Given the seriousness of the global climate change threat, the tremendously strong scientific consensus about it, and the critical role that the United States must play in any international agreements about national and global responses, it is vital to know how the next President would address this issue.
As a result, it is important to understand the position on climate change held by all presidential candidates. Accordingly, here are some variants on questions they should be asked -- and they should answer -- at public debates, including the upcoming Republican debate. First is the preferred question, followed by a few weasel-word alternatives.
Preferred climate question
Accepting as a given the overwhelming scientific agreement that humans are changing the climate of the planet, what policies or strategies, if any, would you support to address this issue?
Weasel-word climate question #1
Do you understand that there is overwhelming scientific agreement that humans are changing the climate? If not, why not? It's not as though every national academy of sciences on the planet, every professional geophysical scientific society, and more than 97 percent of the world's climate scientists haven't been saying this over and over and over for decades.
Weasel-word climate question #2
If you insist on answering "I am not a scientist," do you know how to find a real one to talk to? Because we have lists.
Weasel-word climate question #3
Please spell "climate change."
Weasel-word climate question #4
Batman or Superman? Kirk or Picard?
(Dr. Peter Gleick is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, which has issued report after report on climate science; belongs to several scientific societies, all of which have formal statements endorsing the science of climate change; and is part of the 97%+ consensus of climate scientists.)