Candidates ignore issue of climate change

Election season is coming to an end, and informed voters are going to the polls with several hot-button issues in mind. But one issue in particular has been suspiciously absent from both major candidates’ campaigns.

This election season saw seemingly endless discussions on health care, foreign policy and job creation. However, in the three presidential debates, both President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney evaded the topic of climate change.

The reason is unclear why both campaigns have shied away from the subject of climate change. Instead of tackling the once-hot issue, both candidates opted to emphasize other subjects. Presumably, the candidates must believe that voters care less about climate change and more about other issues.

If the candidates’ topics of choice are any indication, it might seem voters in this election have been more concerned with the economy and job creation than climate change, but that is not necessarily the case. Rather, each candidate has avoided the topic in order to avoid driving away important groups of voters. 

Obama has publicized his stance on climate change in the past. During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama was vocal in his support for a solution to global warming.

While Obama remains an advocate for sustainable energy, Obama never mentioned climate change during his 2012 re-election campaign. He presumably alluded the subject to avoid alienating more moderate voters who may not agree with his stance.

Romney does believe that the planet is heating up, but he is not convinced that humans play a particularly large part in this phenomena. In this way, Romney both accepts and rejects the pervasive consensus in the scientific world that climate change is a serious, man-made problem.

Romney further expressed his views on climate change earlier in his campaign, explaining that, since we do not know what exactly causes climate change, the American government should not spend trillions of dollars attempting to reduce CO2 emissions, according to NPR.

While Romney has admitted that climate change exists, to some extent, his voter base is likely to disagree with any definitive stance on climate change. Considering many GOP voters deny that climate change even exists, Romney has taken the safest position by ignoring climate change.

Even if Obama did not mention climate change during this campaign season, his past positions on climate change will likely still get him environmentalists’ votes. That being said, if Obama were to discuss climate change, he could potentially convince undecided voters, according to a recent poll done by Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

Somewhat ironically, the climate will be on many Americans’ minds in the days leading up to the election. Hurricane Sandy, also known as “Frankenstorm,” is the most recent episode of extreme weather hit the East Coast. In the wake of such disasters, the question of whether climate change contributed to a storm of such magnitude is no longer speculation–it is a reality.

Neither candidate could have possibly predicted that Hurricane Sandy would hit the East Coast immediately before the election, but it might bring the one issue both candidates have ignored–climate change–back into the foreground.

The candidates may have made climate change a non-issue, but in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, whomever is elected will probably have to tackle climate change. Taking the candidates’ past positions into account, Obama, if he is re-elected, is more likely to take a definitive position on climate change.