Blog Post

Searching for a Debate on Climate Policy?

Oct 23, 2012 | Peter Nelson

As Nathan just noted, the presidential debates are in the books with nary a mention of climate change, or any other environmental issue for that matter.  Part of the explanation is that the mainstream political press generally detests having to cover environmental issues, which require a pretty deep engagement with science as well as policy details that are complicated and confusing even for those of us whose job it is to follow these things.

I think the larger reason probably has to do with a tactical decision made by both campaigns to steer clear of the environment on the grounds that it doesn't break in any predictable way among undecided voters in the handful of remaining swing states.

But in actuality, the loss is not all that great.  While I tend to think having presidential debates is preferable to the alternative, historically their impact has been felt more in terms of gaffes, zingers, and comparative stage presence and less in terms of enlightening policy arguments.

Fortunately, there was a great and detailed discussion last week of the two campaigns' different energy policy visions. It came courtesy of the MIT Energy Initiative's Presidential Energy Debate, featuring surrogates Joe Aldy for the Obama campaign and Oren Cass for the Romney campaign.  [Full disclosure, Aldy is a Non-resident Fellow at RFF.] Both did an extraordinarily good job of representing the two side's positions in a substantive way over the course of a debate that covered energy independence, climate change, technology policy, LNG exports, ANWR, the mercury rule and other topics.  Video here. Transcript here.