This is not the first time in this campaign that somebody has tried to get all the presidential candidates’ together to discuss climate. In mid-November, Grist magazine and the League of Conservation Voters helped organize a presidential forum on global warming and energy. It was not a debate, however; candidates each had ten minutes to make a statement and then took questions from moderators and the audience. The event drew a bit of coverage, but only Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Dennis Kucinich participated (though all candidates from both parties were invited) and it was not televised. Oddly enough, the League of Conservation Voters justified the forum by saying that the press had not thoroughly pressed candidates on climate and energy issues, even though candidates themselves (the Democrats at least) seemed to be looking for opportunities to bring them up. The league was speaking specifically about television reporters, however, so its thesis does not contradict the argument that the print press has been impeded by a lack of access to the candidates.

Many people, petition signatories and otherwise, clearly think that a science debate is a long shot. Though the press has not always applied itself in as much as it could have in covering the intersection of politics and science, there have been a number of concerted efforts to make the candidates say more, and they met silence. Even thousands of journalists, scientists, academics, politicians, and businesspeople calling in unison for more answers might not be enough.

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.