The Presidential Debates’ Great Unmentionable: Climate Change
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 finished 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.