Memo to the President Elect: We Need Your Leadership on Climate Change

John Kassel


To: The President Elect
From: John Kassel, President of CLF
Date: November 6, 2012, 11:30 a.m.

First, let me offer my sincere congratulations. Whichever candidate you are, you have won a hard fought victory. Well done.

With your victory comes the responsibility to lead this country safely through the most critical issues of our day. Judging by your campaign I am afraid that is something you have already shown you will not do.

During the campaign, you were largely silent on climate change. During each one of the debates, for instance, none of the moderators asked a question – and you didn’t push the issue to the fore. When asked about the economy, you didn’t say that not addressing climate change presents the single largest risk of market failure ever seen. When asked about foreign policy, you didn’t echo the Pentagon and others in identifying climate change as a threat to our national security. And when asked about domestic policy, you didn’t identify climate change as endangering our communities, our economies and our future generations.

Not once did you identify climate change during these debates. In a year of record-breaking temperatures, drought in the West, and Arctic ice melt, this is disappointing. It is as though, in a rare moment of bipartisanship, you and your opponent tried to will this problem away through silence.

It took Sandy to shake out of you a direct response to climate change. Sandy reminded us of many things: about the need for preparation, about the human and economic price that nature will extract, suddenly and mercilessly, and about the suddenness of slow change once it is upon you.

Up until Hurricane Sandy, climate change was the elephant in the room. Now, we are trying to figure out how to clean up after the elephant. It is a devastating experience and heart-rending sight – one that should compel action, and has among some of your peers.

Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote, “Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.” I couldn’t agree more.

Climate change is not just a global issue, but an American issue, as it threatens all Americans – the 99 percent and the 1 percent, liberals and conservatives, voters and nonvoters. It also threatens all New Englanders, from all walks of life: white or black, young or old, red or blue.

Slow devastation at the hands of predictable and largely preventable causes does not advance the interest of your electorate, Mister President Elect. But your continued silence will only guarantee just that.

It is your responsibility, Mister President Elect, to not only protect and safeguard the citizens of the United States, but to lead them to prosperity. We need you to lead on climate change. We need you lead on this issue – now, more than ever.

My sincere congratulations again. We eagerly await your leadership.


John Kassel
President of Conservation Law Foundation (CLF)

Focus Areas

Climate Change


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