The networks have called it for President Obama, who now gets a second chance on climate.
If we don’t, then Obama — indeed, all of us — will be seen as failures, and rightfully so. As a new PricewaterhouseCoopers report makes clear, anything other than aggressive efforts to slash carbon pollution starting ASAP likely means 7°F to 11°F warming globally. That would cause substantially higher warming over most of the U.S. and leave much of the “breakbasket of the world” in Dust Bowl conditions much worse than this nation has ever known (see “We’re Already Topping Dust Bowl Temperatures — Imagine What’ll Happen If We Fail To Stop 10°F Warming“).
By the end of the third decade of this century, all of American life — politics, international relations, our homes, our jobs, our industries, the kind of cars we drive, our diet — will be forever transformed by the climate and energy challenge.
Obama is the first president to articulate in stark terms both the why and how of the sustainable clean energy vision. In April 2009, he said, “The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice we face is between prosperity and decline.” In October 2009, he said at MIT, “There are those who will suggest that moving toward clean energy will destroy our economy — when it’s the system we currently have that endangers our prosperity and prevents us from creating millions of new jobs.”
Obama has some important clean energy and climate achievements — strong fuel economy standards, doubling renewable electricity, big boost in clean energy investment. But from a historical perspective, he has two fateful failures, the climate bill and his climate silence.
Yes, most of the blame for the failure of the climate bill should go to the anti-science, pro-pollution ideologues (see “Republicans demagogue against market-oriented climate measures they once supported“). They have spread disinformation and poisoned the debate so that is no longer even recognizable. Who could have guessed that the GOP champion of climate action would end up trashing a bill considerably weaker than the one he tried to pass twice?
Nonetheless, Obama let die our best chance to preserve a livable climate and restore US leadership in clean energy — without a serious fight (see “The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2“). Equally tragic, Obama abandoned the modest messaging he did on climate in 2009 — while the disinformers redoubled their pernicious lies. To remind you of how much the President has muzzled himself, recall what he said about the “never seen before” Fargo flooding in March 2009:
“I actually think the science around climate change is real. It is potentially devastating,” Obama told reporters Monday. “If you look at the flooding that’s going on right now in North Dakota and you say to yourself, ‘If you see an increase of two degrees, what does that do, in terms of the situation there?’ That indicates the degree to which we have to take this seriously.“
Precisely. Yet this year we’ve had record heat, record drought, record wildfires — and record-shattering frankenstorms, but Obama has little to offer but climate silence.
From a historical perspective — and, I suspect from the perspective of most progressives — there are two huge differences between Obama and the anti-science crowd. First, Obama is the President of the United States, a person who can single-handedly determine the agenda and the national debate.