11/01/2012 05:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Presidential Debate on Climate, Science and Hurricane Sandy (VIDEO)

On Thursday morning I moderated my first presidential debate, on Capitol Hill. The topic was climate change, science and the next four years. I was there representing, the online website that gets the candidates for president to debate the big science questions the country is facing. My co-moderator was Chris Mooney of ClimateDesk Live.

Predictably, the candidates declined to participate personally. President Obama sent a surrogate, and Gov. Romney declined altogether, so I asked Mike Castle, the nine-term Republican congressman and former governor of Delaware, to represent the Romney/Republican position, and he did so with leadership, eloquence and grace over the 90-minute exchange, as did Obama surrogate Kevin Knobloch.

Science issues like climate change are coming to influence every aspect of life and policy making with increasing urgency. (Witness Hurrican Sandy and its lost lives and tens of billions of dollars in wreckage.) It's high time that candiates for the presidency and Congress participate in a live, televised debate dedicated to these topics, and that the mainstream media start asking questions about them in presidential debates.

Even though today's debate was between surrogates, the discussion made amazing viewing in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and is a must-see if you want to know what the candidates have to say in depth about climate change, or if you want to see what a presidential debate should look like in the 21st century, when science influences so much. Substance. Intelligence. Leadership.

In his day job, Knobloch is the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, but he was appearing here as a private citizen. His exchanges with Castle over the Obama and Romney positions on climate change, energy and why the Republican party has gone so anti-science are telling, as are Castle's insights into the problems posed by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which Castle says is the worst decision the high court ever made.

Watch the video. Its quality is webcam-lousy because ClimateDesk's TV crew was stranded by Hurricane Sandy. But it may just be the best information on both presidential candidates you'll find this election season. Then share it with all your friends.

Shawn Lawrence Otto is the co-founder of and a science advocate. His new book is Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America. Visit him at, and "like" him on Facebook. Join to get the presidential candidates to debate science.