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President misidentifies “The defining issue of our time …”

January 24th, 2012 · 1 Comment

With all due respect, Mr. President, you misstated CLIMATE CHAOS AHEAD“the defining issue of our time …”

I do hope that the United States returns to the idyllic notion of a past defined by your grandparents in

a story of success that every American had a chance to share – the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.

This, however, is not “the defining issue …”

No, Mr. President, as important as that American dream is, “the defining issue of our time” is existential on a far more fundamental level:

Will we or will we not turn aside from our reckless path toward catastrophic climate chaos which represents an existential threat to American security as (probably more) serious as that created by the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal?

Without addressing climate change in an urgent and serious manner, the resulting catastrophic climate chaos will trash any concept of realizing success on “the defining issue” you laid out this evening

Mr. President, in one of your first serious policy statements after the 2008 election, you made it clear that climate change would be core to your Presidency.

Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The consequences, too serious.

Last evening, in your State of the Union speech, “climate change” merited simply a throwaway line:

The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change

And … that is that.

No discussion of how the fundamental disdain for science among one of America’s polictical parties underlines “the differences“.

Nothing about how serious the situation is according to the world’s best scientists.

Nothing about the climate chaos that we are seeing, globally, as evidenced in mounting weather disorder and weather disasters?

Nothing ….

As Brad Johnson put it,

The President of the United States is supposed to address the state of the union in his annual address — but Obama sadly ignored the costliest year of climate disasters in American history, with over a dozen billion-dollar-disasters caused by our poisoned weather and our nation’s lack of preparedness. His work to build a clean energy future deserves the standing ovation it received in the Capitol tonight, but that future will be smashed by the destructive power of a polluted climate if much greater effort is not made.

Instead, we see usage of Republican talking points (“All of the Above” used to argue for continued subsidization of fossil foolish interests with nominal ‘clean-energy’ investments) when it comes to energy, with an enthusiastic embracing of expanded oil drilling across America’s landscapes, a downplaying of the risks of oil exploration, a misrepresentation of natural gas’ prospects and risks in what is almost certainly yet another failed attempt to ‘bridge the divide’ with the President’s opponents.

Does anyone think that a failure to address — accurately and seriously — climate change and, instead, to speak so warmly of fossil foolish practices will lead the American Petroleum Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Koch Brothers to embrace President Obama and stop working to elect whatever non-Obama wins the Republican primary?

To be clear, that the President discussed the importance of regulation (specifically using the mercury rules as a positive example), called for ending oil subsidies and spoke to clean energy are all things that were good to hear. Yet, they were packaged amid “All of the Above” energy policies and discussed absence any discussion of why climate change moves these from a desired ‘good’ to urgent necessity.

To be clear … yet again … income inequality is an extremely serious issue that merits addressing … setting paths forward so that people who wish a job can get one and can have political opportunities that forceful engagement on science could well create merit addressing … investing in ‘infrastructure’ for a better society (from universal healthcare to improved education to better prisons to social services to more effective and efficient regulatory processes to enable smoother business functioning to …) is an extremely serious arena that demands attention … and we must have campaign finance reform if we are to have a decently functioning civic society … and … E.g., what we have is a serious set of issues that do require an “all of the above” approach. We can’t do “one” at the expense of the “others” …

However, all of these and, well, so many other critical issues become moot if we do not tackle climate change mitigation (and adaptation). Climate chaos is already hurting global and U.S. Gross Domestic Product. It will, unquestionably, do even more damage in the years to come. Without climate mitigation (and adaptation) investments, that damage will overwhelm society such that achieving meaningful progress in these critical (and other) arenas will not even be conceivable. On the other hand, Energy Smart practices to Energize America to a prosperous and climate-friendly future will enable moving forward in these (and other) arenas.

A mistaken political calculation?

The absence of climate change seems to be a political calculation of the Axelrods of the world, with an abandonment of the necessity to lead and, well, a misunderstanding of political opportunities that forceful engagement on science could well create. Sadly, Robert Brulle’s analysis of last year’s State of the Union re ‘climate change’ discussion remains all too relevant.

rather than make the case for climate change and the necessity of action, this approach focuses on “clean” energy and research and development as a way to make a transition to a different energy mix. This is considered the popular, no pain, “energy quest” approach that relies on a mystical belief in R&D to address climate change. The Obama administration appears to have bought this approach completely as the politically popular way to address this issue. In my opinion, this approach has several major drawbacks, and effectively locks in massive and potentially catastrophic global climate change.

The Obama rhetorical approach is both intellectually dishonest and short sighted. Climate change poses an immediate and growing threat to human populations around the world. Yet this threat is completely ignored, and the public is given a thin and uncompelling rationale for transformation of energy systems

“By failing to even rhetorically address climate change, Obama is mortgaging our future and further delaying the necessary work to build a political consensus for real action.”

The whole piece merits the time …

While President Obama, last night, promised “I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy,” the failure to address — directly, seriously, truthfully — climate change in this address to Congress and his fellow Americans left out the most critical reason why “the promise of clean energy” is so critical and requires accelerated investment rather than simply a pledge to “not walk away from” some uncertain and ill-defined “promise …”


Clean Energy from the SOTU Bully Pulpit: What a difference a year makes … about the differences between the 2009 and 2010 Presidential speeches.

Greg Gladen, SOTU and climate change
SOTU: “Clean Coal” plays poorly with progressive audience(s) in 2010 SOTU (note: no “clean coal” reference in 2012 SOTU … should we celebrate this as progress or is it simply within “all of the above”)

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  • 1 Pres Obama Hits High Notes in State of Union // Feb 12, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    […] several years of essentially ignoring Climate Change in the State of the Union address, President Obama spoke forcefully about climate change and clean energy in the speech. While there […]