News Release

Campaigns Ignore Climate Disruption as Problem Worsens and “Wake-up” Storm Expected on East Coast

In the piece “Hurricane Sandy: The Next Climate Wake-up Call?” Politico reports: “The East Coast faces the real possibility of taking a battering next week from a ‘perfect storm’ roaring in from the Atlantic — right at the tail end of a campaign in which President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and their debate moderators have all drawn criticism for avoiding discussion of climate change.

“The brewing, blustery mess could affect the same region that was already knocked around by this summer’s derecho and soaked in 2011 by Hurricane Irene. And it could come just two months after Hurricane Isaac forced the GOP to cancel the first day of its convention in Tampa.”

In “Both Romney and Obama Avoid Talk of Climate Change,” the New York Times reports: “Throughout the campaign, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney have seemed most intent on trying to outdo each other as lovers of coal, oil and natural gas — the very fuels most responsible for rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

TYSON SLOCUM [email]
Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, Slocum said today: “For the first time in 24 years, neither the presidential nor vice-presidential candidates were asked a question about climate disruption during the debates. And the candidates have failed to highlight the issue as well — unless you count Governor Romney’s use of climate change as a punchline to a joke in his convention speech. Some argue that the issue isn’t high on voters’ minds, but polls demonstrate otherwise. Rather, the hundreds of millions of dollars that the fossil fuel industry and their allies are spending saturating the airwaves with anti-regulation messages is likely the culprit. Obama’s ‘all of the above’ strategy locks in fossil fuels as the status quo, forcing us farther behind on the sustainable era of renewable energy. There is no such thing as benign fossil fuel production and consumption, and the future of fossil fuels will only become more expensive.”

JOSEPH NEVINS [email]
Nevins teaches geography at Vassar College. He recently wrote the piece “Ecological Crisis and the Need to Challenge the 20 Percent,” which states: “Although you would not know it from what passes for debate during the ongoing presidential campaign here in the United States, the biosphere is under siege. A historically high rate of ice melt in the Arctic, devastating floods from the Philippines to Nigeria, a record-setting decline in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and extreme levels of drought in much of the United States are just some of the recent manifestations.

“These worrisome signs highlight, among other things, the tragic failure of the international community to slash consumption of the Earth’s resources via binding international mechanisms. While the reasons for this are numerous, a key one is the obstruction by some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful countries and their refusal to renounce the gospel of endless economic growth.

“But also central is a combination of refusal by and seeming inability of members of the planet’s ecologically privileged class — let’s call them the 20 percent — to see their very ways of life and their associated gargantuan levels of consumption as problems in need of radical redress. …

“As international development scholar David Satterthwaite has pointed out in relation to climate change, about 20 percent of the world’s wealthiest individuals and households — given their consumption and lifestyles, along with the production processes, infrastructure and institutions that make them possible — are likely responsible for more than 80 percent of all contemporary greenhouse gas emissions and an even greater percentage of historical emissions. In other words, the problem is not primarily one of population growth, but of increasing consumption, consumption by the global 20 percent.

“Members of this elite group — people like me — tend to have cellphones, personal computers and housing with central heating and air conditioning. We typically use electric or gas-driven clothing dryers. More often than not, we own cars and we travel occasionally, sometimes frequently, by flying — the single most ecologically destructive individual act of consumption one can undertake. … We also throw away a lot and consume huge amounts of plastic (more than 300 pounds per person annually in the U.S.). And most of us eat a great deal of meat, the production of which constitutes one of the largest sources of greenhouse gasses. In other words, we consume way beyond what is globally sustainable by any reasonable measure — and increasingly so.”

Also, see last month’s New York Times piece, “Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low That Leads to Warnings” which states: “Scientists said Wednesday that the Arctic has become a prime example of the built-in conservatism of their climate forecasts. As dire as their warnings about the long-term consequences of heat-trapping emissions have been, many of them fear they may still be underestimating the speed and severity of the impending changes.”