Environmentalists get vocal on Obama, Romney silence on climate change

Friends of the Earth and Forecast the Facts debuted a website Thursday called ClimateSilence.org that asks visitors to sign a petition asking Obama and Romney how they would address climate change if elected.

The website, which features photos of Obama and Romney with their mouths duct taped, tracks the candidates’ climate change mentions on a timeline.

“The silence of Gov. Romney and President Obama on climate change is deafening,” Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth Action, said in a Thursday statement. “Voters deserve to know where they stand on the most serious threat to our nation.”

Separately, a coalition led by the League of Conservation Voters delivered a petition to include a question on climate change in the first presidential debate to PBS "NewsHour" host Jim Lehrer, who will moderate the Oct. 3 debate. That petition has more than 160,000 signatures.

Though debates about climate change have heated up on Capitol Hill in recent months, the presidential candidates have offered lukewarm opinions on the subject.

In an online questionnaire, Romney said global warming is occurring, but with a caveat that more studies are needed to determine the impact of human activity. He said he wants to avoid committing the nation to battling climate change if it undercuts economic competitiveness.

In that same questionnaire, Obama touted his commitment to climate change through new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions. He also said he has worked to establish pacts on the international stage.

Aside from exchanging verbal barbs during their respective convention speeches, Obama and Romney have made little mention of climate change on the campaign trail.

The scarce acknowledgment of climate change in the presidential race has inflamed environmentalists, especially given abnormal weather events this past summer.

While the focus of the race has been about jobs, drought linked to climate change has crippled corn crops and put farmers and livestock and poultry producers on edge.

On top of that, wildfires tore through the West, storms left some in the Mid-Atlantic without power for more than a week and record heat ravaged the country.

Those events could start to put taxpayers on the hook if lawmakers and others fail to address climate change, according to a recent report by business sustainability group Ceres.

The report found the federal government called a record 99 disasters in 2011, and that private insurance companies are increasingly pulling out of areas battered by extreme weather.