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October 15, 2012

Climate Change and the Election

Co2Last week, I attended a discussion in Washington hosted by Climate Desk, a journalistic collaboration designed to explore the impact of our changing climate and focus on articulating the impact of climate disruption clearly to the public. This particular event pinpointed an important yet underacknowledged question this year: is climate the sleeper issue of the 2012 election?

More than 160,000 Americans requested that Jim Lehrer, the moderator of the first Presidential debate, ask the candidates about climate - but it's an issue that's scarcely been mentioned in the media in recent months. While the candidates, the press, and special interest groups engage on the energy issues that have been front and center this election, it would only make sense that climate disruption be included in the discussion. After all, the choices our nation makes now about our energy future have a direct impact on whether we mitigate our climate crisis -- or make it worse.

Chris Mooney, a science and political journalist of Climate Desk, hosted the panel, leading a poignant discussion about the best way to communicate the threat of climate change to the public. Research shows discussing such a complex issue as a "global" problem often leads people to assume they can't possibly do anything to help solve a challenging international crisis. But, given that many solutions to the climate crisis begin on a local and national level, it’s important to emphasize the impact of climate disruption on the same localized scale.

What I took away from the discussion was on another level entirely. Throughout our history as a nation we have always strived towards some unifying purpose. Among the many stars for which we have leapt, landing the first man on the moon brought the country together with a sense of national belonging and pride, while inspiring a new generation of scientists and young people to conquer seemingly insurmountable challenges. Yet often it seems there is a lack of a national, unifying purpose for our country.

At the event someone in the audience asked: why can't addressing the climate crisis be that purpose? The answer: it can be, if the issues and effects of climate disruption are articulated with clarity and integrity. Polls show that Americans understand the broader implications of global warming in relation to the increase in severe storms and weather in their communities. It's also clear that we don’t want our kids and grandkids to grow up in a world less-hospitable than ours. The time to step into the void and invigorate the collective and powerful imagination of the United States is now. We can lead the world towards a cleaner and safer future for our children and their children.

Let's start another race towards the top -- this time a race towards creating an inheritance we can happily pass on to the generations who come after us.

--Kaylinda Mabry, Sierra Club Media Team Intern

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