Presidential Campaign 2012: Where Do Romney and Obama Stand on Environmental Issues

Like Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter saga, climate change has been the issue “that shall not be named”– mostly a political no-show in the presidential campaign.—Christian Science Monitor, September 7, 2012

At Frogs Are Green, we’ve been following the presidential campaign and trying to get a handle on where  candidates Governor Romney and President Obama stand on climate change and other environmental issues. Unfortunately, these issues have become a political “third rail,” as Andrew Winston of the Harvard Business Review wrote in a recent Bloomberg.com post.

Over the years protecting the environment seems to have acquired the reputation as being “lefty” and anti-business, which is odd to those of us who there at the very beginning of the environmental movement in the 1960s and 1970s. It used to be a bi-partisan issue.

When Susan and I were growing up near New York City in the 1960s, a layer of smelly yellowish-brown smog hung over the city. The Hudson River was  full of raw sewage and toxic contamination. But because of public outrage from both sides of the political fence, the smog is gone and people catch fish in the river. And, yes, it involved regulations on businesses that were firmly enforced by William Ruckelshaus, the first head of the EPA—a Republican.

courtesy of timeoutkids.com

These days there seems to be a widespread feeling that because the economy is doing so poorly, we can’t talk about the environment—we have more important things to worry about. That is a shortsighted approach. As Winston argues in the Bloomberg.com post:

[T}ackling climate change is the smartest thing we can do for both our public health and our private sector. Reducing carbon emissions from our power plants, cars, and factories cleans the air and saves a lot of money. At the macro level, the burning of coal alone costs the U.S. about $350 billion per year in health (asthma, heart attacks, and so on) and pollution costs. At the micro level, from companies down to households, the opportunities to get lean and save money are vast.

While the U.S. remains wishy-washy about dealing with climate change, according to Winston, Germany is quickly moving its electric grid to renewables and China is committing hundreds of billions of dollars to energy efficiency and much more to the clean economy in general.

I watched Mitt Romney make a joke about climate change in his speech at the Republican convention. He got a standing ovation. Personally, I found that extremely depressing. I also watched President Obama’s speech at the Democratic convention, and while he at least mentioned climate change, tackling the environmental issues certainly wasn’t a major part of his agenda.

At Frogs Are Green, we don’t think the problems associated with climate change are a partisan issue: they affect all of us and future generations on earth.

It’s not a joke.