Obama energy team circulates memo to greens on climate

Activists with President Obama’s campaign are trying to dampen criticism from environmentalists who say global warming has been given short shrift in the 2012 presidential race.

An email sent to environmentalists Sunday evening, obtained by The Hill, tallies numerous instances of Obama talking about climate change on the stump.

The compilation notes 15 mentions of climate change spread across a dozen speeches and remarks since July 23. For instance, the memo quotes a blurb from Obama’s speech in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Oct. 18, when the president attacked Mitt Romney’s call to end a major tax credit for wind power projects.

“My plan will keep these investments, and we’ll keep reducing the carbon pollution that’s also heating the planet, because climate change isn't a hoax. The droughts we've seen, the floods, the wildfires — those aren't a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And we can do something about it. That's part of what’s at stake in this election,” Obama said.

The email from Ken Berlin, an attorney who chairs the Energy & Environment Team for Obama, says that recipients might find it “useful,” and notes that the list might not be exhaustive.

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The memo comes at at time when environmentalists have expressed frustration about the absence of global warming from the presidential debates. They've pushed for a discussion of the issue during the last contest between Obama and Romney on Monday night in Florida, which is focused on foreign policy. 

Beyond the debates, groups including Forecast the Facts, Friends of the Earth Action and 350.org have complained that the candidates have said far too little about how they will fight global warming, even as the campaign has unfolded against record summer heat, droughts and other violent weather.

In late September, Forecast the Facts and Friends of the Earth Action set up the climatesilence.org website pushing for fuller discussion, noting that while the topic might surface in speeches, the contenders “have remained stubbornly silent on the immediate and profound task of phasing out a carbon-based economy.”

However, the environmental movement is divided over how hard to press Obama in the home stretch of the campaign.

Groups like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s political arm, in statements after the most recent debate, played up Obama’s discussion of green energy and efficiency rather than lamenting climate’s absence.

But the memo from the Obama supporters is unlikely to mollify the groups that have been knocking the candidates for “climate silence.”

A Twitter- and Facebook-fueled online protest is calling for discussion of climate in the final debate in Florida on Monday night. This year’s presidential debates could be the first since 1984 to exclude climate change, according to Forecast the Facts.

“2012 will go down as one of the hottest years in recorded history,” said Brad Johnson, campaign manager for Forecast the Facts, in a statement Monday. “And yet the candidates may ignore climate change in the debates for the first time in nearly 30 years.”

However, some activists and observers say that while it would be nice if climate played a bigger role in the campaign, it should not obscure White House policy decisions in recent years on green energy and efficiency.

“It would be nice to hear [Obama] talk about clean energy as a planetary imperative as well as a source of green jobs, and hear him call out Romney for backing away from climate science to pander to Tea Party activists. But if his words have been unsatisfying, his deeds have been impressive. Which matters more?” Time magazine’s Michael Grunwald wrote on Monday.

He authored a recent book, The New New Deal, that credits the 2009 stimulus law for making a huge contribution to the development and deployment of green energy technologies.

— This story was updated at 3:14 p.m. and 3:24 p.m.