Center for Strategic Communication

Thousands of Americans have urged the moderator of tomorrow’s debate, Jim Lehrer, to ask at least one question on climate change. With such a groundswell of focus on this issue, what question on the issue of climate change should be asked of the Presidential candidates? What response is likely to be offered? What do we here at the American Security Project recommend for the next administration?

Moderator Jim Lehrer should ask the candidates the following question:

This past year 1,100 Americans died and more than 8,800 others were injured in natural disasters while weather-related damages in the United States totaled nearly $24 billion. The American Public Health Association has called climate change “one of the most serious public health threats facing our nation” and our military leaders have labeled global warming a “major threat to our security”. As President, would you consider climate change to be an economic and security threat to this country, and if so what steps would your administration take to address it?

Governor Romney’s Predicted Response: 

Governor Romney believes that policymakers should consider the risk of negative consequences of global warming. However, Romney has also stated that “there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.”

Romney has also opposed the limits that President Obama has imposed on automobile emissions. He believes it is not the role of the federal government to pick winners and losers in technology that will benefit the environment. Governor Romney is also in favor of limiting the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon pollution. Finally, he is on the record as saying “Economic growth and technological innovation, not economy-suppressing regulation, is the key to environmental protection in the long run.”

President Obama’s Predicted Response:

President Obama has labeled climate change as one of the biggest issues of this generation. As he mentioned last month at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina: “My plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet, because climate change is not a hoax.” Although the Senate’s rejection of legislation addressing climate change has delayed that effort, it will continue to be a priority for his administration.

The President will likely argue that slogans like “Drill, baby, drill” or calls to eliminate the Energy Department or the Environmental Protection Agency are too simplistic.

American leadership on all of the challenges of climate change; health, economic, and security is essential at home and abroad. The President could point to the 2009 Copenhagen Accords, the Major Economies Forum, and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition as evidence of his commitment to addressing climate change. There is a good probability Obama will highlight his administration’s subsidies to the wind, solar and biofuels industries in an effort to transition to “clean” energy. President Obama may highlight that even the American Navy has gone green.

ASP’s Position on Climate Change:

ASP believes that climate change poses a clear and present danger to the United States through its effects on our global allies as well as its direct effects on our agriculture, infrastructure, economy and public health. Wildfires, droughts and other natural phenomena do not observe political borders and act as an accelerant of instability by causing sudden migration and sectarian strife

Regardless of who wins the election, a lack of political consensus and foresight is holding back efforts to strategically prepare for the long-term effects of climate change. Managing risk, mitigating damage and reducing emissions in order to prevent extreme warming in the next generations must be the focus of the next administration.

So far both men have been somewhat vague on climate change; Governor Romney has backtracked on his 2010 assertion that climate change exists, while the President has seen both success and failure in reaching his 2008 campaign goals. We here at ASP hope both candidates will use tomorrow night’s debate to clarify their climate change agenda.