Interview Issue 2012: Why Has 'Environment' Become a Dirty Word?

November is fast approaching, but neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama is talking about the E-word. Our eight experts coach them on how to handle one of the year's most sensitive issues.

Environmental Experts

We asked environmental experts for their political advice to the candidates    Photo: Nancie Battaglia; Bill Clark/Getty; Brendan Smialowski/Getty; Chip Somodevilla/Getty; Gabriela Hasbun/Redux; Drew Angerer/Redux; Scott J. Ferrell/Getty; Rachel 0057

When it comes to hot-button election issues, pity the environment. It often serves as fodder for one-liners during the presidential-primary season, and this year is no exception. Almost every Republican candidate has questioned whether human activity is fueling climate change—the idea is “patently absurd,” said former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum—and all of them have pushed for extracting fossil-fuel energy faster than we’re doing now. The GOP nominee, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, backs the proposed 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline to ship heavy crude from Alberta to Nebraska and has declared that “we don’t know what’s causing climate change,” backpedaling from earlier statements that it’s both real and man-made. As for Obama, he has suggested that, in the coming months, he will be “clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way,” but he has also repeatedly boasted that domestic oil production is higher than at any point in the past eight years. Is there any way to return the environment to the political stage as a subject worthy of debate? Outside asked experts across the ideological spectrum what advice they’d give the candidates as they head into the fall campaign season. The only question remaining is whether they will listen.

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