Climate Question Should Be Center Stage

credit: Mark Wexler
The year 2012 has been seen climate change’s widespread impacts become apparent to people across the country.  As NWF’s recent report Ruined Summer highlighted, we’ve witnessed:

  • Children and the elderly suffering through the hottest month ever recorded;
  • Farmers and two-thirds of the country coping with severe drought;
  • Wildfires burning over 8 million acres including numerous homes and important wildlife habitat;
  • Fish kills by thousands in our favorite lakes and streams attributable to “hot” water;
  • Arctic sea ice on which polar bears depend has already set a record low this summer, and is still diminishing;
  • Backyard activities threatened by a record outbreak of health-threatening West Nile virus.

Even before this summer of extreme weather, 82% of Americans had said that they have personally experienced one or more types of extreme weather or a natural disaster in the past year and 35 percent say that they were personally harmed by these extreme weather events in the past year. And as harmful and devastating as all of these impacts have been, they also represent a poignant warning that these problems and impacts will escalate in the future unless we begin to tackle the climate change crisis.

This is why the recent words of President Obama at the Democratic National Convention should resonate so loudly through all of our political discourse, and why, beyond words, political action is so critical, something both parties have yet to fully embrace.

And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet – because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future – President Obama, Sept. 6, 2012

Regardless of party and electoral politics, addressing climate change speaks to values all of us hold – leaving our children an environment and world that is better off than we inherited.

The depth of this widespread value across all political persuasions is revealed in a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll (see Question #36). The poll found that government action to “regulate” the climate changing air pollution that is emitted from power plants, cars and factories is supported by 87% of Democrats, 73% of Independents and 61% of Republicans.  Such numbers show that dealing with the future of climate change is actually one issue where we can all come together as a nation.

The message to our political leaders is clear. The time for fake debates over climate science or simply disregarding the facts of this summer’s extreme weather is over.  The real question all of us want answered is: what is your plan to tackle climate change for the sake of my family and the generations that follow?