MIA on Climate Change
This year’s unremitting heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and freak storms have thrust climate change back into the spotlight. But even with the issue fresh in people’s minds—not to mention in media coverage and Washington’s echo chamber—climate change hasn’t made it onto the priority list that matters most: the presidential campaign trail.
President Obama and presumptive GOP opponent Mitt Romney seem to have “reached a point of détente on the issue,” said Dirk Forrister, who worked on climate issues in the Clinton administration and now heads the International Emissions Trading Association. “Neither of the presidential candidates seems to want to talk about it, and yet it is an issue that both of them would have to deal with.”
Other issues will force the election’s winner to deal with climate change regardless of what he or his supporters might prefer.
A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upholding the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions means those efforts can be nullified by Congress only through changes in the Clean Air Act, which hasn’t been amended since 1990—and only then after years of debate. Romney has pledged to exempt carbon dioxide from the Clean Air Act, and legal scholars on both sides of the fight agree that kind of significant legislative change would be a Herculean task no matter what the results come Election Day.
The pressures facing the next president to work with other nations on climate change will only become greater, both as part of the formal United Nations process and through related issues. To wit: The State and Transportation departments must address a European Union cap-and-trade law aimed at forcing airlines to pay fees for greenhouse gases emitted by all flights to and from Europe.
Yet neither candidate is addressing these unavoidable realities—at least not yet. Obama and Romney both have plenty of reason not to want to remind voters about their track records on global warming.