CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Though the 2012 Democratic Party platform declares that the “national security threat from climate change is real, urgent, and severe,” it is apparently not urgent and severe enough to merit mention by speakers at the Democratic National Convention during the past two days.
The Daily Caller reviewed the speech transcripts of the over 80 speakers who took the stage at the Time Warner Cable Arena here in Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday, and only one mentioned climate change — and even he only mentioned it in passing.
“Thanks to President Obama, America is laying the foundation for the way we power tomorrow,” said Tom Steyer, co-founder of the Advanced Energy Economy trade association, in one of the early and therefore likely least watched speeches to the convention Wednesday.
“So here’s my question for you: Should we go back to the boom-and-bust, ‘drill-baby-drill,’ polluting energy policies of yesterday, or should we embrace an advanced energy economy that meets opportunity with innovation? Should we settle for an economy built on shifting and uncertain sands, or should we keep building an economy made to last?”
“Gov. Romney’s road to the future will lead to dirty air and increasing climate volatility, uncertainty over energy prices, and less security, not more,” Steyer continued. “President Obama’s road to the future will lead us to energy independence, energy security, a safer and cleaner environment, and countless new jobs that can never be outsourced.”
That reference to “increasing climate volatility” was the only explicit reference to climate change in two days of speakers. TheDC searched every speech for the words “global warming” and “climate,” and only Steyer’s speech produced a result. Next to Steyer, the only other mention that came close was President Bill Clinton’s passing reference to reducing greenhouse gasses, though the former president didn’t explicitly tie the reduction in greenhouse gasses in his nearly hour-long speech to an effort to combat climate change.
While even a three-day long convention can’t mention every issue, climate change is an issue that the Democratic Party platform speaks of in apocalyptic terms.
“The change wrought by a warming planet will lead to new conflicts over refugees and resources; new suffering from drought and famine; catastrophic natural disasters; and the degradation of vital ecosystems across the globe,” the platform declares.
“We know that global climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation — an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making,” it states in another section.
Indeed, the words “climate change” appear in the document 18 times.
President Obama himself recently told ScienceDebate.org in a written statement that “Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation,” though he has been criticized for being too silent on the issue since 2010.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama famously declared that “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”
But even Obama’s secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar, didn’t explicitly mention climate change during his speech to the convention Tuesday. Though Salazar spoke of Obama’s effort to move toward a “clean energy economy,” he didn’t say the move was in any way tied to climate change and in fact even boasted that American “oil production is at a 14-year high.”
Does the complete lack of comment on climate change suggest that Democrats no longer see the issue as the mortal threat it was once presented as?
“I don’t think so, but I have no way of knowing,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse told TheDC in the corridor of the Time Warner Cable Arena when asked whether climate change was no longer such an important issue since it wasn’t mentioned even once during the convention’s first day.
“I haven’t seen all these speeches,” he added.
When again told that TheDC had analyzed the speeches and found no mention of climate change on the convention’s first day, Woodhouse said: “I’m not the right person to ask. Like I said, I haven’t seen the speeches, so I don’t know the answer.”
Woodhouse then pivoted to take a different tack.
“But I’ll say this, I mean, you know, I don’t believe that, I don’t believe that’s the case,” he said, suggesting he didn’t think the lack of comment on climate change meant Democrats were giving the issue a lower priority.
“We’ve gotten this question on other issues. This election is about the economy; it’s about the middle class. And that’s the core about what people are talking about. They’re not necessarily doing it purposely to exclude other issues, but they’re trying to focus on a core set of issues.”
In his keynote speech Wednesday evening, former President Bill Clinton gave only a single passing nod to the climate when he said Obama’s efforts to lower fuel consumption would “cut greenhouse gas emission.”
Liberal Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich said he didn’t know why climate change wasn’t being emphasized, but expressed hope that Obama would bring it up in his speech Thursday night.
“Of course it is — are you kidding? It’s a fundamental issue,” Kucinich told TheDC while racing through the arena, when asked whether climate change was still an important issue.
“Well, I don’t know, but I can tell you this. We have to start recognizing that climate change is an economic issue, it’s a social issue, it’s a health issue as well as a political issue,” he added, when asked why it has hardly been mentioned during the convention. “We can’t run away from it. I think that maybe the president will address this in his speech, I hope.”
But for a party that once promoted the threat of climate change in sensationalistic terms, it says a lot that the party’s high priest of climate change, former Vice President Al Gore, isn’t even attending the convention, much less delivering a speech.
Politico reported that while Gore gave a high profile speech in 2008 warning about the threat of climate change, he is covering this year’s gathering remotely in New York for Current TV, a left-leaning cable network he co-founded.
“We are facing a planetary emergency which, if not solved, would exceed anything we’ve ever experienced in the history of humankind,” Gore inveighed during his 2008 address to the Democratic National Convention.
The Democratic speakers in Charlotte evidently no longer believe humankind faces quite the threat it did just four years ago. That tone may change Thursday, though there has been no indication that it will.