Weather Updates

Editorial: There’s no debate on global warming

Exhaust rises from smokestacks front piles coal an electric generating statiTexas.  |  AP file photo

Exhaust rises from smokestacks in front of piles of coal at an electric generating station in Texas. | AP file photo

storyidforme: 39078332
tmspicid: 14443922
fileheaderid: 6598607

Updated: November 30, 2012 6:09AM

David Letterman is right.

On his show last week, a teed-off Letterman ticked off topics rarely mentioned in the presidential campaign.

Topping his list was global warming and, most importantly, what we’re going to do about it.

“In four and one-half hours of presidential debate, I don’t think global warming came up at all,” Letterman said. “That bothers me because I’ve got an 8-year-old son. What’s the world going to be like when he’s 65 years old?”

Climate change has fallen off the political map this election season, the victim of a singular focus on jobs and a successful campaign in recent years by global warming deniers to plant just enough doubt to trump widely accepted science.

But make no mistake, science has spoken on this topic and definitively so. Global warming is here, it’s real and humans are partly to blame for it.

President Barack Obama made combatting global warming a central theme of his 2008 campaign but has shifted focus during the 2012 campaign to energy independence — and the jobs that will create.

This includes federal investments in clean energy, such as wind and solar, and in clean coal technology, subsidies that Mitt Romney rejects. Romney’s campaign says these industries will develop if government and its regulations get out of the way, “rather than chasing fads and picking winners and losers.”

Both candidates also talk about increasing oil and gas production in the U.S., fuels that contribute heavily to global warming.

We get it. Voters will decide this election based on who they think can best turn the economy.

But no matter the winner on Nov. 6, global warming will be the next president’s burden and opportunity.

This editorial page strongly supports subsidies for clean, renewable energy sources to help a nascent and vital industry get its footing. We also supported Obama’s other efforts in his first term, including regulating emissions from power plants and dramatically raising fuel-efficiency standards — advances Romney has vowed to undermine.

But it’s not enough.

A robust clean-energy industry would slow the nation’s carbon emissions. But it won’t turn the tide.

That requires major changes to the world’s fossil fuel-driven economy, through international efforts and changes in the U.S. The best course in this country is through a tax system or strong regulation. Obama’s push in that direction, a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse-gas emissions, collapsed in 2010.

Global warming hasn’t disappeared. It has been forced into hiding.

But it will undoubtedly reappear soon — whether our politicians want it to or not.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.