Where Is Global Warming on the Campaign Trail?

I have been reading the campaign news a lot closer in the past few weeks. It started after something I heard at the recent and first-ever Presidential Forum on Global Warming and America’s Energy Future.

The forum was sponsored by Grist, NRDC’s Action Fund, and several of our partners. We invited the presidential candidates from both parties to attend, but just three accepted: Senator John Edwards, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and Senator Clinton.

Unlike the debates, the forum gave participants about a half an hour each to talk about their approach to energy security and global warming. All of them got past the stump speech language, and as a result, I heard more depth and a stronger commitment to tackling these issues than I had before. (Gristmill has the full transcript.)

And that’s when I realized: this almost never happens on the campaign trail. Or, I should say, it almost never gets covered in the campaign press.

At the beginning of the forum, Grist Editor Dave Roberts condemned the national political media for ignoring global warming. He pointed out that this year Tim Russert has given 16 interviews with presidential candidates and yet throughout the 300 questions he asked, he has never once said the words global warming or climate change. This despite the fact that 84 percent of Californians--an undeniably influential state in the election--think global warming is a serious problem. (See Gene Karpinksi and NRDC Trustee Laurie David’s Huffington Post piece for a closer look at Russert’s record.)

I hoped that the situation was better than Roberts portrayed, and that’s why I have read the campaign news so closely since then. But he appears to be right. Global warming has been on the cover of almost every major news magazine in the past year. It makes headlines in local and national press almost every week. The day before the forum, the final IPCC report was released and landed on the front cover of every major newspaper. But global warming was nowhere to be found in the dispatches from the campaign trail.

It falls to us the voters to let commentators and reporters--and candidates--know that global warming is a top tier issue. How can you do that? Call the campaign offices in your area and tell them you want to hear more about global warming. And then email your local paper or tv station and say, “Where’s your story on global warming and the election?”

If the voters and the readers and the viewers demand more information about global warming, maybe the leaders will follow.