Throughout the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have been talking about two different planets.
Obama’s planet has a problem: its climate system is being massively disturbed, and if greenhouse gas emissions are not drastically reduced immediately this disturbance will likely yield massive consequences. Romney’s planet apparently doesn’t have a problem like that.
Romney’s planet may indeed have a climate issue, but it is not urgent, big, or complicated enough to call for government action. On Obama’s planet, the climate problem is so urgent, large, and complex that there is no question the U.S. government should intervene.
On Romney’s planet, most if not all government investment in clean energy sources or energy efficiency is a waste, since the country has such abundant fossil fuel resources, which the private sector can extract and burn without harming the environment. On Obama’s, there is a pressing need to burn less fossil fuel, and it makes sense for the government to invest in energy efficiency measures and in the development of a large market for low-carbon energy-generating products.
Obama’s planet could be in grave danger if the U.S. doesn’t step up to help lead a global effort to address the problem as soon as possible. Romney’s planet will be just fine if the U.S. doesn’t even participate.
Much has been made of the #climatesilence of both candidates during the presidential debates. But let’s be clear: they are light-years apart on the issue. Last month on the MIT campus, a head-to-head energy policy debate featuring of representatives from the two campaigns made this distance profoundly obvious. During that debate, Romney’s domestic policy director more than once stated in no uncertain terms that a Romney administration would not prioritize reducing carbon emissions.
The climate consequences of this decision on Romney’s planet, of course, would be negligible. On Obama’s, obviously, it is a recipe for disaster. On which planet do you live?