Climate Change

Published on January 26th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


Why I Believe Obama On Climate

January 26th, 2013 by  

I almost never use the same title as original posts when I repost, but there’s not a better fit for this one. Enjoy this thoughtful repost by Peter Sinclair (of Climate Denial Crock of the Week fame):

”I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.” – attributed to Franklin Roosevelt

Call me a sap. I believe Obama.

Like just about everyone reading this, I’ve been more than disappointed at the opportunities squandered in the past 4 years.

In retrospect, it would have been smarter for Obama to prioritize climate rather than health care early in his administration. But no one predicted the virulent racist wave that the Republican party enthusiastically whipped up, and the opposition’s willingness, in a national crisis, to kill off green shoots of recovery rather than allow any progress a “socialist Kenyan” could take credit for.

In the face of highly successful disinformation campaign based around stolen and cherry picked emails, and back to back seasons of unusually fierce winter weather in a double dip La Nina, I think the President’s team looked at the polling and the filibuster-driven stonewall in congress, and opted for a stealth strategy on climate, based on encouraging low carbon solutions.  I believe we’ve already begun, and will continue to see, positive results from Recovery Act investments in renewable technology and infrastructure.

Sure, I would have liked it if he’d campaigned more visibly on the climate issue.  I get it that, in the campaign calculus, the coal fields of Western Pennsylvania and southeastern Ohio were double weighted. The President and his team gauged, accurately it turns out, that, like it or not, the issue was not taken seriously by the mainstream media, who continued until Superstorm Sandy’s landfall to define The Most Important Issue of the Millennium as a sideshow for “climate people.”

Given the fear, that I shared, of the  terrible consequences of a Tea Party presidency, and worse, a Tea Party Supreme Court, I can understand the decision to soft pedal the issue, and send mushy signals on the Keystone pipeline – to avoid giving traction and talking points to the Fox News crowd in the face of an imploding Republican candidate.

Meanwhile, in the background, public opinion slowly evolved. Pounded by a steady barrage of extreme events, cold, hot, wet, dry, – the message of climate change began to sink in – and the unsettling awareness that extremes of all sorts were now the new normal, brought on by anthropogenic changes to the atmosphere. A prominent denier told me candidly that what he feared most was public reaction to extreme events – and those events have just kept on coming.


Obama didn’t have to take this on. His position in history is secure, and he doesn’t have to worry about his life in post presidency.

He could have ticked off environment, giving it a perfunctory sentence or two among all the others, and not bet his reputation in history on this long shot. Yet, he devoted a stunning and clear paragraph in the middle of the speech to the climate issue.

The prominence was not lost on younger observers like MSNBC poll expert and not-particularly-climate-savvy Chuck Todd, who expressed an immediate surprised reaction to the force of the declaration.

Watch the video at the top of the page, though, and see the contrast between a stodgy, old-guard and still-not-getting-it Sam Donaldson, who ticked off everything in the speech except the stunning climate passage, till prompted by the much younger and climate-literate Dan Harris. (skip to 4:40 to see that exchange, but worth listening to Donaldson’s climate-tonedeaf analysis first)

The President’s confident, even steely, throw down on the climate issue showed that there is a consensus even among his overly cautious inner circle that the nation has turned the corner on this issue, and will not go back, and that making this a centerpiece, maybe the centerpiece, of his second term agenda is not only the most important, but politically, and historically, the smartest course this whip-smart, and now veteran, DC savvy, President can make.

If he approves the Keystone pipeline in coming months, I’m well aware I’ll have to revisit and perhaps eat these words.
But I have kids.
I have to believe that, with a critical mass of a newly awakened citizenry at his back, the President can and will do what he says.

One thing’s for sure. He won’t be able to do it unless we stop taking sour cheap shots, get behind him and push like our planet depended on it.

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  • Bob_Wallace

    I believe President Obama because I’ve watched the man for the last four years and found him to be a person who does what he says he is going to do.

    He may not always succeed, Congress blocked him on closing Gitmo, but he gave it a significant try. And I would bet that he hasn’t given up but is working on a solution.

    PBO is a player of the long game. I have zero doubt that climate change was very much considered before he began his first term. The plan was to pass a good piece of climate legislation and then the Administration would administer it.

    The Democratic controlled House passed a climate bill. Republicans in the Senate blocked it. That route failed.

    That did not stop PBO, he used some of the stimulus money to get some of the most inefficient cars off the road and EV battery plants built. His EPA is shutting down over 100 coal plants. His Department of the Interior made it easier to get renewable energy facilities approved. He’s greening the military. Even though needed legislation was blocked PBO found ways to make progress.

    Now that health care has been taken care of, the economy is getting back on its feet and the election is behind him, PBO says that climate change is one of his very top priorities for the next four years.

    I believe him when he says that because he’s shown that he does what he says he will do.

  • Marshall Harris

    I completely understand how damaging the Keystone XL pipeline is to the environment. However, I don’t want us to risk all or nothing on stopping it because it may very well be approved. I am hope we have a plan B if Keystone is approved, as I’m sure the price of gasoline will go down and there will be less demand for electric cars. But I doubt it will go down that much.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I just don’t see the sense in fighting the Keystone pipeline. Working to keep it away from the most sensitive places, yes, but I don’t see a gain for climate change by stopping it.

      Even though the majority of people accept the facts that the climate is changing and that humans play a huge or total role in the change they will not quit driving. We, human animals, are not wired to avoid long term problems, we give priority to short term ones.

      We could exert huge amounts of our energy and stop the pipeline but we would simply source our fuel from other wells. And a different route would be found to get the sludge to market. At best, the tar sand oil might be delayed a couple of years.

      Our way out of this mess is to give people acceptable alternatives to filling up their tanks.

      We might be best served by putting our energy into better (and cheaper) public transportation and getting electric-powered cars on the road sooner.

      That gives each concerned individual two routes.

      If you are the political action type, then get involved with your local government in getting more public transportation options so that people can leave their cars parked more of the time.

      We should be moving toward a future in which there are no cars in the core area of cities. We don’t move people around inside huge airport terminals by car.

      If you live in a multi-car household and you’re not struggling to stay afloat then give very serious consideration to buying an EV like the LEAF.

      If one of your cars never drives over the range of the LEAF it could be replaced with an EV. Two people, one works seven miles from home, one twenty-five miles from home. Put the person who drives the furthest in an EV, use the gasmobile for the shorter commute and long trips.

      If your trade-in is an efficient car it will probably speed an inefficient car to the crusher.

      With the price drop you can now buy the LEAF for under $20k and save a bundle of money driving it. It won’t cost you anything to help the climate and cut oil usage.

      If we buy a lot of EVs their prices will come down and then more people will buy EVs and fewer people will use oil. That’s how we kill oil. That’s how we turn the Keystone pipeline into scrap steel.

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