Next president needs to address climate change

Hurricane Sandy, and the possibility that the natural disaster was linked to climate change, might change some of the presidential candidates’ campaign rhetoric in the final days leading up to election day on a topic that has been largely ignored thus far.

It is startling that the candidates have ignored the issue of climate change, yet at the same time, the exclusion is an unfortunate indicator of how uninformed many Americans are about the importance of protecting the environment.

Throughout the 2012 campaign season, the presidential candidates singularly focused on a variety of issues that they believe the average voter cares about, with the economy and foreign policy often taking center stage while climate change and other issues sat at the margins. The debates were no different: This year’s presidential debates were the first in 28 years that didn’t mention climate change.

And this is probably because most Americans haven’t taken an interest in climate change. In Gallup’s most recent “Most Important Problem Poll,” only 2 percent of Americans said they believe the environment and pollution to be leading issues. Though the presidential campaign nears its end, the next president and all politicians, as drivers of national discourse and, thus, public consciousness of issues, must take a stand for climate change so that the people do as well.

Within the scientific community, climate change and its implications, such as increasingly extreme weather, is widely accepted as fact. Ninety-seven percent of scientists recognize that climate change is happening, according to PBS.

Beyond scientists, the Pentagon also acknowledged climate change in a 2010 report: “Climate change and energy are two key issues that will play a significant role in shaping the future security environment. Although they produce distinct types of challenges, climate change, energy security and economic stability are inextricably linked.”

Despite these confirmations, instead of discussing climate change or environmental policy, the closest either of the candidates got to speaking about the environment in three presidential debates was when Obama and Romney sparred over who loved coal more and who could do a better job at sucking oil out of the Arctic. Another point of contention between the two candidates was Obama’s efforts to establish “green jobs,” or jobs that promote the usage of renewable energy. This discussion, however, was relegated strictly to the field of economics, both candidates trying very hard to skirt the reasons and motives behind creating “green jobs.”

There’s little doubt that Obama accepts the scientific view on climate change. In a 2008 speech, Obama said, “Not only is [climate change] real, it’s here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.”

Romney agreed, endorsing the issue in a 2011 town hall meeting: “I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that.”

Though  they apparently recognize the existence of human-caused climate change, neither candidate has taken a substantial position on the subject this election season.

This is regrettable. When candidates and debate moderators choose to omit certain issues because they are not the most popular topics or not the ones that will help garner the most votes, they limit the sphere of discussion to a narrow selection of issues.

Voters would believe climate change to be an important issue if the candidates, and politicians in general, treated it as such. Ignoring climate change does nothing to prevent it from taking place. Students should be especially concerned, as we are coming of age in an environment that seems primed to face more and more extreme weather on an increasing basis because of climate change.

The arrival and aftermath of Hurricane Sandy might propel climate change into the last week of presidential campaigning. But it will take a fundamental push from Washington to convince Americans that climate change is an issue that requires large-scale action.


Matt Tinoco is a  freshman majoring in international relations.

40 replies
  1. North University Park
    North University Park says:

    Some of these remarks remind me of how ostriches stick there heads in the sand. Just deny it and it will go away. Nowadays everything has been politicized, even the science supporting climate change. Anecdotal evidence is not evidence at all.

    I suppose there are some who still believe the earth is flat and that the Sun revolves around the earth.

  2. Holly2Valley
    Holly2Valley says:

    Our next President needs to address the anti-business climate that is preventing companies, like the one my father owns, to make money and create jobs. Climate chnage is like 15th on the list of what I think is important. And I don’t even think it’s happening. I have lived on 28th Street (the Row) for almost four years. If anything, it is getting colder! I used to be able to dress light all the way until late November, but it keeps getting colder and colder and I am now wearing warm clothes in October. Also, we summer in North Carolina and the water has been cooler these past two summers. So, try again Matt Tinaco. Let’s focus on the important issues and leave the make-believe for the kids.

  3. John '55
    John '55 says:

    I figured the silly SCALE kids would be on this story and I was right. If it’s not one Leftist cause, it’s another.

    BTW: I’m going bear hunting next week with my son and grandson. If we get one, I am going dedicate non-usable parts of the carcass to SCALE. You can hopefully use it in your efforts to help people overseas get air-conditioning. Those Asians apparently love the sex organs for some odd reason. Maybe you can make a trade?

  4. Liberty Minded
    Liberty Minded says:

    NEWS FLASH – the president does not control the planet! The climate is not like going through the drive thru where you make the order and everything is the way you like it. The president can encourage lawmakers to make laws to FORCE people in the USA or abroad to change, but they might resist. That resistance might be with weapons. The weapons may not be environmentally friendly. The environment may be destroyed in the ensuing wars. Problem solved?

    If your climate change solution involves FORCE, you may want to rethink your strategy.

  5. tanya
    tanya says:

    “Thank you for the opportunity to review the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Statement of work for the Hurricane Aerosol and Microphysics Program (HAMP). Research scientists and managers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) met in April to discuss research collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on HURRICANE MODIFICATION. OAR firmly agrees that hurricanes pose a significant risk to our nation’s security through the cost of human life and economic property damage.

    While OAR recognizes that weather modification, in general, is occurring through the funding of private enterprises…”

  6. Ivea
    Ivea says:

    Even outside of climate change or weather, consider how many people are now living on the earth compared to the number of people who have ever lived on earth. There were only 2 billion people in 1927 compared to the 7 billion now. That rate of increase is scary. Also consider how people live compared to a hundred years ago: the cars, the manufacturing and industrial debris, trash accumulation, energy usage, deforestation etc. It seems like common sense that these changes would have some effect, whether its climate change per se or not. For example, we know for a fact that deforestation can lead to flooding and loss of habitats for animals. Why is the idea that it may also affect the atmosphere so hard to believe?

  7. ok
    ok says:

    The finger print is on this storm. The Atlantic ocean is 15% warmer and sea level a foot higher due to global warming. Both clearly contribute to how big an impact a storm like sandy is and has and did.

  8. selwyn firth
    selwyn firth says:

    The writer of this article is ignorant of climate science and shows this clearly by trying to link Sandy to climate change. NOAA says there is no link but yet a poorly educated wannabe journalist student claims ther is one. The climate has cooled in the past decade and yet no climate writers mention it. Too many young people have not studied science because it is too hard for them so they believe the hype that makes great headlines. It is time for the world to realize that there is no factual evidence that shows there has been any link to human activity and warming of the planet. It is all based on poorly written computer models which happen to agree because they all use the same theoretical parameters as the basis of the algorithm chosen to represent the scientists idea of how the climate works but they all leave out the importance of the combustion energy released by the fossil fuels. Computer models can work but only if they use the known parameters rather than estimates.

  9. Scott
    Scott says:

    If you don’t believe human activity (millions of cars, pumping co2 into the atmosphere, over farming, over fishing, reforestation, digging up coal oil gas ect and burning it… And on and on…) doesn’t have an effect on the planet you’re a fool. You should try going into your garage, turning your car on, and take a nice long nap.

  10. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    Tanya, just out of curiosity, what exactly is your area of expertise? Do you know the science to back up that claim?

      • Ryan
        Ryan says:

        lol. The ancient Greeks (most notably Plato, Aristotle, Ptolemy) were very observant and thought the sun revolved around the earth. Observation by an average citizen cannot trump scientists who spend their entire lives examining a subject with advanced technology and access to innumerable resources.

  11. tanya
    tanya says:

    yeah, maybe the next president can send a spaceship to the sun and convince it to stop changing the climate on the earth and all the other planets in the solar system. man, these reporters are so myopic!

  12. Scot
    Scot says:


    Looks like you have a lot more school to go, freshman. The Earth is cooling. Which is why the buzz word is now “climate change” rather than “global warming”. You are probably too young to remember, but in the ’70s, the headline was “are we in the beginning of a new ice age?” As has been mentioned earlier, no one has been able to quanitify any correlation between human activity and warming. There has been plenty of correlation between the increased or decreased activity fo the sun and the regular turnover of the oceans (PDO – Pacific Decadal Oscillation & Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation).

  13. steve
    steve says:

    I know……… let’s have that debate no one on the AGW side seems to want. i would watch every minute of it!!!

  14. mikey of TABC
    mikey of TABC says:

    Which president ? Because if your talking China forget it ,they can care less.
    So that being said ,why should we be taxed to death while The second largest economy keeps polluting away.

    • Sasha
      Sasha says:

      China keeps polluting because they manufacture at “low cost” for the US markets. The American proletariat has been in China for a while now.

  15. Joe
    Joe says:

    I am a scientist and we do know that climate is changing. However, we do not know that it is influenced or how much by human activities. Also, we do not know if the changes are in fact in any way influencing the apparent recent increase in storm severity. I doubt that any scientist without an agenda, e.g. funding would say otherwise with any degree of integrity.

    • Eric Kepler
      Eric Kepler says:

      Yeah, the 97% of climate scientists who agree that it’s from human activities based on the evidence are just doing for that extra money they make. The 3% who disagree are living in poverty and shame. If only they could get more funding they could find enough evidence – or at least a little? anything at all – to refute that mountain of evidence. It isn’t as if that 3% hasn’t been unfairly supported by the big oil and coal companies. Nah, they’re out in the streets begging for coins just to continue their research. But they’re on a mission.

      Being a ‘scientist’ doesn’t mean anything. I don’t ask my dentist for advice on possible skin cancer based on the fact that he’s a ‘doctor’.

    • tanya
      tanya says:

      As a scientist, you must know then that the climates of Saturn, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Neptune, and Pluto have all exhibited change in the last decade as well! No humans we know of on those planets!

      • Eric Kepler
        Eric Kepler says:

        No one has ever claimed that all climate change is from human activity. And if the supposed change in those planets were due to the same (mystery) factor then their change would have been similar to Earth’s. It isn’t. In fact, none of those changes have anything to do with what’s happening on Earth. Unless you accept astrology, in which case we should just hope the Moon is in the third house by the time Saturn aligns with Mars. Otherwise, we should probably listen to the real climate scientists.

  16. Tayvl
    Tayvl says:

    “Though they apparently recognize the existence of human-caused climate change, neither candidate has taken a substantial position on the subject this election season.”

    No, they recognize that there is climate change (as does everyone else), they DON’T accept the notion that it’s the result of humans. You’re the one who added that part…

      • Peter
        Peter says:

        How about Nature. How arrogant of some to think that humans are powerful enough to effect global weather change.
        Just a refresher to the young skulls of mush but back in the 70’s we were all told there was a coming ice age.
        Your demigod Al Gore has become a multi millionaire on the back of global warming hysteria. I bet he is secretly laughing all the way to the bank because he sure doesn’t live like he tells us we all should. He is no better than Jackson and Sharpton playing the race card.
        Matt, your liberal indoctrination is paying off well. You should do well in what passes for journalism these days. No substance. Just a few buzz words and a couple quotes and you are golden.

        • Brad
          Brad says:

          Really? The sun?! People aren’t powerful enough to effect climate change?? Wow…I can see why we some less fortunate countries have higher literacy rates than America…”Nature”! that’s more than laughable and doesn’t even really deserve the a debate. It is sad that some honestly think that humans (who are also classified as parasites) have not caused great damage to our earth…You don’t need to like, listen too or even follow “Al Gore” (who is completely irrelevant) to understand that 97% of scientist around the world put mankind at the forefront of this rapidly growing issue.

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