We roared along with you when President Barack Obama skewered Mitt Romney with his Twitter-busting "horses and bayonets" zinger during Monday night's final presidential debate. Then Obama likened Romney's proposal to bolster the U.S. Navy's fleet to "a game of Battleship." The exchange rivaled Romney's best line of the night, "We can't kill our way out of this mess," when referring to the country's various conflicts in the Middle East.
But while the digs have made for great entertainment, they don't equate to good policy. The punditry and their insta-polls are too caught up in declaring a debate winner to note the glaring absence of any discussion addressing what many believe to be the greatest challenge facing the planet: climate change.
Before you roll your eyes, consider that there have been more than 40,000 daily heat records broken in the U.S. this year, yet the issue went completely unmentioned during the three debates—the first time that's happened since 1988. Clearly neither candidate sees any political advantage in broaching the topic—not when jobs and the economy trump all, and they find themselves fighting over who would drill more oil and burn more coal.
During Obama's inaugural address nearly four years ago, he said he'd "work tirelessly to...roll back the specter of a warming planet." He moved quickly to raise fuel efficiency standards and the Environmental Protection Agency began regulating carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. "Cap and trade" was seen as a middle-of-the-road legislative approach to reduce carbon emissions, but that was quickly done in by the economic meltdown and paralyzing partisanship in Congress.
As for Romney's stance on climate change, this quote, from a recent interview on "Meet the Press," sums it up: "I'm not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet."
The lack of any meaningful discussion of climate change during this campaign stunts any action at a time when it can hardly afford it. We know how Romney would address it (or not) if elected. As for Obama, his recent silence is disappointing. Whether a second term would bring effective policies, well, it's a guessing game—sort of like Battleship.