmer than 0.03%. And 0.041% will be warmer than 0.040%. Since industrialization the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from 0.0280% to 0.0395%. That may not seem like a lot, but any increase is enough to increase the temperature.

        You comment about water vapor is silly. Almost all of the water vapor in the atmosphere is from evaporation, not human activity. There is nothing we can do to stop the oceans from evaporating. We need to control the factors we actually can control, such as carbon emissions.

        October 24, 2012 at 1:29 am |
  17. Dave

    All I hear is "Climate change!!! Gotta do something!! The sky is falling!!" We all know it's changing. Before man industrialized, there were ice ages, hot periods. What caused all that? Dinosauer factories? We're making climate judgements w/o enough data. Do nothing and pollute with abandon? Of couse not. But don't devistate economies and industries (i.e. coal) to "try something". There needs to be balance people!!!

    October 23, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • thisguyisoneofthem009

      You're right that the climate changed before man, but it changed over thousands of years. However, 1) it has never shifted as fast as it is shifting now. Combine that with these facts: 2) higher levels of atmospheric CO2 produce higher temperatures, and 3) burning fossil fuels increases atmospheric CO2 levels. 1, 2, and 3 are unimpeachable facts. Combine them and it is very easy to see how our use of fossil fuels is contributing to the warming of this planet.

      That said, your coal example is bad. Even if carbon dioxide was not a greenhouse gas, we should still stop using coal. Coal combustion is an energy technology from the dark ages. It's the 21st century and we have better alternatives. Coal kills tens of thousands of people each year due to lung diseases caused by its particulate matter pollution. It causes asthma, cancer, neurological disorders, birth defects, and a host of other issues. It releases far, far more radiation into the environment per kWh than nuclear energy, and it kills people at a rate about 5 orders of magnitude higher. Lastly, coal mining is much more environmentally damaging and dangerous than uranium mining. There's really no use for coal in a first world nation.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:24 am |
      • American

        Coal has a use for me, it makes my hot dogs more delicious

        October 24, 2012 at 1:20 am |
      • thisguyisoneofthem009

        Ok, point conceded 🙁

        October 24, 2012 at 1:30 am |
  18. crawford1112

    Yeah that's what concerns Americans...climate change...and they say WE are out of touch.

    October 23, 2012 at 10:43 pm |


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