Climate

Should Obama omit any mention of climate change or global warming in the State of the Union address?

“What topics should be in Obama’s State of the Union address?”

That is the question posed to well-known thought leaders by the Washington Post.  Not a single one of them mention “climate change” or “global warming,” though two (Beinecke, and Townsend) do a ‘clean-energy’ pitch (in the online edition) — a strategy that is unlikely to get us much more clean energy and, as we now know, certain to fail to address the climate problem (see “Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?“)

WashPost asks Maya MacGuineas, Drew Altman, Joseph Califano, Howard Dean, Frances Beinecke, Robert L. Reynolds, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Frank Sharry, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Jamie Radtke, Ed Rogers, Bob Lehrman and Matthew Dowd.

While there’s nary a mention of global warming or climate change, we do get:

FRANCES BEINECKE

President of the Natural Resources Defense Council and a member of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

President Obama must rally a divided nation around the kind of common purpose and collective vision that has the potential to unite us all. A good place to start is by challenging us to do what presidents since Richard Nixon have asked — to break our costly and dangerous dependence on oil.

Doing so will create millions of jobs, as we develop renewable fuels, sustainable communities, and the next generation of energy-efficient cars, workplaces and homes. It will make our companies more competitive and position our workers for success in the fast-growing global market for clean-energy solutions. It will stem oil imports that drain our economy of $1 billion each day. It will make us more secure and less dependent on those foreign oil suppliers that don’t share our values or goals. It will safeguard the health of our children.

This won’t be accomplished overnight; great achievements seldom are. But the BP oil disaster was a shocking glimpse into the destruction we invite unless we change course now in a way that strengthens the foundational protections that defend our water, wildlife, lands and air.

I’m all for it, of course.  Most every president has made such a call in multiple SOTUs.  The country is already pursuing most of the strategies needed to reduce oil consumption in the near term — an aggressive fuel economy standards proposal by Obama, a biofuels strategy that mixes the unhelpful near-term crop-based biofuels with the helpful but as yet unavailable on a large scale cellulosic stuff, a push on high-speed rail, and a move toward electrification, including a large tax credit for the first million electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

We need to do more — we should amp up efficiency standards and funding for alternative fuels deployment and mass transit.  But this strategy by itself can’t stop overall emissions from rising, let alone get them on a sharp downward path.  Yes, I’m aware that there is no political possibility of passing legislation to get us on a sharp downward path in the next two years.  There’s also no political possibility of passing legislation to significantly increase fuel efficiency standards or clean energy deployment funding.

The point is, if the president states can’t include the biggest preventable threat to the health and well-being of future generations in his SOTU address, how precisely does this issue get back on the national platform in time to act?

Interestingly, the WashPost also got this suggestion:

KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND

Lieutenant governor of Maryland from 1995 to 2003

Twenty months after he was inaugurated, President John F. Kennedy had the audacity to proclaim that we could put a man on the moon within a decade. He knew that a great enterprise can unite a country as its citizens work together to succeed and be proud of the outcome. The day that Americans walked on the moon thrilled us as to what science, ingenuity and determination can accomplish. The spinoffs from the Apollo program have benefited American industry and technology for 50 years, and those government workers, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, remain our heroes today.

Some argue that our best days are past, that we should devote our energy to shrinking our government and privatizing our dreams. I don’t believe that. I would like to see President Obama challenge Americans to shoot for the sun, to discover and harness new forms of clean, renewable energy and achieve complete energy independence by 2021. Just as we did 50 years ago, let’s engage the best minds and wills of our generation in a bold venture for the good of the planet.

Well, we don’t really need to harness new forms of energy, just accelerate the deployment of the ones we have, which is presumably what Townsend meant anyway, since she wants complete energy independence in 10 years, which pretty much eliminate anything that isn’t commercial or in the process of being commercialized right now.

In fact, there is no plausible scenario for complete energy independence in 10 years, since that would mean replacing oil in most of our transportation system, which is built around a massive, multitrillion dollar infrastructure of vehicle manufacturing plants and oil production and delivery.

Just to be clear, I think it’s a great idea to have an aggressive call to end our addiction to oil — especially one backed up by strong policies.  But if the President is going to make a call for something impractical that the Republicans are going to oppose any way, it really should include preserving and protecting clean air, clean water, and a livable climate for our children — all of which the public considers important.

It must be noted that in the print edition of the Washington Post, which is presumably read by considerably more people than the online edition, the paper did not publish either Beinecke or Townsend — so their readers didn’t see either of these suggestions to make a big push on clean energy.

Coincidentally, the NYT poses a similar question to Elliott Abrams, Tom Daschle, Andrew C. Revkin, Alice M. Rivlin, Michelle Rhee, Jon Cowan, Jim Kessler, Robert B. Reich And Dan Savage, asking “what they would like to hear him say.”

That all of them but one ignore the issue entirely is not surprising.  The issue of the moment is jobs and the economy, you don’t get a lot of space — and most of the pundits are chosen for their economic expertise.  Still, it’s notable that only one of the NYT pundits, Andy Revkin, “writer of the blog Dot Earth for nytimes.com” and former lead NYT climate reporter, mentions energy at all, in a piece titled, “Energy for the Economy“:

FACING a public focused on economic revival, a hostile House and the lowest level of voter concern in a long while on human-driven climate change, President Obama could easily punt on energy this Tuesday. But this would actually be the ideal time for him to introduce an energy quest as a keystone 21st-century American imperative. Only by expanding our menu of nonpolluting energy choices can we hope to ameliorate a variety of social, geopolitical, climatic and economic risks facing the country and the world.

Mr. Obama’s first step should not be to announce a predetermined list of policies to transform our energy system, but to use his State of the Union address to commence a yearlong American conversation on the merits and shape of such an effort. Modeled on the president’s health care summit meeting last February, this conversation would play out in public televised events attended by the president or his cabinet, along with politicians, experts, scientists and American workers, in places ranging from the White House to coal country, from the grounds of a potential site for a new nuclear reactor to the boiler room of a primary school looking to cut emissions and energy bills.

The result, by the next January address, would be an action plan endorsed by business and by some of the dozens of Nobelists who have been lobbying the White House to renew American investment in relevant areas of science after decades of bipartisan neglect.

Parts of the plan could well be supported by the array of liberals and libertarians seeking an end to market-distorting energy subsidies, perhaps even by some of the conservatives seeing the patriotic merits in a revenue-neutral gasoline tax. And the effort itself would challenge proponents of the status quo, either in Congress or in the public, to demonstrate why acting to fill the global energy gap is a bad idea.

Kudos to Revkin for mentioning climate change and the importance of taking steps to ameliorate climatic risks.

There’s nothing wrong with having another year-long conversation with Americans — but Presidents (other than Obama) have been having this conversation for three decades and doing little.  Obama has taken a number of strong steps on fuel economy and clean energy funding and EPA regulations that distinguish him from his predecessors.  He did failed to aggressively pursue the crucial climate bill (see “The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2“).

We all know what the policies that are needed to reduce emissions.  So whenever Obama puts them on the table, the Republicans will oppose them.  Remember, there really are no ‘centrist’ ideas anymore, at least not when Democrats advance them.  Republicans put forward the idea of the individual mandate for health care reform.  When Democrats introduced it as a centrist way to deal with healthcare reform, Republicans denounced it as a socialistic government takeover.

Republicans put forward the idea of cap-and-trade to deal with environmental problems, most notably under President Bush’s father in the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments and again when McCain teamed up with Lieberman to propose climate bills in the last decade (see “The GOP flip flops on cap and trade“).  But when a coalition of businesses and environmental groups and progressives and Obama embraced the idea, again, it was demonized as socialistic big government “cap-and-tax.”

None of the ideas Revkin poses will fly with this nihilistic Republican Party that is under the thumb of the Tea Party and corporate polluters.  They want no taxes of any kind and no decreases in subsidies for big oil (which in their spin would also be a job killing tax increase), and they even oppose the strategy that has long been most popular with the public — increased R&D for clean energy (see “The Chamber of Commerce is so extreme they oppose research and development into renewable energy!“).  In fact, they now want to cut that R&D (see “Republican Study Committee proposes unilateral disarmament to China in innovation, clean energy“).

No, the point of talking about energy and climate in the State of the Union address isn’t to lay out a bunch of policies that are going to become enacted into law in the next two years.  The point is to make sure the American people understand ALL the major issues facing the country.  And the point is to draw a line in the sand.

Beyond whatever he says about jobs and the economy, the President should say he will veto any bill that cuts clean energy funding since it is a direct threat to our national security and as a direct threat to our ability to compete against China and the other countries of the world in what is quickly becoming the biggest job creating sector of the economy.  The president should say he will veto any bill that blocks the EPA from doing its basic job, as supported by the US Supreme Court, to preserve clean air, clean water, and a livable climate for our children and generations to come. Otherwise, really, what is the point of the speech?

48 Responses to Should Obama omit any mention of climate change or global warming in the State of the Union address?

  1. fj3 says:

    Obama should advocate urgent action at wartime speed to cut emissions and mitigate climate change.

    He will likely be vindicated for this advocacy in the very near future as climate events will likely reach “Pearl Harbor” status in a year or so and there will be a serious downside if he does not advocate emergency action.

  2. David HS says:

    Not only the America, but the entire world awaits strong leadership and vision from Obama. If he fails to lead, to offer the “collective vision”, civilisation itself is at risk.

    He has little to lose. If he ducks this, he will probably be voted out of office anyway and history won’t forgive the missed opportunity. If he takes a clear stand on this issue and devotes the next 20 months to action, even if he is obstructed and defeated, he will deserve respect – from the world as a whole.

  3. fj3 says:

    Observed global climate events justify action at wartime speed to cut emissions

  4. mickey says:

    He should mention cleaning up the environmnt, but not climate change. Taking action to clean up the environment will at least move things in the right direction and do so without angering the public who have largely tuned out on the idea of global warming. As for the armaggeddon coming in a few years, I doubt it. The current warming rate is 0.1-0.2C per decade so it will take time to see the impacts even if we’ve passed the point of no return. For one, I think unusually cold winters like this one and the past will still occur even in 10-20 years from now as will chilly summers like 2009. In addition while climate change will cause an increase in natural disasters it won’t increase so much that the public will automatically buy global warming as the cause. Climate change makes hurricanes like Hurricane Katrina more likely but one cannot say definitively it wouldn’t have happened had their not be global warming as natural disasters have always occurred. Better to focus on what is doable than being alarmist and getting defeated in 2012 and have nothing done. Moving in the right direction is better than doing nothing even if it isn’t the ideal amount. Besides when people are losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet, spending any more than a minute or so on another topic will just send a message to the public the president doesn’t care about the issues they face. People are concerned about what is affecting them now, not what might affect them down the road.

  5. Leif says:

    What Dr. Joe said….

    Two Palms Up

  6. Tim Kelly says:

    I attended 10-10-10 where a crowd of about 300-400 showed up. It was a priviledge to meet you, Joe, though I wish we had more time to talk. To the credit of all those involved it was a great event. We simply needed a lot more bodies.

    At any rate, I feel the frustration of all of those who belong to this community that Obama does’t do the the “moon shot” speech we wish he would. Tying into your open thread about a movement with teeth, Joe, it seems like someone (Like Al, Bill or yourself)needs to challenge folks to show up. Imagine the sight of 100,000 people or more in front of the Capitol holding a climate vigil while Obama does the 2012 SOTU. Give me a place and time and I’ll get there. But it wouldn’t be worth it if we don’t at least come close the numbers that the big 2010 rallies drew.

    What are everyone’s thoughts?

  7. fj3 says:

    #5 Tim Kelly, Yes! “Imagine the sight of 100,000 people or more in front of the Capitol holding a climate vigil while Obama does the 2012 SOTU.”

  8. Roger says:

    I agree with fj3: Tell the gosh darn truth. The S is going to hit the F, and everyone’s going to be saying, “Why didn’t Obama, or the government (our protector), TELL us that climate change was true, urgent and serious?”

    It’s time to stop treating American citizens like spoiled children who must never be told anything they don’t want to hear. Overprotective parents may mean well, but the children so produced are often in for a very rude awakening when they get out into the REAL world. It’s far better to know the truth and survive, than be protected and starve.

    What’s the comparison with the spoiled child here? A multi-billion-fold increase in the sad consequences. Hence the chant, “HEY OBAMA, LEAD THE NATION, GIVE US CLIMATE EDUCATION!” It is totally immoral to continue our ostrich approach this looming crisis. It will NOT go away if we ignore it. Magical solutions are NOT close at hand.

    By hiding the truth, we are daily sinking deeper into the deadly AGW quicksand.

    By telling the truth, FDR-style, we can work together to survive and prosper.

    Do it, Obama. Be the climate hero of all time. Tell it like it is, NOW!

    Billions of humans, animals, plants, etc., are counting on you.

    Most sincerely,

    Roger, friends and family

  9. Leif says:

    Tim Kelly, @5: Can we just show up “virtually” Someplace? Any suggestions? Sign in @ CP?

  10. Roger says:

    Yes, Tim! You said it! (And thanks for your great help on 10-10-10).

    If Obama doesn’t spell things out in his State of the Union Address, we need 350,000+ climate-concerned citizens in front of the White House on 11-11-11. Veterans should LEAD this. And we need to stay there until Obama declares war on climate change.

    It’s time to ACT. There’s been too much talk, too little action. Remember what’s at stake here: a LIVABLE CLIMATE. Forget the carbon footprint of going to DC, if that’s what it takes to send a message. (Or, see my comments on this weekend’s thread about Going the Limit.)

    Calling all climate heroes: Al, Bill, Jim, Joe, Mike, Ted, Rick, Ross…(to name only a few–you know who you are)…

    Let’s roll,

    Roger

  11. “Mention?” Oh I guess that the journey of a thousand miles begins with mentioning the first step.

    We need a fully committed, globally unified campaign. Mentioning it would do much to describe the role of government in our future.

    Climate destabilization and heating will proceed as it must. Mention will do little to stop it.

  12. It’s a marketing problem, and at the moment, the Climate issues are pretty far down on the list. Obama has to prove to Americans that he’s a citizen, right? ;)

  13. Paulm says:

    He should mention it, but keep it a bit low key and use it to prepare for ‘the big one’ which should be soon following on from the unprecedented weather events happening and the more accurate information coming out of the ice melt situation.

    Things have to get going this year. People have to realize there aren’t really any alterntives to attacking this problem head on. which means a radical change to everyones attitude and life style.

    It’s a moral issue…
    http://moralground.com/mission/
    Yes, our lives must be an expression of what we most deeply value.
    Yes, we can and must make conscience-driven choices about how we spend our money and time.
    Yes, we must provide a safe and thriving future for our children.

  14. just another doomer2 says:

    if you haven’t already seen this clip, watch it…Jon Stewart’s review of presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama ALL making the same promises to get off foreign oil…

    “America is an unstoppable oil-dependency breaking machine — unfortunately the machine runs on oil.”

    air date: June 16, 2010
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-june-16-2010/an-energy-independent-future

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Of course Obama ought to launch a wartime effort to avert disaster, or fail heroically in the effort, if only for his own childrens’ sake. But we know that he will not. Obama’s record of service to the money power is unblemished. And as we see from all those establishment figures who do not even mention the greatest peril in human history, the US ruling class is simply uninterested. The real question is not if, or how, by why they act in this omnicidal manner. I think it must either be because they think that they will be dead before trouble really reveals itself, so, ‘Who cares?’. So long as I’m on top while I live. Establishment ‘pundits’ have short life expectancies if they forget their ideological duty-group think rules, OK. Or perhaps the masters somehow think that they will survive the crisis, down their mine-shafts or whatever, and their decendants will emerge, in a millenium or a hundred, to rule over a planet cleansed of ‘useless eaters’. Or perhaps the ruling elites really are as dumb as they look and act. This is a long shot, but, after all, it doesn’t take much wit, just limitless lack of scruple, to steal money from other people, and use some of it to hire thugs (political and the direct dispensers of violence) to eliminate anyone who gets in your way.

  16. Jeff Huggins says:

    President Obama should give this topic (climate change, and also the other compelling reasons to make a transition to clean energy) the time and deep emotional sincerity it deserves, which is substantial. He should mention climate change explicitly, seriously, and several times in that segment of his speech. It IS the largest issue we face in the big-picture scheme of things, and whether or not specific legislation can be enacted this year or next, the point of the State of the Union Address — if words have meaning — is to be honest with the people about our REAL PROBLEMS and our need to face and address them wisely. Period.

    If President Obama does not mention climate change specifically and seriously, someone will need to tell him that he will not be able to expect my vote the next time around.

    Have speeches, and the American Public, and we, become so politicized and tactical and politically correct and all that that we can’t talk honestly to each other and point things out? Are we to perpetuate the habit of not being able to point out, and name, the Big Elephants on the table that too many people want to ignore?

    Here’s a problem too, and a Big One: This weekend’s Open Thread, of course, asks about ways to build a movement. Well, how in the heck can we expect large numbers of people in the public to “get motivated” and build a movement if our President doesn’t get REAL SERIOUS about climate change? And I mean REAL SERIOUS. Indeed, he should plainly admit his deep disappointment at where we presently stand, and underscore the vital importance of getting the ball rolling!! Tell The Truth, dammit. That’s what more people want and that’s what we need. Too much misplaced “caution”, hesitancy, indecision, and etc. Too many political games. Too much listening to pollsters, a good number of whom might not know the truth, or understand its importance, if it pinched their noses.

    If Obama doesn’t mention — and get deeply serious and straight — about climate change in the State of the Union Address, I’ll be at a loss for words, and that will DE-motivate me in terms of my own efforts, my interest in supporting Obama, and indeed my (diminishing) “faith” in the effectiveness of our present movement.

    Sigh,

    Jeff

  17. Tim Kelly says:

    Did anyone happen to notice that the President actually said the words “fighting climate change” in his remarks regarding cooperation with China? He’s almost there, but I’m sure his advisors and new Chief of Staff are counciling him to keep a low profile on the issue.

    In regard to what I said earlier, what would be involved in holding a BIG rally? Would it even be possible to get within sight of the Capitol on SOTU night?

    BTW, Roger, I would add Brian Baird, Bob Inglis and Roscoe Bartlett to your list. I’m sure there are others that I’m not familiar with, but I was very impressed by their thoughtfulness and civility during the “Rational Discussion of Climate Change hearing in November.

  18. Tim Kelly says:

    Leif@9

    I tend to be old school in my thinking, but to me a warm body gets more attention than anything else. When I first contacted my Congressman’s (Jason Altmire) office, his district manager basically asked me to gather proof of how many folks were concerned about AGW. It was clear he wasn’t going to go out on a limb on some moral crusade. But, to his credit, Jason gets it. It’s just that his district is largely composed to less-than-affluent folks for whom bread-and-butter issues are the only issues. What I’m getting at here is that I still think we have to start showing up. If we could arrange an open conference call town hall or something with Obama, that MIGHT work. I’m not as astute as some, I’ll admit. It comes down to money and organization.

    I’m tapped. Anyone?

  19. William P says:

    Notice that to pass muster, all proposals must include some path to profit. A solution not leading to profit will not get heard in America.

    Good example: medical science knows and tells us eating meats, saturated fats, dairy are bad for our health. But do you see any serious government program getting Americans to do this? No, because there is no direct profit in such a course.

    The business of America is business – even when it leads us off the looming cliff of global warming.

  20. Chris Winter says:

    President Obama should definitely mention global warming and climate change in Tuesday’s State of the Union address. The developing situation that impelled him during his campaign to support a cap-and-trade program to reduce America’s carbon emissions by eighty per cent by 2050, that caused him to travel to Copenhagen for the COP15 conference in December 2009, should not be neglected by him now.

    Admittedly (and regrettably), political realities will guarantee that no bold proclamation on this topic will appear. But that does not preclude a recognition of the reality of climate change which ties mitigation measures together with those aimed at achieving energy independence and protecting the environment, as well as creating clean-energy jobs in America.

  21. Solar Jim says:

    I predict President Obama will not mention climate (maybe once) in order to protect himself (who uses a 747 for transport) and all of the fossil/fission technocrats and financiers that he has appointed as some of his key advisers (on behalf of the bankster club of thinkers). He fooled me once. Hope I am wrong. Remember hope.

    Of course, the biogeochemistry of the planet will be the final response, and useless, undefined words will be left blowin’ in the wind.

    The president is great with rhetoric. Policy enacted against the abuses of corporate power, not so much.

  22. Deborah Stark says:

    Yes, Obama should include concrete reference to the current status of pollution-driven climate destabilization in his State of the Union address.

    The forces meticulously arrayed in opposition to problem-solving where this matter is concerned are determined to undermine every single initiative the Obama administration puts forth in the service of the common good and they have made it clear that continued obstructionism will be their prime objective for the foreseeable future.

    What has he got to lose, really? It’s not like he can’t find another job if he isn’t re-elected in 2012.

    He is the one and now is the time.

  23. GreenTip says:

    My uncle works with a man whose son is part of the White House press office. I got connected and asked what would be said about climate in SOTU.

    The word is that Obama is going to focus on jobs and recovery and put the climate issues aside since they aren’t getting cooperation from other countries (China is the big one) in setting and sticking to limits.

    Obama’s plan right now is to stay prez and he can’t get re-elected with the unemployment and economy in the tank.

    This is terrible for our cause! O is like all politicians – they care more about the next election than they do about the planet. I don’t think a rally will do any thing – the die is cast.

  24. Deborah Stark says:

    Re: Post #33 | GreenTip
    January 23, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    …..The word is that Obama is going to focus on jobs and recovery and put the climate issues aside since they aren’t getting cooperation from other countries (China is the big one) in setting and sticking to limits…..

    Yes. Well. I guess as long as we’ve got China doing most of our manufacturing for us there isn’t much chance they’re going to be in a position to accept emissions limits of any significance.

    This is a disgusting state of affairs.

  25. GreenTip says:

    Deborah Stark says: This is a disgusting state of affairs.

    I agree. It gets worse. My contact said their poll numbers show that the climate issue is now a “non starter” (his words to me) compared to other issues and would likely be off the radar until they get the economy back on track.

    Fools.

  26. Ziyu says:

    @14 That was hilarious!

    Obama needs to take the #1 title from Nixon. To reflect that in his SOTU, he should mention removing energy subsidies since that will create a net $45 billion competitive advantage for renewables. Republicans want to reduce oil prices. Obama can easily compromise with them and mandate 50 mpg by 2040 in exchange for removing the moratorium on oil drilling.

  27. Obama and his administration’s inability or unwillingness to speak out about global warming, energy problems, and the world’s rapid despoiling of our planet means that it has become impossible to educate the public on these issues. I am arranging to speak about the seriousness of global warming to our local high school soon. How do I answer their questions about the importance of this issue when the president says nothing, signifying its unimportance? I’ll do my best to plead his political problems, but that excuse is pretty lame and also just implies that his reelection is more important than getting started on combating global warming.

    With the media against us, Republicans against us, and Democrats mostly afraid of speaking the truth, there are almost no role models for our youth other than scientists who try to have high visibility such as Jim Hansen. One politician made a valiant effort, Al Gore. However, his time is past; his great effort almost wasted as a result of the Copenhagen outcome. Obama could be the leader that revives the movement. I doubt it though, mostly because the voting public in November ruined his political opportunities so that now he is fighting for his political life.

  28. Roger says:

    Dear CP readers,

    Despite the above negative comments about the planned SOTUA on Tuesday, we’ve got to maintain hope. Isn’t that why we elected Obama? Will he really sacrifice the climate for political expediency? Doesn’t he have two adorable daughters? Does he really think that the elite will survive unscathed in the starving world that is already foreshadowed?

    Please encourage President Obama to speak out about climate change, both in his SOTU Address, and beyond. Sign the GWEN petition asking Obama to “educate and lead on climate change” at http://www.change.org/global_warming_education_network. Then use Facebook and Twitter to encourage friends and family to do the same. Eaarth’s children, and other living things (even misinformed conservatives), will thank you.

    If everyone in the climate movement would focus ALL of their attention on Obama, especially ALL with the same above message, we would have a good chance to win. He ‘gets’ the science, he just doesn’t get the sense that people care. And why don’t people care? Because if it were really important our president would speak about it! We are in the mother of all Catch 22’s. Someone’s got to break the death spiral trance.

    Warmest wishes,
    Roger

  29. Jim Groom says:

    To quote Bill Clinton ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ The SOTU speech will concentrate on the strange economy of the country. Stocks are doing great as are the corporations. The question on the minds of most is what about the rest of us? Housing is about to tank yet again, oil is kissing $100 a barrel and we still have two wars to borrow money to finance. Unfortunately, for the majority of our fellow citizens the issue of climate change is way-down on their laundry list.

    I sincerely wish the President would come out with a grand statement on climate change and what steps should be taken today to make for a better tommorrow. It won’t happen, but it would be nice. The American people aren’t able to hold more than one thought at a time and with the economy out of order for the overwhelming majority I can’t see much else being looked into. The real problem is that climate change and the economy both require direction change and worst of all spending.

    Taking a look at the makeup of congress new spending will be dead-upon-arrival and his words will fall unheard upon the floor of the assembly. The GOP can’t and won’t go against the wishes of the Tea Party members and special interest who pay to keep the status quo.

    If we are lucky in a couple of years, after buyers remorse sets in…if it does, the people will elect representatives not afraid of science, progress and working for the country. I certainly hope so, but the short-term I see nothing to convince me otherwise.

  30. Roger #28 – thanks for the exhortations. We should ask our president to act strongly.

    But we need to act in every way possible. Because POTUS is not our only salvation. Everything is. We must act individually, in our community, our state, and especially globally. Certainly our federal government must act.

    I invite you to plot out all the ways US citizens can affect our climate future – federal politics is just one way. And it is a horribly over-priced and slow-moving method of affecting change. Maybe even ill suited for addressing this issue. With finite resources and diminishing time, there may be better places to put resources.

    One very important thing to do is get out information. Push the truth. CP does much to get the word out. It fights disinformation. Local governments are pushing for alternative power and other environmental actions. The US government – whether EPA, Supreme Court, Congress, etc… sounds far more obstructionist and obstreperous to smart action. Partisan politics may take sides on science issues, but the science really does not care about partisanship.

    Sounds like you are saying we first we have to build up a stronger government. I can accept that on faith, but I really don’t think we have time to wait for congress to accept science. When is the EPA going to regulate CO2? When will the Supreme Court quit pandering to Koch politics? Just how corrupt will our energy policy be again this time?

    Obama is president already. He can step forward and speak up and do what is right. Right now. I shall be sure to convey my words to him. And everyone should. But I shall also live my faith by working in many other ways too. Some of which seem far more effective.

  31. Barry says:

    Q: Who said: “let me tell you: President Obama does not get it. He and his key advisers are subject to heavy pressures, and so far the approach has been, “Let’s compromise” … Unfortunately, nature and the laws of physics cannot compromise — they are what they are.”

    A: James Hansen.

    When have you heard Obama make a high profile speech on climate threats? What is the likelihood he is going to start now?

    Richard Pauli (#29) is right. Don’t put too many of your eggs in the “politicians will lead the way” basket. We have the most control over our own fossil fuel consumption…followed by local actions…followed by regional actions and finally national action.

    We need to engage in all of them.

  32. richard sequest says:

    What to do about climate change? Here are Obama’s basic options:

    1. Don’t acknowlede the problem
    2. Acknowledge the problem has no solution.
    3. Acknowledge the problem and propose various solutions.

    Of the three options, I favor the third.

    Obviously, Obama doesn’t have enough time and this may not be the best audience to go into detail on all the various solutions.

    I like Joe’s idea, i.e., Obama should promise to veto any bills proposing to cut clean energy funding. And maybe look the camera in the eye and say something like: “America, I won’t stop looking for ways to reduce fossil fuel use to protect our national security, clear our air, and mitigate the liklihood of catastrophic climate change.”

  33. Steven Leibo says:

    I did the local t.v. commentary for his visit to General Electric this last Friday and while he talked about energy and jobs he skipped over everything from climate change to peak oil. Now from my perspective, how can one speak of the possibility of new jobs coming from the conversion to green energy without explaining why we _need_ that clean energy conversion? Without the motivation the argument does not seem to make a lot of sense.

  34. Russ Hailey says:

    I think Obama should introduce Tradeable Energy Quotas (TEQs)for every citizen, now that would put the cat amongst the pigeons.

  35. Tom says:

    i’m convinced that we’re too ignorant as a species to do anything but ruin the only planet that sustains our type of pseudo-sentient life. Our population has overshot the carrying capacity of the planet and now, with the interrelated effects of climate change (flooding, erratic weather and much more making food production difficult and spotty at best), we’re on our way out via a bottleneck event. Those who survive may wish that they hadn’t since the world that’s left will be markedly different and much more difficult to survive in (forget “thrive”).

    Good luck everyone – enjoy the time left.

  36. A face in the clouds says:

    A while back, while writing a short commentary for a web site for C students – my kind – I hesitated to mention Global Warming or its offspring Climate Change for fear some offended readers would stop reading and miss the point. I had simply grown weary of and perhaps a little intimidated by the fear-fed anger these words can incite. I was going to censor myself in anticipation of their response, their empty scoffs, but Global Warming and Climate Change are a matter of fact. So I said/wrote the words matter of factly. There was no blow back and the responses and conversation flowed on as hoped.

    President Obama should do the same thing. The case for Global Warming and Climate Change is settled science, and a clear, common sense pathway out of it has been laid. Let, no, invite and encourage Raush and Fox to huff and puff until their followers realize the science is only being attacked with loud advertising slogans and football cheers.

  37. A face in the clouds says:

    Addendum: The above idea is the very last one in my possession. I have no more. In fact, this is probably little more than a rewrite of my very first idea posted here. I deeply appreciate your patience in allowing me to repost ideas you’ve already thought about and studied throughout your careers, As you know, I was only attempting to reword them for the “ C students” in the audience in hopes they could begin to understand what is happening to our world.

    Godspeed to you all. And if there is a God, please help. We are doing our best…….

  38. Peter M says:

    The President needs to make mention of Climate Change as a problem that is in need of mitigation. He should make clear ‘The Science says we are very likely’ going to face increasing economic and social disruption if nothing is done.

  39. BBHY says:

    Obama should give a separate speech dedicated entirely to climate change.

    First, he should lay out the solidly established scientific facts in a way that most Americans can understand. It’s not that difficult, just don’t speak like a scientist. Then explain what is going to happen if we don’t alter course and do it soon. I wouldn’t even go into the details of how we are going to achieve carbon reduction, we are far from being ready for that discussion. At this point just stick to the science and be very focused on why we know it is caused by humans burning fossil fuels.

    Ok, so I’m saying the POTUS should give an “Inconvenient Truth” style presentation directly to the people. Why not? The Fox News watching crowd would absolutely hate it, but it’s not like those people are ever going to support Obama anyway. Some independents will think he has gone ultra liberal, but down the road they will realize that he was just telling the truth.

    Americans admire people, especially politicians, who are not afraid to stand firm for what they believe in. That’s true even if they don’t share the same beliefs.

  40. Wit's End says:

    Obama should seize the initiative and stop cowering in fear of the corporations.

    This ad from the California Prop 23 campaign has the right approach:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo1wNpza2rM

  41. Oh, shucks, I suppose it would be nice if the US President did touch on the largest and defining issue of our times, in his defining annual speech.

    And meanwhile, out here in the forward niches, let’s keep refining our own perspectives. In the midst of so much accurate thinking, a reaction is compelled by swishy and dangerous statements about “…a biofuels strategy that mixes the unhelpful near-term crop-based biofuels with the helpful but as yet unavailable on a large scale cellulosic stuff…”

    In short… Keep on dreaming! But keep up on the impacts-accounting at the same time.

    Time to replace the biofuels wedge. Instead of free-lunch imaginings around biofuels, consider helping to understand, envision, and ultimately create a climate wedge out of concrete driving reductions via incremental large-scale urban evolution – simply, concentrating new growth for the coming decades into the inner half of each US metropolitan area. Reams and reams of collateral benefits:

    Travel and the Built Environment
    http://www.architectureweek.com/2010/0818/index.html

  42. Sasparilla says:

    A very good post Joe, I do wish he would stand up enough to do what you said.

  43. Jack Frost says:

    Hmm. This is a REALLY tough question. My frozen brain can hardly think!

    Should the president of the US mention the greatest threat to his country and mankind when giving his annual speech to the huddled masses? Hmmmmm.

    Nope. It might frighten people and THEN what would we do? That’s worse.

  44. Michael Tucker says:

    Joe,

    All you say the President should do HE SHOULD!

    I have lowered my expectations to zero. Yes, Mr President all the disappointments have worked!

    He may touch on green jobs but I think we will hear more about “partnership” with China rather than competition. That “partnership” means China does the manufacturing while the US gives up all of our technological advantage (whatever we have left).

  45. Pythagoras says:

    It is apparent to me that Obama’s plan is to get re-elected before tackling climate change. And he needs to build a relationship with the Chinese and bring an international agreement with them forward before any type of political action can occur in Washington DC.

    It would be good though to talk about the financial and security issues associated with importing a significant amount of our oil supply and how government support for energy which which makes us less susceptible to energy cost and supply shocks is important. (Personally, I think that we’ll be seeing high gas prices this summer and it would be more politically expedient to wait until that time to bring forward an energy/climate policy.)

    I’d also think that Obama would do well by stating that policy must be grounded and driven by sound science. This is a statement of principle which is difficult to argue with. It sets the stage for drawing the lines concerning battles around EPA regulation, endangered species act, off shore drilling, etc.

  46. Leif says:

    Flash Mob for Climate Care: What’s say we each post the “White House Contact” link on our FaceBook, Twitter, etc. sites. Ask/admonish, at least 5 people to contact the white house with a short letter requesting a strong GREEN component to the State of the Union Address. And Pass it on. Say 10% of you read this and do it, the first round will bring in over 5,000 emails. Five times over we have over 3 million votes! 6 rounds and we got 15+million virtual heads! Faster than the GOBP can respond?

    We got until tomorrow evening…

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

  47. Rick Covert says:

    He’s got health care reform, Wall Street “reform”, DADT and the START talks done. Wonder what his excuse will be now that Climate Change looms as the largest threat to civilization we’ve ever faced. Maybe he’ll pontificate on unicorn abuse. Seriously though, he should not be afraid to use the term climate change, global warming or severe global climate disruption to describe how we are setting off the experiment to change the earth’s climate. He should announce bold initiatives, not to develop new technology as to rapidly speed up the existing ones like solar-thermal, solar photo-voltaic, wind, efficiency, high-speed rail, electric cars, localization of food production, etc. What has he got to loose? Even when he was slap happily helping the oil and gas industry with the opening up off deep water offshore drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts they still overwhelmingly funded attack ads benefiting the Republicans. So go ahead and make a bold stand because, as he should have long ago figured out, no matter what he does, even if they are Republican proposals, his initiatives will still be called job killing, oops, job destroying proposals.

  48. nz says:

    Russian President Yeltsin talks about recumbent http://youtu.be/FwJ3acaQjDE