Year 3, Month 10, Day 30: Put Your Money Where Your Money Is.

Time Magazine wonders “Why Climate Change Has Become the Missing Issue in the Presidential Campaign”. I wonder, too.

We’re in the final few months of what’s shaping up to be the hottest year on record. In September, Arctic sea ice melted to its smallest extent in satellite records, while the Midwest was rocked by a once-in-a-generation level drought. Global carbon dioxide emissions hit a record high in 2011 of 34.83 billion tons, and they will almost certainly be higher this year. Despite that fact, the more than two decade-old international effort to deal with climate change has hit a wall, and the upcoming U.N. global warming summit in the Qatari capital of Doha — whose residents have among the highest per-capita carbon emissions in the world — is unlikely to change that hard fact.

Given all that, it might seem reasonable to think that climate change —a nd how the U.S. should respond to it — would be among the top issues of the 2012 presidential election. We are, after all, talking about a problem that has the potential to alter the fate of the entire planet, one that requires solutions that utterly alter our multi-trillion dollar energy system. Climate change has been a subject at the Presidential or Vice-Presidential debates since 1988, as Brad Johnson, who surveys environmental coverage for ThinkProgress, pointed out this week. Yet through all of the 2012 debates, not a single question was asked about climate change, and on the stump, neither candidate has had much to say about the issue — with Mitt Romney more often using global warming as a punchline, and President Obama mentioning it in passing, at most.

Here are two different reasons. Which do you think it is? Sent October 23:

As the evidence for global heating goes from merely overwhelming to absolutely incontrovertible, look for conservatives to begin their transition into the next phase of climate-change denial: arguing that liberals were the ones to politicize the discussion, thereby making meaningful policy impossible.

In this context, President Obama’s reluctance to raise the subject can be understood as a strategic move; by offering nothing for the anti-science GOP to push against, he’s denied them one of their most convenient rhetorical antagonists. Mr. Romney, who has previously acknowledged the existence and severity of the climate crisis, is now governed entirely by his basest political instincts, and cannot address scientific reality without antagonizing his supporters.

Another interpretation, of course, is that both candidates’ behavior is wholly conditioned by the corrosive influence of fossil fuel corporations, whose profits would be adversely affected by any move toward mitigation of the metastasizing greenhouse effect and its consequences.

Warren Senders

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