With Iowa’s caucuses and New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primaries both in the rear view mirrors, GOP presidential candidates and the media now set their sights on South Carolina, which hosts the next nominating primary on January 21. Candidates and pundits can’t afford to ignore the Palmetto State: South Carolina Republicans have accurately predicted the party’s eventual nominee since its first-in-the-South primary status was cemented in 1980 – a perfect record in 8 election cycles.
In the past 6 months, 20 debates have provided ample opportunities for the candidates to distinguish themselves on a range of economic, national security and social issues, but climate and energy issues have rarely made it into the top tier of debate or media coverage.
Just as South Carolina has been a bellwether for presidential nominating contests, the Southeastern United States may be a bellwether for climate-induced or climate-accelerated impacts ranging from sea level rise and salt water intrusion to declines in crop yields and prolonged drought. While primary voters may not pay careful attention to where candidates stand specific to climate change and energy policy, the people, the economy and the ecosystems of the Southeast need leaders who are willing to confront the climate challenges posed to our region and seek workable, bipartisan solutions instead of fanning the flames of climate denial.
As all eyes shift to South Carolina, and then further south for Florida’s January 31st primary, take a few minutes to see where the remaining GOP candidates stand on climate and energy issues: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry.