Center for Strategic Communication

President Obama and Governor Romney at the second debate. Credit to Scout Tufankjian,

Tonight, President Barack Obama and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will engage in the last round of Presidential debates at 9 p.m. EST at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.  The third and final debate will focus on foreign policy issues of concern to undecided voters, including, we here at ASP hope, questions on climate change. The campaigns thus far have lacked a substantive discussion of climate policy, but tonight’s debate is an opportunity for each candidate to offer their vision for America’s role in this important issue.

Moderator Bob Schieffer should ask the candidates the following question:

A changing climate acts as an accelerant of instability around the world, exacerbating tensions related to water scarcity and food shortages, natural resource competition, underdevelopment and overpopulation. By 2025, unprecedented economic growth, coupled with 1.5 billion more people, will put even greater pressure on the Earth’s resources – particularly in regional “hotspots” in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. As President of the United States, what role do you envision your administration taking to address these coming problems?

We won’t go into details about what we believe the candidates’ answers will or should be, but we do think this is an important issue to be discussed.

ASP believes that climate change is a critical foreign policy and security issue that the United States must confront across local and federal government. The geopolitical consequences of climate change will be determined by how it affects and interacts with local political, social, and economic conditions as much as by the magnitudes of the climatic shift itself.

The near-term impacts of climate change are likely to have a disproportionate effect on poor countries with weak governance structures, particularly in Africa and Asia. During the next ten years, many countries with vital trade and security relationships with the U.S. will experience water problems such as droughts, floods and poor water quality.

Weak states may risk failure or increased regional tensions from the inability to cope with sudden shocks (such as drought) and long-term stresses (such as decreased agricultural yield). These issues affect the United States based on our own interests, including countering terrorism, such as in the Horn of Africa; securing energy or mineral imports, as in West and Central Africa; or ensuring peace along heavily militarized borders, like in South Asia.

These disruptions will burden civilian and military institutions around the world, including our own military. Resilience and an ability to adapt will be key methods for preventing the real impacts of climate change from causing a collapse in international security.

We here at ASP hope that the candidates will address some of these climate change issues in a foreign policy context.