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The Sound of Climate Silence: Romney and Obama Spar Over Who Wants to Drill For More Fossil Fuels During Debate

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Democracy page and our Environment and Climate Resource Center page.

"The door is closing. I am very worried - if we don't change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for climate safety]. The door will be closed forever."

No, that was not President Barack Obama or his Republican Challenger Mitt Romney speaking in the presidential debate. It was Fatih Birol, the renowned chief economist of the International Energy Agency, speaking about the pressing need to transition away from fossil fuels.

You'd be hard pressed to hear either of the presidential candidates make a statement like that. Or any statement on climate at all.

Those concerned about climate change were sorely disappointed during Tuesday night's town hall-style debate when both the candidates and the moderator - CNN's Candy Crowley - failed to address the issue of climate change, even during a lengthy and heated exchange about energy issues.

"I had that question for all of you climate change people," said Crowley in the post-debate coverage. "We just, you know, again, we knew that the economy was still the main thing so you knew you kind of wanted to go with the economy."

Obama started off the debate with a strong nod to renewable energy, explaining that we need to invest in "solar and wind and biofuels, energy efficient cars." But after a voter asked about gas prices, both Obama and Romney proceeded to battle over who could drill more fossil fuels. (At one point, the two men closed in on each other, pointed fingers, and raised their voices over how much oil production had increased).

Obama separated himself by focusing on the need to develop more renewables and lower consumption of petroleum through better efficiency measures. But when talking about why he believes those investments are important, he never mentioned the reasons that alternatives to fossil fuels are so important.


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