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Climate Change barely mentioned in the US presidential debates

Why the silence on climate in the US presidential debates? The Conversation, October 20, 2016 As scientists become more gloomy about keeping global warming below the allegedly “safe” limit of 2℃, the issue is disappearing from the US presidential debates. There was a brief mention in the second debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton debate, with climate change treated as an “afterthought”.

Trump has previously (in 2012) suggested that climate change “was created by and for the Chinese”. Clinton has put forward a detailed climate and energy plan.

Even former Vice President Al Gore joining Clinton on at a campaign rally in Florida didn’t particularly help.

So why has climate change gone AWOL?

Early days

It’s an odd phenomenon, because awareness of the threat of climate change goes back more than half a century, well before its sudden arrival on public policy agendas in 1988…….

A combination of growing scientific alarm about the growth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and a long hot summer in 1988 made climate change an election issue. On the campaign trail, then-Vice President George H. W. Bush announced in his presidential compaign:

Those who think we’re powerless to do anything about the “greenhouse effect” are forgetting about the “White House effect”. As President, I intend to do something about it… In my first year in office, I will convene a global conference on the environment at the White House… We will talk about global warming… And we will act.

They didn’t get on with it, of course……… It was 2000 before presidential candidates debated the issue. George W. Bush (2000-09) said:

I think it’s an issue that we need to take very seriously. But I don’t think we know the solution to global warming yet. ……

The peak year for climate concern was 2008, with climate rating a mention in all three presidential debates.

Obama framed climate change as an energy independence issue, arguing that:

…we’ve got to walk the walk and not just talk the talk when it comes to energy independence, because this is probably going to be just as vital for our economy and the pain that people are feeling at the pump – and you know, winter’s coming and home heating oil – as it is our national security and the issue of climate change that’s so important.

Despite a petition with 160,000 signatures, the debate moderators for the 2012 debate did not put the issue on the agenda……

What happened? In two words: Tea Party. The emergence of the hyper-conservative Tea Party Republican faction was the culmination of a longer-term trend of what two American academics call “anti-reflexivity”.

For example, Marco Rubio, from Florida – a state that is already being hit by climate impacts – cannot take a position on it.

The second reason is more gloomy, because it is more intractable. Those who have denied climate change for so very long will find it very costly – both politically and psychologically – to reverse their position and admit that they have been wrong. Climate change denial has become a cultural position, as academics like Andrew Hoffman have noted.

Meanwhile, the carbon dioxide accumulates, and the impacts pile up. https://theconversation.com/why-the-silence-on-climate-in-the-us-presidential-debates-67152

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October 22, 2016 - Posted by | USA elections 2016

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