US Presidential Debates’ Great Unmentionable: Climate Change

No mention of global warming for the first time since Congress was briefed on the threat in 1988.

The New York Times via YouTube

The Pentagon ranks it as a national security threat and, left unchecked, climate change is expected to cost the US economy billions of dollars every year – and yet it has proved the great unmentionable of this election campaign.

Amid unprecedented melting of the Arctic summer sea ice, new temperature records in the US and a historic drought, the last of three presidential debates wound up on Monday night without Barack Obama or Mitt Romney ever uttering the words climate change.

It was the first time since 1988, the year Congress was first briefed on the emerging threat by the scientist James Hansen, that there had been no mention of climate change in an election debate.

The question cropped up in the vice-presidential encounter between the Republican Dan Quayle and the Democrat Lloyd Bentsen. Both agreed then it was time to act.

But this year’s vice-presidential contenders, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, also failed to mention climate change during their single encounter, making for a total of six hours of primetime television debate without a single reference to climate change.

The omission – or “climate silence” – has proved hugely frustrating to campaigners.

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The Climate Desk is a journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. The partners are The Atlantic, Center for Investigative Reporting, Grist, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Slate, and Wired.