The 2008 election marks the first time that the environment will likely be a critical issue, on par with the Iraq war, health care, and immigration. Two billion people worldwide witnessed last week’s Live Earth concerts (sponsored by 2000 Democratic nominee Al Gore), demonstrating the international demand for government action on climate change.

To encourage the candidates to address clean energy solutions, Charleston Live Earth concert organizers Heat Is On have arranged a Carolina Climate Convergence on Sunday, July 22, in Marion Square. (See City Picks on page 28). The group also submitted several environmentally-minded questions for the candidates on YouTube.

Debate sponsors CNN and Google, as well as the Democratic Party, have requested that all disposables used in the event be biodegradable, from cups, plates, and cutlery to trash bags. The Citadel recruited local company Ad-Naps to provide the corn-based products, which are fully compostable and break down in under 50 days.

The debate’s corporate sponsors are footing the added expense for the green products, but Ad-Naps founder Jason Cronen hopes the momentum from a national event will help environmental responsibility become more commonplace in Charleston. “We need to create an economy of sustainability where this stuff is so pervasive that it doesn’t cost any more than petroleum-based products,” says Cronen.

On the heels of Live Earth, Charleston may well be remembered as the pointedly “green” debate. And that’s no (corny) joke.