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.”
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- The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2