Climate Change Not Mentioned In Presidential Debates

Climate change was not mentioned by either candidate or the debate moderator in the third and final presidential debate, the focus of which was foreign policy. Yet global environmental issues in general, and global climate change in particular, are important foreign policy issues that must be addressed in order to protect the social, economic and political structures of the United States. This is the first time since 1984 that the issue of global climate change has been completely overlooked in the presidential debates.[1]

Going into debate season, I did not assume that climate change would be on the top of the foreign policy agenda. Even as an environmental law student studying at a law school known for its environmental program, I knew not to be that idealistic. But I certainly did not expect for the subject to be completely ignored. Global climate change is a threat to the national security of the United States. In fact, it is probably one of the most significant threats to our security as a nation. Climate change will adversely affect the health of our people, environment and economy.

The exclusion of any discussion about climate change in the presidential debate makes it appear as though the United States is not taking the climate change issue seriously and is not willing to take the steps necessary to address the problem. A significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will require a global effort. As a major carbon emitter, the United States must take a leading role in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. Although the United States is currently raising Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards in many states, more must be done to address climate change on a global scale.

There are clearly foreign policy issues that will take precedence over climate change. Whether or not this should be the case is a matter of opinion based on personal values and beliefs. It is clear, however, that climate change cannot be entirely left off the presidential agenda, as the health and welfare of the American people, the environment and economy depend on its inclusion.




[1] Tom Zeller & Joanna Zelman, Climate Change Not Mentioned In Presidential Debates For First Time In A Generation, Huffington Post, (last visited Oct. 24, 2012).

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