Dear Mr. Schieffer,
Before Monday’s debate, please be sure to check under your desk, on the back of one of your briefing notebook or on the burrito wrapper in your wastebasket from last night’s dinner—anywhere and everywhere in your office—for that sticky note with that other big foreign policy question you wanted to ask Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney. The one about the threats to global stability, economic security and the US national interest from climate change.
I’m sure you meant to ask it. I’m sure that as a veteran Washington journalist and network news host you understand the dire economic and geopolitical consequences of climate change. You know the likelihood that it will unleash waves of millions of destabilizing climate refugees, that it’s likely to wreak havoc on the global food and water supplies, that it’s already alerting patterns of diseases, that its rising sea levels, stronger storms and longer droughts will cost global economies untold billions, that the Pentagon considers it a “threat multiplier” in unstable parts of the world, and that all of this is already locked in and will only get much, much worse if the US and the rest of the world don’t change course on greenhouse gas emissions very soon.
And I’m sure you also understand the consequences of the lack of attention to this unprecedented global crisis in the presidential campaign and debates so far—that it can only contribute to the confusion of American voters on the issue and the perception abroad of the US as failing to help address the problem in a way commensurate with its responsibility for creating it; that the US will become the object of increasing international resentment and hostility, and the dangerous implications this presents for our place in the world.
So I’m hoping the reports that you don’t intend to bring up the issue at Monday’s debate merely reflect an oversight brought on by the exhaustion and stress of preparing for an event of this magnitude, or that maybe you even felt that you didn’t need to mention it in the run-up to the debate, that the issue was so huge and obvious that everyone would assume it would be on your list of pressing foreign policy issues.
But please, make sure the issue doesn’t get lost in the fray, as seems to have happened with Candy Crowley in the second debate. Make one last pass through your office before you head to that stage in Boca Raton Monday. Find that question. Ask it. Don’t let the men who would be president ride out the rest of the campaign without telling the world how they’ll address the huge global threat of climate change.