An opportunity to debate climate change



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When asked about the slow economy, neither ticket laid out a bold green jobs plan to put people back to work making our homes and places of work and worship more energy-efficient. When asked about the national debt, neither explained that the costs of climate change on the federal budget -- including natural disaster relief, higher agriculture subsidies, and rising health care costs -- are great and that we have to act now or pay-up later. When asked about national security, neither discussed the destabilizing effect rising food prices have on North Africa and the Middle East. When asked about their tax plan, neither proposed taxing the polluters rather than the middle class.

Economic health, the long-term national debt, tax policy, and national security are issues that effect us all. We all want to find solutions. Climate change makes these solutions harder to come by. But, for the typical American, climate change is also a crisis itself.

The predictions of the most up-to-date climate science is stark. Desertification of the South and Southwest will force farmers in Kansas to look for other work. Mass biodiversity loss will put New England clammers into a bind. Seniors in Florida will need to look for a new place to live as rising temperatures make air-conditioning costs unaffordable. A food stamp-recipient in Cleveland will have to pinch each penny tighter as food prices rise.

This is the reality of clime change. If we do not ac, it is going to radically change our way of life.

The punditocracy and political establishment argue that preventing a climate crisis is politically impossible.  They say that independents are the critical voting block, and that independents do not care about climate change. According to a recent Yale University/George Mason University poll, 68% of registered independents say global warming should be a priority for our next president and congress. The same poll also says the 77% of registered independents support regulating climate change-causing greenhouse gasses. Climate science is complicated, but the politics of it are not: the most important voting blocks want to see our president show leadership on global warming.

President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney will again have many opportunities to discuss climate change in this fourth and final meeting of the two leading presidential tickets. Climate change will be central to each of the announced topics--the changing Middle East, the war in Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear ambitions, China and the developing world, and America's role in the world. Mentioning it will appeal to the most important voting block they are trying to reach. They should take these opportunities speak up.  If both candidates continue to avoid talking about climate change, they will be irresponsibly letting this crisis grow as they pass the buck onto my generation.

Thompson is graduate student studying energy and environmental policy at University of California, Berkeley.