“America has just finished one of the hottest summers it can remember. And apparently this year will be the fifth out of the last nine that are among the hottest on record. …most scientists think…human beings are … exacerbating this problem, and that this could, in a couple of generations, threaten our descendants’ comfort and health and perhaps even their existence. …what would you urge our government to do to deal with this problem? … could you support a substantial reduction in the use of fossil fuels which might be necessary down the road?”
That’s the question we wish we’d heard at last night’s third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. Right in the heart of one of the most threatened states in the union, with 40 percent of the American population at risk from sea level rise living in the Sunshine State.
The good news is we did hear that question. The bad news is that we heard it 24 years ago, when Jon Margolis, a reported from the Chicago Tribune posed it to the vice presidential candidates Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle. The question was the first ever on the subject in any presidential or vice presidential debate, likely because of Dr. James Hansen who had informed congress of climate change concerns earlier that same year.
In fact, every election since 1988 has had questions regarding global warming and climate change up until this one. Not too surprising since Al Gore was on the ticket for 1992 and 1996 as Vice President, and then in 2000 when running for President. It also came up in 2004 between George W. Bush and John Kerry, and there were even exchanges on the topic of climate change at both the presidential and vice presidential debates just four years ago.
Here is a great compilation of the climate discussions in debates from 1988 until now, put together by the folks at ClimateSilence.org.
This is the first time since the topic came to light a generation ago that a question about it never came up once at any of the debates. And given how much more we’ve learned about the science behind global warming since 1988—and how much climate change we’ve already witnessed since then—it seems more important than ever to have the next President of the United States tell everyone what he is planning to do about it.
Tackle it? Ignore it? Just let us know one way or the other, because it’s an issue that will have an impact on the choice of many voters.