While the U.S. is waging a global "war on terror," the country's been sitting out the worldwide war on global warming. With Russia now pledging to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, and the treaty poised to go into effect, a group of 22 U.S. labor, religious, political and scientific leaders want to know what candidates Kerry and Bush would do about that other looming global terror: climate change.
In a statement released today by the likes of former CIA director James Woolsey, United Steelworkers of America president Leo Gerard, and National Council of Churches of Christ general secretary Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar, they called on the moderators of the next two presidential debates to ask the candidates what exactly they plan to do to curb the U.S.'s greenhouse gas emissions.
Positioning the U.S. response to global warming as a jobs and economy issue, as well as a matter of national security -- can you say oil is at $51 a barrel? -- the letter suggests that candidates weigh in on what Britain's Tony Blair recently called "the world's greatest environmental challenge."
"We respectfully request that the two remaining 2004 Presidential Debates include questions about the candidates' plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting clean energy and clean vehicle technologies as urgent matters of both domestic and foreign policy," reads the letter.
"We believe that the future of energy is at the crux of major challenges facing our nation today: concerns about the economy and the loss of manufacturing jobs, national security, and the environmental, public health, and financial consequences of global climate change...
"It is also becoming clear that as the rest of the world moves to limit emissions from burning fossil fuels, we are on the cusp of a major industrial transition, a transition the United States must choose to lead in order to preserve and create jobs for the 21st century and protect future generations."
John Kerry mentioned global warming twice in the first presidential debate, but the issue has been largely out of the limelight on the campaign trail, with Iraq, homeland security and jobs hogging the spotlight. But the signators of the letter argue that global warming is actually central to many of those issues.
"Global warming is almost serving as a market signal to innovate and develop technologies for the 21st century. This is going to be the next major industrial transition, and it's going to be one that the U.S. leads or is left behind," says Nicole St. Blair, a spokesperson for CERES, a coalition of investment funds, environmental and public interest groups that helped organize the statement. "If we're worried about the economy and job losses; our relationship with the rest of the world; national security and our dependence on foreign oil, this issue of developing a clean-energy strategy is the elephant in the room that's not being discussed. It's one of the major solutions to all three of those concerns."
While Kerry has pledged to lead the U.S. to derive 20 percent of the U.S.'s electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and has vowed to rejoin the international climate talks which Bush walked out on when he abandoned Kyoto, the Senator also said that it's too late for the U.S. to join Kyoto.
Will Charles Gibson and Bob Schieffer, the moderators for presidential debates two and three, turn up the heat?