Obama has decided, for one reason or another, that it’s time to finally get serious about the biggest challenge facing humanity today (and probably in all of history) — global warming. He also focused on the key point that the countries that lead the clean energy transition will lead the global economy, that clean energy is the future whether we like it or not, and if we don’t put our all into it, we will lose our economic and political power. It’s common sense to anyone who closely follows the energy industry, the economy, or global politics, but it’s something a large number of US congresspeople are still unwilling to acknowledge.
Below is a video of Obama’s full inauguration speech, followed by quotes and more commentary on some of his key statements regarding these topics.
Yep, Obama noted the need to address climate change. And, not only that, he emphasized the need for action on this topic to a greater degree than he probably has in the past 4 years. Does that mean he’s serious about it? We’ll see. For now, though, let’s just dig into his statements and what they really mean.
“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
It’s one thing to acknowledge global warming and climate change, but it’s another to speak with one of the largest microphones in the world about the simple fact that not addressing it is a true betrayal of our children, grandchildren, and future generations (not to mention our own well-being).
Beyond the words, this line above was one of his most forceful of his whole speech — he put a lot of energy into it. And it garnered one of the largest applauses of the whole speech. I hope that first part is a sign that he is genuinely making it a priority this term. And I hope he and his team recognize the second part, the public support behind strong climate action.
“Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”
Great messaging here. First of all, Obama does what we should all — make it obvious that the fringe group of people who still deny climate change are in denial about settled science; make it obvious that it’s clear the world is warming, and it’s clear humans are the cause of that warming.
Next, Obama draws the link between climate change and the extreme weather we are all seeing. This is a critical link that makes it more obvious to people that the costs of climate change are considerable, catastrophic, crippling. He could have made it more obvious by noting that the US just saw its hottest year on record, that the country’s worst drought in over 50 years is costing the country tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars, that the American Southwest is headed toward permanent drought, and that the cost of inaction is tremendously higher than the cost of climate action. But hey, he did alright, so we’ll just keep pushing him to make some of these other points in future speeches.
“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise.”
And here’s where we get to the topics on which CleanTechnica is most focused. The simple fact is, beyond the obvious need for the US to do its part in working to stop global warming, there are a variety of reasons why the whole world is going to transition to a clean energy economy (i.e. pollution, dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, global warming, and more). The EU realizes this, China realizes this, Australia realizes this, the Middle East realizes this, India realizes this, South Korea realizes this, Japan realizes this, Brazil realizes this, and pretty much every other country on Earth realizes this. But about half of the United States Congress won’t admit this, and is limiting the future success of the country every single day.
I hope that, following Obama’s speech, more Americans will understand this, more Americans will demand a clean energy transition, and obstructionists in Congress will soon be booted out of office (or change course, but I’ve got less hope in that).
Even today, millions of people are employed in solar and wind industries around the world. And that number is going to grow tremendously in the coming years. Some of those jobs will be in the US, but if we don’t focus on supporting these (and other green) industries, we will lose hundreds of thousands (perhaps even millions) of good jobs.
“That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
President Obama didn’t stop there, though. He came back to the important point that, if we don’t grow our clean energy industries, we will lose many of the natural wonders of our country and our world, as well as the basics of life. Tapping into his own religion’s teachings, and those of most people, he also points out that Christianity’s teachings include taking care of the Earth.
Those are my comments on Obama’s second inaugural speech. Here are some more from a couple of top clean energy organizations:
Clean Energy Organizations Chime In
From Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA):
“We praise the President for emphasizing that a transition to sustainable energy sources is vital – and that the U.S. must lead it. Solar is the fastest-growing and most affordable, accessible, and reliable clean energy technology available today. It’s not only powering our nation, it’s an engine of economic growth. The number of U.S. solar jobs has jumped 13.2 percent in the last year alone, and doubled over the last three years.
“In the last four years, the amount of solar powering U.S. homes, businesses, and military bases has grown by more than 500 percent – from 1,100 megawatts to more than 6,400 megawatts today. Over the next four years, solar will grow to be the largest new source or energy, and employ more than a quarter million Americans.”
From BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director David Foster:
“We congratulate President Obama for elevating the urgency to take immediate steps on climate change and underscoring the connection between solving this increasingly serious environmental problem and our economic future.
“We can address this problem with a broad bipartisan, national strategy that solves climate change and creates millions of jobs. This strategy must include the EPA’s continued efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, must address the nation’s serious infrastructure deficit – something that was demonstrated during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy – and must emphasize economic fairness for all.
“As President Obama said today, we must respond to the threat of climate change and protect the planet for our children and for future generations. We must do that in a way that creates good jobs for the American people. Now, let’s get to work.”
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