Climate Change And The Illusion Of Choice

Campus Progress

For the first time since 1984, the issue of climate change was not addressed in any of the presidential debates.

Sea ice in the Arctic has reached its lowest levels ever recorded, but you wouldn’t know it from the third presidential debate. Instead, President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney seemed to be competing over who was more eager to boost domestic oil and gas production.

Obama boasted that domestic oil production has reached its highest level in 16 years under his administration. Romney promised to increase offshore drilling and support the construction of an oil pipeline from Canada.

Romney’s record on climate change is dubious compared to Obama’s, but the President and his party are quieter on the issue lately. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post writes that the 2012 Democratic platform has a more “muted tone” on climate change than their dire warnings in 2008.

Climate change is becoming an increasingly vital issue, especially for Millennials, who will be most affected by current decisions on the matter. And through the PowerVote Campaign, young voters mobilized in large numbers to pressure the candidates to discuss climate change.

During his interview with Obama on MTV, media personality Sway Calloway addressed the lack of attention to the issue when he asked if the President would make climate change “a priority” if re-elected. The president’s answer was as almost as discouraging as a resounding “no.”

While he highlighted his administration’s increased fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, he failed to demonstrate the enthusiasm for the issue that was so encouraging in 2008, and he did not reaffirm his commitment to cap-and-trade programs made during the previous election.

Though he has significantly increased funding for alternative energy, the president’s rhetoric on the issue this year reveals where his loyalty lies: with domestic production of fossil fuels. The “energy” section of the president’s website focuses on his intent to increase domestic natural gas, oil, and coal production. But if elected, Romney would likely reverse even the small steps taken by the president to lessen the country’s contribution to global warming.

The lack of firm commitment on either side to address climate change reveals that voters, especially young voters, concerned about the issue may face a less than ideal choice on Election Day.

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