Clinton Nominates Obama, Almost Completely Ignores the Environment

In a speech calibrated to appeal to independent voters, former President Bill Clinton nominated Barack Obama for President on the second day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. During his almost 50-minute address, Clinton failed to utter the phrases "climate change" or "global warming" even once, and paid only peripheral attention to environmental issues while opting to focus on the economy instead.

The speech was pro forma in its stated objective - Obama's nomination has long been secure - but its content highlighted the issues likely to motivate middle-of-the-road voters in November. Clinton, who earned a reputation as a savvy centrist during his eight-year presidency, argued that Obama's policies on economic issues like job creation, debt reduction, and middle class empowerment have and will continue to clean up the mess inherited from the administration of George W. Bush.

Largely missing from Clinton's address was any discussion of environmental issues, which were referenced only obliquely during a few minutes devoted to the bailout of the auto industry and Obama's energy policy.

Clinton briefly summarized the latest update to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations, which were passed in August and require all new vehicles to average 54.5 MPG by 2025, but mostly highlighted the plan's economic benefits. In an unusual understatement, Clinton only mentioned that the regulations "will cut greenhouse gas emissions."

The League of Conservation Voters, on the other hand, has said that the new CAFE regulations are "the single biggest step the U.S. government has ever taken to reduce global warming pollution" and will cut carbon emissions by over 6 billion metric tons.

Clinton spent a little more time on the environment when addressing Obama's "all of the above" energy strategy, acknowledging that it will bring "greater energy efficiency" and has already increased production of natural gas and renewable energy. Still, Clinton spent as much time noting that the energy plan has caused a boom in domestic oil and gas production while driving oil imports to a near 20-year low.

Nevertheless, even Clinton's passing reference to climate change far exceeded Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's complete dismissal of the subject. While accepting the presidential nomination at last week's Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Romney drew laughs from his audience when he said, "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."

Romney's "joke" implied that progressive environmental policy will not help American families, demonstrating a critical ignorance of the climate change crisis, the urgency and severity of which has been well documented by the scientific community.

President Obama will address the DNC before a prime-time national television audience tonight, but if Clinton's speech is any indication of the party's campaign strategy, we should expect there to be little mention of climate change in Obama's speech as well.

The general tone of the discussion on climate change - ranging from passing acknowledgment to complete dismissal - indicates that environmental issues are failing to occupy the minds of American voters who have identified the economy as the primary issue in this election.