How many more groups, experts, and citizens have to push for debate moderators to thoroughly address climate change before they finally listen?
A bipartisan group of 21 mayors from throughout Florida wrote letters to the hosts of the upcoming Democratic primary debate on March 9 and GOP primary debate on March 10, both of which will take place in Miami, urging them to ask the presidential candidates about climate change.
Presidential primary debates have not yet thoroughly addressed climate change, even while important climate developments have taken place during the primary season, including adoption of a landmark international agreement between 196 nations to act on climate change, and the Supreme Court's move to delay the United States' flagship climate plan. Debate moderators have glossed over climate change -- so much so that the Democratic candidates have been bringing up the issue themselves.
A group of Nobel Laureates and hundreds of other experts is calling for at least one presidential debate that is exclusively focused on science, health, technology, and environmental issues. And a coalition of 18 climate and civil rights advocacy groups recently asked CNN to focus exclusively on issues of “racial, climate, and environmental justice” in the most recent Democratic debate, held in Flint, MI, on March 6. That debate did address several environmental issues, including Flint's lead-poisoned water, but climate change “appeared only briefly,” according to The Guardian.
Now, 21 mayors in Florida have taken up the call. On March 4, the group, led by Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, wrote two letters to the moderators of the upcoming Democratic and Republican debates, expressing concern that “so little attention has been paid” to climate change in the presidential debates despite the “severe impacts it is having on our communities.”
The letters provided sample questions for the moderators to ask the presidential candidates, and said:
We, the 21 undersigned mayors from throughout Florida, are concerned about sea level rise and climate change and the severe impacts it is having on our communities. We are equally concerned that so little attention has been paid to these issues in the presidential debates. It would be unconscionable for these issues of grave concern for the people of Florida to not be addressed in the upcoming debate you will be hosting in the state.
The mayors added in the letter to the GOP debate moderator: “In particular, Senator [Marco] Rubio represents this state and should not be allowed to fail to provide, or side step, substantive answers to these questions.”
Additionally, the Miami Herald published a letter from New Climate Economy program director Helen Mountford on March 5 saying, “None of the 16 presidential debates so far have taken on climate change as a major focus.” She added that Florida is the “right place” to do so: “With more than 1,350 miles of coastline, the state is already feeling the cost of rising sea levels.” More from the letter:
Any serious presidential candidate needs a clear plan to tackle climate change, because the reality of this threat is no longer up for debate.
A majority of both Republican and Democratic voters and 97 percent of scientists understand that global warming is real. What should be discussed instead is how to accelerate the shift to clean, affordable energy.
Americans and American companies are taking climate change seriously.
Now it's time for our presidential candidates and debate moderators to do the same.
Image at the top from Flickr user stacyflower with a Creative Commons license.