Climate change shut out of presidential debates

The earlier debates devoted more time to energy than Monday’s installment. Many greens thought last week’s debate featured the greatest chance to incorporate climate change, as Obama and Romney competed over who would be friendlier to coal, gas and oil production in the United States.

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The Obama campaign has said the president addressed climate change on the campaign trail, citing various stump speeches. The campaign also says Obama’s vocal support of clean energy shows he has “continually called for action that will address the sources of climate change.”

Romney has said humans contribute to climate change, but is not sure of the extent. He said taking “unilateral” action to curb climate change could undercut U.S. economic competitiveness.

But environmental groups have criticized Romney’s fossil fuel-heavy energy plan and his pledges to roll back air pollution regulations.

Some activists lamented the lost opportunity to hear the candidates’ views on climate change.

"For the first time since 1984, the presidential and vice presidential debates have ignored the threat of climate change. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Governor Mitt Romney, and Representative Paul Ryan have failed to debate the greatest challenge of our time. Climate change threatens us all: the candidates' silence threatens to seal our fate,” Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts, said in a statement.

But others said Obama’s record shows he is more committed to tackling climate change than Romney, pointing to air pollution and vehicle fuel efficiency standards initiated under Obama’s watch.

“Climate change deserved a proper airing during the debates. At the end of the day, though, actions speak louder than words. And there’s no doubt which candidate will take strong, decisive actions to combat this urgent, global problem. He already has. And that’s President Obama,” Frances Beinecke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, said in a statement.