Tim Wirth Slams Obama: “I Don’t Know Who and Where the Climate Leadership in the Administration Is. It Doesn’t Exist.”

U.N. Foundation President Tim Wirth told Climate Wire this week that President Obama has a “last window of opportunity” to avert catastrophic climate change — assuming he gets reelected:

“I don’t know who and where the climate leadership in the administration is. It doesn’t exist. There is no resolve in the Obama administration to do anything, and I think they look at Congress and say, ‘We can’t do anything, so why break our pick now?'” Wirth said.

Hey, if the White House waits long enough, all the ice will melt and they won’t need a pick!

He argued that the administration and environmental groups alike must “spend the year 2012 setting the table for the next four years.” Dismissing the possibility of a Republican win in November, Wirth called a second Obama administration term “the last window of opportunity” to enact policies that can avert a catastrophic rise in global temperatures.

“It’s the last chance we have to get anything approaching 2 degrees Centigrade,” he said. “If we don’t do it now, we are committing the world to a drastically different place.”

Obama’s reelection is only at 51.9% on Intrade, so  I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of him losing at all, particularly given how poor the White House had been at messaging on most issues.

It’s also quite interesting that Wirth takes a similar view to Climate Progress on Durban (see “2C or not 2C: That Is the Question About the Durban Deal” and various responses in the comments).  The fault lies not in the negotiators, but in the instructions they had from those in charge:

The former Democratic U.S. senator from Colorado and undersecretary of state for Global Affairs under President Clinton lamented the outcome of this month’s U.N. conference in Durban, South Africa, as doing little to avert catastrophic warming.

But while American negotiators Todd Stern and Jonathan Pershing bore the brunt of international frustration with the United States in Durban, Wirth said the real blame belongs with the Obama administration for casting climate policy adrift. The coming year, both despite and because of the 2012 presidential campaign, he said, will be critical for refocusing White House attention.

“I can’t blame these guys,” Wirth said of Pershing and Stern. “I don’t know what they could have done to do any better without a different political dynamic. They were under very tight instruction.”

Tight instruction to commit to nothing concrete, and in that context, Durban was a success.  The larger failure of Durban lies with self-destructive US politics and Chinese non-wisdom.

Wirth, meanwhile, from his perch at the influential U.N. Foundation offered the Obama administration a laundry list of political and substantive solutions.

Topping the list, he said, was “clarifying” public opinion on climate change and identifying different political constituencies on climate action — ones he delineated as: “big committed,” “probably,” “not really paying attention,” “couldn’t care less” and “it’s all a big fraud.” He called for a series of strategies related to climate science as well as finding new ways to energize the 60 to 65 percent of Americans he claimed are in favor of taking significant steps to address climate change….

“We have to get the administration to talk about this during the campaign. He’s [Obama] got to have the right language for this. It’s got to be made a priority, and he’s got to talk about it on a steady basis,” Wirth said. “There’s no magic moment, and there’s no magic bullet, just basic coalition-building. It’s hard work and it’s very tedious, but this is the last window of opportunity.”

Hear!  Hear!

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55 Responses to Tim Wirth Slams Obama: “I Don’t Know Who and Where the Climate Leadership in the Administration Is. It Doesn’t Exist.”

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks, Tim Wirth, we’ve been wondering the same thing ourselves.

    Secretary Chu showed signs of life early on, but lately it’s been the false equivalence of Salazar fighting for more drilling and Chu touting clean energy. Unfortunately, Chu throws bones to gas, nuclear, and even dirtier fuels in his Revkinesque “full menu” approach. Someone must have sent him the memo in 2009, but that won’t get it done. And Holdren, less powerful in any case, has been quiet lately.

    Obama, for whatever reason, is not going to champion this cause. Gore is out of power, and has been falsely (and successfully) turned into a curio by the right wing media.

    It’s a huge void. A Senator or Governor will have to step up, as Swartzenegger did, but so far they are all sitting on the sidelines, huddling with their own Axelrods and 1% friends.


  2. Sasparilla says:

    Very well said by Mr. Wirth, exceptionally bleak outlook as well.

    Reflecting back I could not have imagined we’d be where we are now with the Obama administration prior to the 2008 election…its hard to comprehend the duplicity between campaign commitments (on climate change action) and policy actions we’ve lived through these last 3 years.

  3. With the current congress Obama could beat himself bloody trying to get something done and nothing would happen.
    Obama is not the problem. The electorate is.
    We, the people, must elect representatives that live in the real world… a world that is telling us loud and clear that civilization as we know it is at risk!

  4. Obama’s failure on climate speaks directly to the extraordinary power the fossil fuel sector and its allies at the US Chamber of Commerce wield as Joe has noted many times. That said this may be a watershed moment in US democracy: Can Obama win by making climate change a central piece of his campaign? (Of course he’d have to veto Keystone to have an credibility – that could be the pivotal moment).

  5. fj says:

    We are on the front-end of climate chaos right now and no matter how fast we act we are headed for some scary times.

    We need someone to steer us through this mess.

  6. Ernest says:

    True. Obama could show more leadership on the climate issue. But even if he did, it won’t go very far in the present environment. He couldn’t even get his own jobs bill through.
    The *system* is seriously broken.

  7. wvng says:

    Expanding on what Ernest said, the system is seriously broken. And it’s not just a problem with republicans. Mike above talked about “the Revkinesque “full menu” approach.” In an ideal world, that might not be necessary. But in the world we have, every single legislator in an energy state, R or D, demands a cut for their industry in exchange for a positive vote. Add to that the simple fact that no republicans, zero, will vote for anything on climate, or even allow a bill to be debated, what exactly can the president do? Not in your magical wishing approach to governing, but in the system as it exists, with the legislators that we have.

    I will agree that he could talk about it more, but I really doubt that the bully pulpit has the power you all seem to think it has. This administration has an amazing number of serious problems to confront and an opposing party that will oppose everything they try to do – even the jobs act that was about as centrist as it could possibly have been.

    What the administration has been able to do, in the green energy and energy conservation sphere, is a big deal. Not a big enough deal by far, but bigger than anyone did before by far.

    I don’t suggest that the problem isn’t our biggest threat, but most people don’t and won’t see it that way until it is too late. The press that Obama would get if he made this a prime issue would be scathing; I’ll bet every one of the commenters here could write the headlines.

  8. RH factor says:

    The only leadership on this issue and yes unfortunately this is as well likely timid in comparison as to whats needed is in Vermont with Governor Peter Shumlin. He seems to have the —— to get in their and lead and he does it in a can do way. Most of the rest of government as I see it is a colossal failure with sprinkled fairy dust and lots of “oh we’ll get to that. All should be held accountable looking back 25 year from now. Why are not our young people rioting over this? It is their world being literally ripped off???

  9. TKPGH says:

    Our hope lies with the growing number of groups who are working to kill the money that permeates politics, like Public Citizen, United Republic/Get Money Out and others. They are all are fighting that damned corporate cash. Everyone needs to be talking to everyone else right now.

    We can still turn this around. Science Debate is back for another go-round, pushing for an honest debate on America’s scientific future. The anti-corruption groups are making alliances and gathering steam (Get Money Out has over a quarter million supporters). The showdown will take place during this election. Either Obama steps up and does the right thing (make the climate and oceans crisis a campaign issue) or we all go down together.

    Theoretically, there has to be a sufficient shift in the politics such that I denialist can’t end up President. It’s as much a character issue as anything else and could be a big plus for Obama, if he were to grow some and confront the issue. I’ll be on the commment line next week, for sure.

  10. Donald Brown says:

    As a close follower of the climate negotiations since they began before Rio in the late 1980s, I am startled how few people know that not only has the US failed to lead recently, but that the US has consistently been a barrier to serious international emissions reductions for well over 20, years. I wrote a book almost 12 years ago, American Heat, Ethical Problems with the United States Response to Climate Change which rigorously tracked the role of the US in first decade. Nothing has changed. Although Obama takes some credit for Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban, (and implicitly argues that his administration is doing the best it can given what is politically feasible in the United States, which may be true) what is politically possible in the United States has included that the US need not commit to reduce its emissions unless China and India commit. As I have explained in, any nation exceeding its fair share of safe global emissions may not ethically use as an excuse that it need not reduce its emissions until other nations that are exceeding their fair share of safe emissions agree to reduce their emissions. The Obama administration, by accepting the idea that the US need not commit until China and India commit, although may be a position that meets the current political reality, is a position about which US leadership is urgently needed to change what is politically feasible. Obama has bought into a deeply ethically problematic position and for that reason should not only limit its approach to what is currently politically feasible but must articulate reasons for why the current level of what is politically feasible must be changed for the US to live up to its responsibilities. The climate leadership we need must acknowledge that the United States has been a huge problem in finding a global solution to climate change. This leadership must help Americans understand that this failure is due largely to fossil fuel and radical right wing ideological opposition to meaningful climate change policies. And so, Obama is failing with several aspects of leadership that include not only convincing Americans that it is in their national self-interest to reduce its emissions, but also to help Americans understand that the US has duties and obligations to poor vulnerable people around the world, responsibilities that the US has been horribly failing for two decades.

    Donald Brown, Associate Professor, Environmental Ethics, Science and Law, Penn State

  11. Sasparilla says:

    TKPGH, I think you’re right – the re-election money machine that is totally corrupting our Federal Politics needs to be eliminated.

    As for Obama stepping up and making climate and oceans a campaign issue – he did that in 2008 (one of 3 prime issues for him) and then in 2009 he approved the first two large scale tar sands pipelines from Canada which are in operation now – while he might get some mileage from the issue if he mentions it, I wouldn’t expect any different behavior once elected. Obama will just be the lesser of two evils when compared to the Republican option on the issue of climate change.

    The only real issue (from the candidates perspective), I think, for 2012 will be fixing the economy….any straying off into the weeds of climate change or much else and any candidate in 2012 would be ripped apart by his or her foes in our infotainment news world.

  12. Peter Mizla says:

    Sorry for my other error riddles post.
    Obama is no different then other President we had during the last 30 years of the 20th century or those during the first decades of this century.

    Most have been vain, egocentric, and searching for a ‘legacy’ at the peak of America’s 2nd Gilded age.

    Those expecting anything more from Obama are naive.In the future Obama’s denial, and dismissal of AGW will be impossible.

  13. Ernest, wvng:

    Obama’s real enemies aren’t the denialists; his real enemies are the iron-clad laws of physics that govern all of us. The laws of physics don’t negotiate; they don’t respond to spin; and they don’t care what your intentions are.

    By putting himself against the laws of physics, Obama is destroying the future environment of his children and his possible grandchildren.

    Really, if you knew that what’s at stake is the very climate your children and grandchildren will live in, what will you do? Will you not strive to do everything in your power to ensure security and stability for your future generations, even if it means moving entire mountains?

    Or will you throw up your hands, give up, and not even try? And what will you say to your children? ‘Sorry, my dear kids, I had to let you live in a crappy climate with all sorts of heatwaves, snowstorms, hurricanes, and stuff, because I was afraid that if I tried to do anything the press would be bombarding me to no end’?

    It’s time for Obama to do the right thing: align himself with the laws of physics. There is no other way.

    — frank

  14. TKPGH says:


    Maybe I’m just out of touch, but I think that if he put a Kennedy-like vision out there and stuck to it, Obama could come out on top. Remember who he’s up against: a collection of complete climate cowards who don’t have the courage or character to stand up to the Tea Party (let alone sit in the big chair). I’ve said it before: we can out-vision these losers on a bad day (think Reinventing Fire).

    At any rate, here (with your permission, Joe) is the link to the Get Money Out web site:

    They are pushing to double the number of supporters they have. I request that those reading this sign on.

    Best to all. May the god Tesla bless your driveway on Sunday morning.

  15. with the doves says:

    Sure the system is dysfunctional. But it doesn’t follow that the president has to be quiet. He should make the case.

  16. Sasparilla says:

    Very well said Mr. Brown – I’ve often thought it would be better if the US wasn’t involved in them at all (so far), we’ve been a force for destruction in them.

    As is recently shown by the Obama administration vociferously fighting the application of European carbon penalties to all airlines for flights into and out of Europe (on the order of $15 – $25 a ticket) – its quite obvious that the Obama administration doesn’t care for climate change action at all. The administration’s approval of 2 large Canadian tar sands pipelines shortly after taking office show this as well. They talk as though they want to do things, but their actions (even when they control all the handles and aren’t beholden to congress) are quite different from the talk.

  17. Mike Roddy says:

    The US blames China and India, and they likewise blame us. What’s really happening is that fossil fuel interests in each country are finding scapegoats for strangling their own governments- along with the world’s creatures.

  18. Sasparilla says:

    I’d sure like to see him succeed with such a strategy as well, but seems like we’d need a different person to run with that (based on Obama’s actions over the years).

  19. Then it’s time to ‘simply’ find that different person to run for President — to run, if not now, then 4 years down the road.

    — frank

  20. Donald Brown, that is a superb ethical summary.

    Government now deals us a hyper-risky hand in refusing to protect citizens from blunder and folly. We can blame business for promoting and blame ourselves for putting up with it.

    As things progress – or decline – people will continue to lose respect for the federal government. How will governments help their citizens? This leads to a climate driven balkanization.

    The actions we take now will affect us decades from now. Our carbon combustion today sets down the severity of the climate warming in the next few decades.

    We are on track for catastrophe – all we can do now is work to adapt and mitigate to a degree allowing some to survive.

    As citizens, what is our ethical obligation?

  21. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Chomsky and Nader, amongst others, predicted Obama’s behaviour precisely, simply by looking at his record. It was plain, too, from what was known of his rich Chicago ‘patrons’, how he would behave. I’m always left perplexed by the sight of rational US citizens who seem to actually believe that their corrupt, money-driven, one party state (that of the 0.01%)can ever deliver any result but that a creature owned and controlled by the money power will sit on the throne, and implement his or her masters’ commands.

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The same duplicity is manifest in every area, without exception. A worse President, in my opinion, than GW Bush, if only for the betrayal.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    What is needed is for humanity to save itself, which requires removing those impediments to action that include the business ‘community’ (a ‘community’ in the same way Mafia gangs are ‘families’)the political caste, the Rightwing MSM, and the Dunning-Kruger rabble. A cakewalk, really!

  24. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    If Obama really appreciated the existential danger and was determined to do his bit to save humanity, he would speak of this every day, and push the Repugnants and Big Business every inch of the way. And to Hell with the MSM propaganda system. But he does nothing but roll over, again and again. Why can people not acknowledge the reality of what Obama really stands for?

  25. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Ridding the US or any other capitalist system of the money power of Big Business would require a revolution. Dreams of politely asking for ‘reform’ and it being granted are delusions. The owners of society will resist, violently, any attempt to reduce their power, or indeed any attempt to stop their power from growing ever greater at the expense of the rest of humanity. There is only one way out of this fatal impasse, and it’s a rocky road and a bumpy ride to say the least.

  26. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Every report on climate negotiations, at Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban and before, from environmentalists in the poor world that I have seen singles the US out as the greatest obstacle and the most perfidious saboteur of negotiations. I do not, naturally, believe a word of the reports from Western MSM sources. Austr-failure has been a servile ally to the US in these efforts (as in all things) despite occasional desultory efforts at PR obfuscation and posturing.

  27. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I agree entirely, and see Obama being viewed, during our brief posterity, as the greatest confidence trick, up to that time, pulled on the more rational and humane elements of US society.

  28. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Four years is too late. They’ll just find a new Obama shyster clone. For the sake of humanity, US and other, get rid of him next year!

  29. Ernest says:

    I’m not saying Obama should not try. Nobody is saying that here. Besides the laws of physics, he has the “laws” of politics, the laws of economics, electoral math, …

  30. Dave Gardner says:

    Many good points made above, but I’m afraid the bottom line is Obama, like most of our growth-obsessed culture, is not willing to give up economic growth in order to reduce emissions. Without economic growth, he loses his job. That’s too bad, because – as David Brower wrote, “there is no business to be done on a dead planet.”

    Dave Gardner
    Director of the new documentary,
    GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth

  31. Rick says:

    Given that Obama’s re-election prospects are in serious doubt (especially if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee) and that the 2012 presidential will likely be an extremely close race, what is the climate movement to do?
    I’ve yet to hear any of the leaders of any of the major climate activist groups directly address this question. While we absolutely have to push on our leaders to make change happen (as has been happening with Keystone XL), how can we afford to not re-elect Obama, especially if this next presidential term is our last window of opportunity? What would a President Romney, who would be as completely beholden to the Tea Party wing of the GOP as Speaker Boehner is, do about climate? Nothing, if anything he’d take us backwards. So, as much as it galls me to say it, how can talk of not raising money or turning out voters for Obama be countenanced? How can we do anything but do everything in our power to re-elect Obama? The system is surely broken, but we can’t scrap the federal government or pretend it doesn’t exist. The only institution with the power to spur the change we need at the pace we need it is the federal government. How can we allow the denialist Republican Party to completely control it and to completely extinguish any hope we have of averting catastrophic climate change?

  32. B Waterhouse says:

    Exactly. We have zero hope if Obama is not re-elected. Once the election is over he and we can push hard for substantial progress. But we need a Democratic Congress to do anything important.

  33. Roger Shamel says:

    Fantastic post, Joe! And many superb comments.

    This topic should be the focus if ever increasing attention as we roll through the next ten months or so until Election Day.

    I’m encouraging everyone who will listen that our last best two chances of pulling this slow motion climate catastrophe out of the fire are the following:

    1) We convince the leaders of climate-concerned countries to ramp up economic incentives for non-concerned countries to comply; and/or

    2) We convince Obama for America that Obama can virtually guarantee his re-election by carefully crafting a talk explaining the fabulous opportunities for American jobs that will come from ‘going with the climate science’ that all of the GOP candidates have rejected.

    Please support this idea for a presidential climate talk by calling the White House Comment Line, 9-5, M-F, at 202-456-1111, and/or by ‘liking’ the idea at

    Many thanks to Joe and all CP-ers!

    With warm holiday wishes,

  34. Roger Shamel says:

    Here’s my letter to the White House, FWI’sW, sent in reply to their reply (shown below) to a comment that I’d made earlier about the need for Obama to veto the KXL Pipeline:

    Dear President Obama staff,

    Thank you for your reply. It is much appreciated–especially on Christmas Eve Day.

    Please be sure to address the climate issue change during the State of the Union Address. (Vetoing the Keystone XL Pipeline could be a logical footnote to these remarks.)

    There’s lots of speculation, among those of us who understand the existential threat of climate change, about whether President Obama is overestimating or underestimating the threat of climate change. Either one is essentially not good for the future of our country. If he’s overestimating the problem, then he doesn’t understand the ability of humans to pull together to solve seemingly impossible problems. If he’s underestimating the problem, then we are losing valuable time in getting started on solving a problem that daily becomes more difficult, and that could go beyond a point where we have a chance.

    Recent polls show that scientists have 4X the credibility of Congress among Americans. These same polls show that President Obama has 2X the credibility of Congress, and that the credibility of the media, and the weather people, is on a par with Congress. For information on these polls, and also on the high percentage (75) of Americans who are open-minded and looking for answers about climate change, and also on how to frame a climate change message, and on how to deal with climate deniers, please see:

    With the combined credibility of the President, plus the credibility of scientists, plus his access to the world’s best staff members, President Obama should be confident that he will be able to blow away the inevitable negative comments that may follow his speaking about climate. In fact, the negative comments should be anticipated in the remarks that the president makes, pointing out that there is still a lot of money favoring the profitable current situation for the fossil fuel companies, and that is in fact why there are so many confusing statements being made: they’re paid for by the industry that benefits.

    Our country became a superpower by investing in science (remember going to the moon?). Science must continue to guide us, especially when it relates to climate change!

    One added benefit: Going with the science can assure Obama’s beating Romney!

    Merry Christmas,
    Roger Shamel

    FYI, My reply was in response to this e-mail:

    Dear Friend:

    Thank you for writing. President Obama has heard from many Americans concerning the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project, and we appreciate hearing from you.

    The President is committed to creating the most open and transparent Government in American history, and values your input. Given your interest in this matter, you may be interested in reading a recent official White House response to a petition on this issue. To learn more, please visit:

    Thank you, again, for writing.


    The White House

  35. Spike says:

    In Europe we have our crazies but there are relatively few politicians who stand on the completely ignorant, cynical, mendacious and criminal denial standpoint that is mainstream Republicanism. I guess that is because public opinion in Europe is less polarised on the issue, although the UK has some denialist tradition, and on the whole leaders even from the far right like Thatcher have tended to accept the science and lead on it. here’s what Thatcher was saying 21 years ago:

    So I think your electorate needs someone who can stand up and convince them of the truth and urgent necessity for action in a similar way. Who???

  36. Belgrave says:

    Not only the US:

    I know that Ed Milliband’s opinion has been disputed but he strikes me as one who “gets it” in as much as any politician does. This is his take:

    The brutal fact is that nation states – all of them – will always and only act in their own self-interest.

  37. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    I’m one who believes we have no choice but to re-elect Obama, then force him to act. And speaking of action (addressing those who apologize on BHO’s behalf, stating that congressional Republican intransigence makes action impossible) does not the EPA still have the authority to regulate CO2 emissions as with any other pollutant? If I remember correctly, such action was delayed by BHO – not abdicated.

  38. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    I was brought up on a diet of “Truth, Justice and the American way” and I believed.
    I listened to “Yes we can” and I believed.

    Now I realise “Yes we can” was actually “Yes we can, but we ain’t gunna”. Was Bush Jr actually worse than Obama in actions. Who approved the most new drilling?

    Now we have the choice: The republicans who say climate change is not real, or the republican who says it is a big problem and does absolutely nothing about it.

    I was so enthused by the appointment of Stephen Chu and John Holdren. As for “we achieved what we could” who knows. All that I know is that no one tried very hard.

    When George Carlin spoke of the illusion of choice I though it was funny, but over the top. Somehow now it seems more acute observation, rather than funny. Looks like Noam Chomsky was right: the United States is a one party state with two factions.

    Has the United States become the sort of nation the Founding Fathers were so desperate to avoid?

    Me twisted and bitter?

  39. John McCormick says:

    Rick and B.

    Appreciate your comments on how serious will be our challenge if President Obama is not re-elected. But, that is only half the fight between now and November.

    The Senate has 23 Dems up for re-election and 6 will be open seats. Rethugs have only 10 thugs up for re-election. We must hold onto the Senate and a huge turn out for President Obama will assure those voters will also vote for Democratic Senate candidates. I cannot stress this enough.

    Yes, Senator Wirth has expressed his frustration with the President but did not put enough emphasis on our responsibility to give President-elect Obama a Congress with which he can work.

    Rick, you are correct that the big green seem to be more in a bitching mood than in a battle ready mood to take back the House and keep the Senate.

    Elections and our votes have serious consequences. It is not all about the bully pulpit. It is also about the Legislative branch doing the right things for our children’s future.

    The Occupy folks would be legendary if they turn their efforts towards turning around the treasonous efforts of rethug governors and state legislature blocking and preventing people from voting. This is a five alarm fire we have to fight and it will take all of us shutting off our tirade against President Obama and giving him the tools he’ll need to turn the US climate policy around 180 degrees; else our planet’s mean average temperature could run away and…….

  40. John McCormick says:

    Rabid, I look for your comments on every thread because I always agree with you. And, on this comment, I partially agree.

    But, for the sake of all we are working for, don’t discourage anyone from voting for President Obama. Every person who voted for him in 2008 then stays home in 2012 is a lost vote to flip the House and hold onto the Senate.

    We can bitch and moan but we have to vote for Democrats next November.

    Remember when Ralph Nader said there was no difference between Gore and Bush? Well, we found out there was a grand canyon of difference, didn’t we? Three trillion dollar wars, 4,500 soldiers killed. Nearly 40,000 seriously wounded. You know the rest.

    Please don’t give anyone a reason not to vote for Obama. It is a matter of life and death, for our children, that we not lose the White House and Senate.

  41. John McCormick says:

    Mulga, from time to time, I find your comments over the top.

    “For the sake of humanity, US and other, get rid of him next year!”

    is a threat to make our worst nightmares come alive. A rethug, House, Senate and White House will become America’s firing squad. You won’t incur their wrath. We Americans will.

    You are not close enough to the nervous politics here in America. Many millions of us are at the breaking point. And, I’m not referring to the middle class.

  42. Why would you expect anything more than a lukewarm response to Obama’s call for re-election? He has inspired no activists, roused no spirits, issued no battle-cries. His administration’s speeches are as the glitzy, bland, and politically safe brochures of a marketroid.

    True leadership, true energy, can only come from outside the official political structure. But who will provide it? Not Gore, not McKibben, not Romm. Hansen might be a good leader, but I think he prefers to do science.

    — frank

  43. fj says:

    exactly, and we must raise the pressure considerably; even-more-so if the dems sweep the house; they, must know that they are being held accountable.

  44. Rick says:

    To John and B,
    I would be curious as to what both of you think regarding the allocation of resources for the 2012 cycle, both for “Big Green” and the activist groups.

    Barring some tectonic shift, there’s no chance of taking the Senate (meaning getting to 60),and given that the Dems are defending twice as many seats, even staying above 50 in the hopes of filibuster reform will be a challenge.

    It seems to me that given that the presidential will drive turnout on the down-ballot races (as John pointed out),and given that the executive branch can make some progress through regulations, bolstering the Obama campaign even at the expense of some Senate campaigns would be better than the converse (focusing on the Senate, which Sierra Club’s Michael Brune has threatened, but losing the presidency).

    Therefore, it would seem to make the most sense to focus limited resources on the presidential.

    This wouldn’t mean shunting all resources to the Obama campaign. That wouldn’t be practical, and it might be the case that some of the congressional races could excite much more energy.

    But the presidency is the bulwark. It cannot be lost, no matter what happens in the House and Senate, because the president can make limited progress independent of Congress and he can block the worst excesses of a Congress that could well have one or both chambers controlled by the GOP.

  45. John McCormick says:

    fi, there is need for a huge dose of political reality here. To begin, see the margin the rethugs enjoy in the House.

    Party Divisions

    242 Republicans
    192 Democrats
    0 Independents
    1 Vacancies

    Now, imagine the Kochs willing to give up that advantage. Not. They will pay a king’s ransom to keep control of the House. I’m talking tens of millions of dollars to rethug candidates.

    When the votes are counted and rethugs hold the House, Boehner is history as Speaker. Eric Cantor will win that vote in the 113th. Take that to the bank!

    If the rethugs take the Senate with its 23 Dem seats up for re=election and 6 of those seats are open elections while the rethugs have only 10 up of re=election McConnell will be challenged in his bid to succeed Reif if the rethugs take the Senate. Who will be a top contender? Try Jim DeMint! Huh!

    Losing the White House means Cantor and DeMint will be sending the rethug in the Oval office the most vile and repulsive Congressional Acts you could ever imagine.

    Stop and think what you are saying. In fact any of the CP readers who believe the gods will be kind to us do not have a clue how much the Kochs want to win it all!

    Wake up and smell the ugly reality of a rethug sweep of Senate and White House. Will you wish that on your children?

    I am relentless on this theme. Vote for Democratics and drag anyone you know along with you. We have everything to lose if the rethugs win..

  46. John McCormick says:

    Rick, we have a huge responsibility to get every thinking person to register and vote for President Obama; we can safely assume any vote for Obama will automatically include votes for Democratic candidates on the ballot.

    But, rethug govs and State legislatures are creating statutory barriers to many millions of potential voters by requiring all sorts of identification documents; some of which are with costs unemployed and impoverished Americans may not be able to afford…if they even know the documents will be required to vote.

    So, in addition to getting the vote out, we will also have to overturn those treasonous regulations that would deny potential voters to exercise their constitutional right.

    These tasks are beyond the resources of the big greens to accomplish but they are vital to getting their membership to volunteer time and resources to the Democratic National Committee, labor unions and all liberal, progressive groups dedicated to preserving America’s commitment to standing with the 99 percent.

  47. R Shamel says:

    Thanks for sharing these inputs.

    It’s Obama’s job to inform misinformed Americans that AGW is real, and that it deserves our urgent attention–both to capture the opportunities, and to avoid the worst consequences.

    Obama can break us out of our denial trance. People want to know what’s going on. They can’t believe that anything very important could be happening as long as the president ignores it. His silence enables denial.

    When 9.7 out of 10 climate scientists agree about the guts of what’s happening, Obama should be able to figure out a way to get a workable message out to our citizens about a problem/opportunity of this magnitude.

    This should happen ASAP. Obama’s SOTU address in January would be perfect. Time’s running out and most Americans don’t even know that the clock is ticking. It’s sad!

  48. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    I agree, but without any enthusiasm. I do not want war with Iran, the results would disastrous.

  49. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    John (see below) I assume that a Repugnant could be marginally worse, but I’m not advocating for them. Either a Democrat insurgency or a Green/Third Party candidate of distinction, is my idea. It has got to the point of desperate measure- what do you call them- ‘Hail Mary passes’? I do know that I am convinced that Obama, particularly if the Democrats suffer further defeats in Congress, with no further election to face, will be worse than the last four years. I’m sorry if you think that extreme, but it is my rational calculation of the probabilities.

  50. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You’re correct Rabid. As Nader said, on election night, of the prospects for an Obama Presidency, ‘Prepare to be disappointed’. Working from first principles we know that no-one even gets within coo-ee of the Presidency who is not 100% under the control of Big Business. Then we had Obama’s record up to November 2008, which Nader and Chomsky and others had obviously studied not through rose-tinted glasses. Then we have the Presidential record, from the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff, up to the present day.
    I feel like a misanthrope, a pessimist, a party-pooper, whatever, but I’m convinced that Obama has been a deliberate ploy, that leaves decent, sane, rational US voters up a cul-de-sac. Vote for a man with a record that, in truth, is worse than GW Bush’s, or the Repugnant boogey-man will get you. Of course the boogey-man exists and is a monster of irrationality, ignorance and obscurantism, but the alternative is not what he pretends, at election time, to be. The Trojan Obama is filled with 1%ers every bit as dangerous as those that more openly support his ‘rivals’. Time to strike out in new directions.

  51. FedUpWithDenial says:

    Today’s rapid climatic warm-up is the most intensively investigated phenomenon in the history of science. The cause is known, as is the corrective. Failure to act is fatal. Yet with time fast running out, much of the world remains stuck in the paralyzing grip of ignorance and denial. This is nowhere so true as in the United States, where the public’s ignorance of science has set it up to be massively manipulated by fossil-fuel interests and the political will to deal with the problem seems to be entirely lacking.

    For that reason, as things stand, probably nothing short of congressional housecleaning by emergency exercise of Executive Branch power, backed by the U.S. Military, can soon put America in a position to make the sustained World-War-II-scale effort necessary to comprehensively deal with global climate destabilization and related serious ecological issues. These include the environmental, social, and economic problems that a century and more of exploding population, unregulated economic expansion, mindless “growth for growth’s sake,” pollution, reckless over-exploitation of natural resources, and runaway fossil-fuel-addiction have brought on. Strong U.S. action at home could supply the leadership to knit together a global alliance that genuinely addresses these problems. After that, we can set about re-establishing democratic institutions on a firmer, fairer basis.

    We can’t wait for America’s voters to demand action on this front. Not only is time for action perilously short, but the populace as a whole entirely fails to recognize that a “business as usual” scenario of allowing carbon emissions to go uncontrolled is a disaster scenario. A deadly mix of voter apathy, fickleness, credulousness, ignorance, delusion, toxic ideology, and sheer self-destructiveness now threatens whatever remains of the American political system, severely weakened by the excesses and underhanded manipulations of the Far Right and further compromised by a vast influx of hidden special-interest money after the highly prejudicial 5-4 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the infamous Citizens United case—along with Bush v. Gore possibly the worst in the last hundred years of the Court’s checkered history.

    That’s not to say that a certain percentage of the Country’s people have not always (as everywhere in the world) been somewhat stupid, but today’s imbecilities equal or exceed the worst stupidities we have seen in the past. Collective delusions from birtherism and global-warming denial to ObamaCare Death Panels and imagined apocalyptic end-of-world scenarios are or recently have been rampant in the popular culture. The cultivation of ignorance has become a national pastime, with know-nothingism being the preferred state of mind for many. The proverbial “dumbing-down of America” is a fact.

    Now with the Republican constituency in Congress almost completely brain-dead, the nation’s highest court oblivious of long-established tradition and precedent due to the Right-leaning prejudices of a handful of radical conservative activist judges, and “We the People” for the most part incapable of exercising their responsibility to elect reality-oriented senators and representatives, ample rationale exists for a super ordinate authority to step in and forcefully take charge.

    That authority can only be the office of the President, with full backing from the Cabinet and Executive Branch: the departments of Defense, State, Interior, Justice, Energy, and Homeland Security in particular, along with the leadership of other relevant federal agencies—the Secret Service, CIA, FBI, NSA, EPA, and FEMA. Equally necessary is the support of the active armed services, beginning with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and continuing down through the Pentagon hierarchy to rank-and-file military officers, including field-level commanders and the personnel within elite units of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.

    That’s more or less what you’re going to need on your side if you’re the President of the United States and you’re seriously aiming to redirect the course of the Country onto a secure progressive path. Among other things, you’ve got to corral the out-of-control Right wing while quashing potential revolts from extremist militias, domestic terrorists, the Texas National Guard, mutinous Army units, and just plain ordinary citizens who are hopping mad. You’ll have to use federal emergency powers at least as liberally as FDR and Abraham Lincoln did. Congress and the courts might not agree, but in the end he who controls the military calls the shots.

    Dangerous steps? Yes. The only thing more dangerous is not to take these steps while we still can. If we wait until the inevitable end-game has begun—when successive climate-related disasters may already have flooded our coasts, torched a dozen U.S. states from Texas and Oklahoma westward, turned the Mississippi and Ohio River Valley regions into one vast inland sea, incinerated our breadbaskets, destroyed much of the nation’s infrastructure, and choked off domestic food supplies—it will be too late. For then, obviously, our society will be in terminal collapse, not just dire economic straights, and chaos will follow.

    We’re already in dire economic straights—and worse, a large minority of the population together with virtually the entire Republican Party appears to have completely lost its mind.

    Note that the ability of the military command structure to deal directly and forcibly with truly extraordinary threats by extraordinary means when and where truly necessary is the fundamental reason why we have a military, and a President as Commander-in-Chief.

    This is cutting the Gordian knot, of course, but such a command structure, temporarily bypassing existing democratic institutions, may be our last or only hope. The idea of spending years patiently trying to untangle this particularly vexing Gordian knot in a “nice” way which doesn’t disturb the status quo—i.e., without raising serious alarm, abandoning polite decorum (which now restrains loud or riotous acts of civil disobedience and prevents climate scientists and other official witnesses from getting mad as hell in congressional hearing rooms, for example), violating laws and/or customary “rules of the game,” or hurting anybody’s feelings—is worse than merely silly; it is practically a guaranteed recipe for disaster and defeat.

    Whatever the outcome of this drastic action, the Nation and the world would probably be far better off in the long run than if the present paralysis and inability to deal with the warming crisis were allowed to continue. I have outlined only the obvious or blunt-force approach, and it may be that a subtler and more sensitive approach that is less upsetting to the status quo, like Bill McKibben’s at, will work better—assuming it can be made to work quickly. The problem is that we are running out of time.

    We have reached the point where—without too much more foot-dragging—decisive, unified global action to deal with the impending disaster of runaway global warming must be forthcoming. Continued delay is not acceptable.

    DEFINITION/runaway global warming: similar to a runaway locomotive accelerating down a mountainside, this refers to the situation, expected within the next decade or two under a business-as-usual scenario, where the climate changes humans have initiated with fossil CO2 emissions are no longer under human control but are being driven by amplifying feedback processes. These include the water-vapor feedback, which adds ever-larger amounts of heat-trapping steam to the global atmosphere as the rate of evaporation from warming oceans goes up; rising levels of planetary solar-energy absorption due to shrinking polar ice caps; accelerating greenhouse-gas release from dying forests as drought-driven wildfires and warming-driven insect infestations rage; and detonation of the high-latitude “carbon time-bomb” (clathrate-gun effect) due to permafrost melting on land and warming-driven destabilization of frozen methane hydrates on the seafloor. All but the last of these potent feedbacks have already clearly kicked into action—while the clock on the carbon time-bomb nervously ticks down—but the effects are not yet powerful enough to take over and drive the warming on their own; when they are, the process will be entirely out of our control.

  52. FedUpWithDenial says:

    In the interest of avoiding possible confusion, it is worth noting that runaway global warming is not the same as what is called “the runaway greenhouse,” when the entire World Ocean boils and carbonate rock in the earth’s crust decomposes to liberate vast additional quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (the Venus Syndrome). Nevertheless, runaway global warming is the royal road to the runaway greenhouse (aka the “greenhouse catastrophe”), the one being potentially self-limiting and the other not. (Mathematically, the distinction between the two is equivalent to that between a convergent sequence, which has a limit, and a divergent sequence, which has no limit—sort of like the difference between losing your balance and sliding or tumbling some distance down a steep mountainside as opposed to falling off a cliff. It’s actually a razor-sharp distinction. For example, if you take a real number x between 0 and 1 and use it to create an infinite exponential tower, the sequence of numbers you get with successive [from the top down] steps of this exponentiation process will converge to a definite real value if and only if x is less than or equal to the transcendental eth root of e, 1.444667861009766133658339108596…. Otherwise, the sequence will diverge and run away to infinity.) Thus, an extended but self-limited episode of runaway global warming might merely return the earth to the ice-free state and extinguish H. sapiens along with most other terrestrial life forms (global mass extinction), whereas the greenhouse catastrophe permanently kills the earth as a life-bearing planet.

  53. FedUpWithDenial says:

    flag misspelling/ The references to “dire economic straights” should instead read, “dire economic straits.” You’ve got to watch out for those homophones…

  54. fj says:

    Yes, agreed. “Vote for Democratics and drag anyone . . . ,” never thought otherwise.

    Just an optimist with the typical bias accentuating the position and despite fully understanding that reality is totally chaotic and, tend to substantiate my optimistic bias with all sorts of wild ideas like the fossil fuel industry was beat on California’s Proposition 23 and Obama’s decision on Tar Sands, and we have optimist billionaire NYC mayor Bloomberg, his deep entrenchment in finance, $50 billion commitment against big coal, $100 billion to reduce big oil’s slaughter of humanity on the world’s roads (1.3 million people killed and 50 million gravely injured annually) and his media conglomerate to oppose Murdoch and Fox News, $100 billion agreement on the international Green Climate Fund, and the Republican storylines are rapidly making less and less sense, immersed in accelerating climate change, financial and political instability; in a current situation continually taunting us with the question: How much chaos can you stand?

    Just can’t help rooting for the good guys.

  55. fj says:

    John McCormick, corrections on my last comment:

    (Optimistic bias) accentuating the positive

    (Bloomberg’s) $50 million commitment against big coal, $100 million to reduce Big Oil’s slaughter of humanity on the world’s roads (1.3 people killed and 50 million gravely injured annually)

    (UNFCCC) $100 billion per year agreement on the international Green Climate Fund