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Editorial: Climate change goes AWOL

A cow looks for something eas it grazes dry pasture southwest Hays Kan. July 6. A new report shows drought

A cow looks for something to eat as it grazes in a dry pasture southwest of Hays, Kan., on July 6. A new report shows the drought gripping the United States is the widest since 1956. |. Steven Hausler~AP Photo/The Hays Daily News

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Updated: August 25, 2012 6:07AM

We can’t help but wonder where our president and would-be president are in all this.

Everywhere President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney campaign across this drought-stricken land, there is evidence of the coming devastation of global warming, yet they seldom utter a word about it.

A freight train falls from a bridge in Glenview, crushing two people. The cause is a rail warped by heat.

Downstate farmers cut and bale vast acres of withered corn stalks to use as hay for cattle. The summer drought has destroyed the crop.

Chicago bakes for days on end, then a freakish storm rips through, then the city bakes again.

Wildfires destroy 29 square miles of Colorado, fueled by record heat and winds.

So much for the notion that global warming is a matter of stranded polar bears on shrinking ice bergs, far away and unconnected to our lives. More than 80 percent of the United States is suffering from drought conditions, trying to cope with 100-degree-plus heat, drying lakes and burnt pastures.

A poll set to come out this week, conducted by the University of Texas, shows that a strong majority of Americans — 70 percent — now believe we are going through a period of climate change. That’s 87 percent of Democrats, but also a majority, 53 percent, of Republicans.

Both Obama and Romney appear to accept the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community that global warming is not only real but manmade — they just don’t want to talk about it. Obama has little interest in sounding anti-business by promoting restrictions on factory emissions, while Romney has no wish to offend his party’s many global-warming skeptics.

As Massachusetts governor, Romney pushed to close old coal-fired plants and promoted renewable energy. During the GOP presidential primary, he soft-pedaled those views, but his campaign says he still believes global warming is real and manmade.

The catch is that Romney also appears to believe the U.S. shouldn’t attempt to regulate greenhouse gases unless other large emitting countries, such as India and China, do the same — which is to say never.

As for Obama, he last talked about global warming in an April interview with Rolling Stone magazine. The money quote: “We’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way.”

But on the campaign trail, the president has largely ignored the issue.

Truth is, the American people really don’t know how, or how aggressively, either candidate would tackle global warming after the Nov. 6 election.

Sure would be nice to find out before then.

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