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Obama Stunner: Climate Change Will Be A Campaign Issue, We Need to Do Much More To Combat It

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"Obama Stunner: Climate Change Will Be A Campaign Issue, We Need to Do Much More To Combat It"

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obama 1156In a Rolling Stone interview published today, President Obama broke out of his self-imposed silence on climate change. He made some remarkable statements, including his belief that the millions of dollars pouring into the anti-science disinformation campaign will drive climate change into the presidential campaign.

Earlier this year the President omitted any discussion of climate change from his State of the Union address. And he (or the White House communications team) edited it out of his Earth Day proclamation.

But in this interview, Obama was actually the first to bring up climate change, noting it was one of many big issues he’s had to deal with and then slamming the GOP for moving so far to the right on the issue.

The big news was that the President expects climate change to be a campaign issue:

Part of the challenge over these past three years has been that people’s number-one priority is finding a job and paying the mortgage and dealing with high gas prices. In that environment, it’s been easy for the other side to pour millions of dollars into a campaign to debunk climate-change science. I suspect that over the next six months, this is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way. That there’s a way to do it that is entirely compatible with strong economic growth and job creation – that taking steps, for example, to retrofit buildings all across America with existing technologies will reduce our power usage by 15 or 20 percent. That’s an achievable goal, and we should be getting started now.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Yes, Romney etch-a-sketched himself to the far right on this issue in late October:

My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.

But I doubt Romney will want to talk about climate change since that statement is a major flip-flop aimed at the Tea Party extremists who now help decide GOP primaries. Also Romney’s team presumably knows what team Obama doesn’t: Every poll makes clear that in the general election, climate change, clean energy, and cutting pollution are some of the defining wedge issues of our time (see Democrats Taking “Green” Positions on Climate Change “Won Much More Often” Than Those Remaining Silent and links below).

The media also seems unlikely to bring up the issue given that they have generally ignored it as a topic for debate questions, and regular news coverage of it has collapsed.

That means if it is going to be a campaign issue, the President and his team would have to introduce it and be willing to press the case, something they have shown no inclination to do so far.

The President made two other very interesting statement on climate. First, in response to a question on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, he basically said that the reason the issue flared up is because of his inability to achieve “sufficient movement to deal with the problem”:

James Hansen, NASA’s leading climate scientist, has said this about the Keystone pipeline: that if the pipeline goes through and we burn tar sands in Canada, it’s “game over” for the planet. What’s your reaction to that statement?

James Hansen is a scientist who has done an enormous amount not only to understand climate change, but also to help publicize the issue. I have the utmost respect for scientists. But it’s important to understand that Canada is going to be moving forward with tar sands, regardless of what we do. That’s their national policy, they’re pursuing it. With respect to Keystone, my goal has been to have an honest process, and I have adamantly objected to Congress trying to circumvent a process that was well-established not just under Democratic administrations, but also under Republican administrations.

The reason that Keystone got so much attention is not because that particular pipeline is a make-or-break issue for climate change, but because those who have looked at the science of climate change are scared and concerned about a general lack of sufficient movement to deal with the problem. Frankly, I’m deeply concerned that internationally, we have not made as much progress as we need to make. Within the constraints of this Congress, we’ve tried to do a whole range of things, administratively, that are making a difference – doubling fuel-efficiency standards on cars is going to take a whole lot of carbon out of our atmosphere. We’re going to continue to push on energy efficiency, and renewable energy standards, and the promotion of green energy. But there is no doubt that we have a lot more work to do.

Obama’s statement above about climate becoming a campaign issue is the last part of his answer here.

I’d say that Obama is half right in his answer. It is certainly true that if, say, Obama had been able to pass a climate bill, then Keystone would never have emerged as such a make-or-break issue. But for those of us trying to keep warming below 4°F, it always would have been a big issue.

Obama is also being a bit coy here by suggesting that lack of international progress was a key reason Keystone got so much attention. A major reason there has been little international progress is that the world’s richest country — which has by far the largest cumulative emissions — can’t even guarantee it will meet Obama’s modest 17% reduction pledge by 2020. American action is certainly a sine qua non for a global deal.

Yes, Obama has done some valuable things, and he certainly has been thwarted at every turn by the disinformers and their allies in Congress. They, not Obama, deserve most of the blame for inaction, as I’ve said many times (see “The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2“). But Obama still failed to push this most important of issues anywhere near as hard as it merits.

And it’s odd for him to complain about the disinformation campaign when Obama has done nothing to debunk it. Indeed, I’ve been told by folks in the White House that it was the White House communications team that muzzled a response to that disinformation.

Finally, Obama has some interesting framing on the opponents of action:

I think it’s important to distinguish between Republican politicians and people around the country who consider themselves Republicans. I don’t think there’s been a huge change in the country. If you talk to a lot of Republicans … they don’t think we should be getting rid of every regulation on the books….

But what’s happened, I think, in the Republican caucus in Congress, and what clearly happened with respect to Republican candidates, was a shift to an agenda that is far out of the mainstream – and, in fact, is contrary to a lot of Republican precepts…. You’ve got a Republican Congress whose centerpiece, when it comes to economic development, is getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Doesn’t all of that kind of talk and behavior during the primaries define the party and what they stand for?

I think it’s fair to say that this has become the way that the Republican political class and activists define themselves. Think about John McCain, who obviously I have profound differences with. Here’s a guy who not only believed in climate change, but co-sponsored a cap-and-trade bill that got 43 votes in the Senate just a few years ago, somebody who thought banning torture was the right thing to do, somebody who co-sponsored immigration reform with Ted Kennedy. That’s the most recent Republican candidate, and that gives you some sense of how profoundly that party has shifted.

So Obama is drawing a distinction between “the Republican political class and activists” on the one hand and “people around the country who consider themselves Republicans.” I think that is a reasonable distinction to draw, but then it will be important for the president to carry this distinction to its logical conclusion on the key issues. He is basically acknowledging that climate action and clean energy and  cutting pollution are wedge issues — issues that separate GOP  politicians and activists (and their pollutocrat backers) from a segment of their own supporter and an even larger proportion of independents.

Again, that’s what all the polling shows, but it is most certainly not how the President and his team have been treating the issue, which they have repeatedly downplayed. Let’s hope that this interview signals a change in thinking by the President — a change that he can actually get the rest of the White House, including the communications team, to go along with. That would be change we can believe in.

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80 Responses to Obama Stunner: Climate Change Will Be A Campaign Issue, We Need to Do Much More To Combat It

  1. Alex says:

    “So Obama is drawing a distinction between “the Republican political class and activists” on the one hand and “people around the country who consider themselves Republicans.” I think that is a reasonable distinction to draw, but then it will be important for the president to carry this distinction to its logical conclusion on the key issues. He is basically acknowledging that climate action and clean energy and cutting pollution are wedge issues — issues that separate GOP politicians and activists (and their pollutocrat backers) from a segment of their own supporter and an even larger proportion of independents.”

    In my experience, this is completely wrong. The Republican party and those who consider themselves Republicans are one and the same on AGW. They dismiss it. I’ve heard this from far too many for it to be a mirage of my own personal experience.

    • Roger says:

      This is a win-win-win for the human race, for climate activists, and for the president. Think about it:

      a) He’s the one person who has the power to overcome fossil fuel company-supported PR,

      b) He also has the power to literally kick off a “War on Climate Change” with all that that entails ( a WW II type effort perhaps?),

      c) He can be backed up by any of the many climate scientists who would agree that we need urgent action now, including Energy Secretary Chu and Science Adviser Holdren, to mention only two of the thousands,

      d) He can point out, quite obviously, that an adherence to the reality of science is what made America the great country that it is today, and that the Republicans, and Mitt Romney, by rejecting science, are also rejecting our future, and, finally,

      e) If done right (and surely he has the ability to do it right) he can assure himself a second term as U.S. President by demonstrating his much-needed leadership.

      Please take a minute to express your support to the president for taking this next step: Call the White House Comment Line, M-F, 9-5, at 202-456-1111 to tell the volunteer operators that you like the idea.

      There’s no excuse for not calling, so do it.
      Our children and grandchildren deserve this.
      (Is 202-456-1111 busy? Dial 202-456-1414.)

      Warm regards,
      Roger

      • David Lewis says:

        In an article recently published in the New Yorker entitled The Unpersuaded, Ezra Klein discusses the current apparent US devolution into ungovernability.

        He points to the research of George Edwards, author of “On Deaf Ears: The Limits of the Bully Pulpit”. Klein notes that attempts by modern Presidents to lead public opinion and debate during periods of divided government “can actually make matters worse”.

        He says this idea is a factor in behind the scenes strategic discussion, quoting Axelrod: “we didn’t put the payroll tax cut into our speeches in the fall because we didn’t think we could pass it, and we worried that if we included it in our rhetoric it might pollute the issue and impair our chances of getting it done after the election”. He quotes Jim Cooper “the more high profile the communication effort, the less likely it is to succeed”.

        Klein: “because our system of government usually requires at least some members of the opposition to work with the President if anything is to get done, that suggests that the President’s attempts at persuasion might have the perverse effect of making it harder for him to govern”.

        Various examples are cited to illustrate that when one party signals it wants to do something that mere fact provokes the other party into a last ditch effort to oppose it no matter if anyone cared in the slightest about the issue beforehand or what anyone’s position was.

        So according to this thesis, what Obama doesn’t talk about could well be his highest priority. As he moves from not mentioning climate to trying to take an active part in elevating the issue, it could mean he’s given up on trying to actually get anything meaningful done in favor of posturing to make “the base” feel better.

        We’re doomed.

    • Tony says:

      I have to disagree. Look at George Shultz, former Secretary of the Treasury for Nixon and Secretary of State for Reagan. He’s a very vocal advocate for green legislation and for curtailing the pollution causing climate change. He’s also very well-educated and very Old School, qualities which are anathema to Tea Party hacks.

  2. john atcheson says:

    I’d feel a whole lot better if Obama’s position on Climate change didn’t surface every four years. Frankly, he seems to don his statesman hat and spout progressive rhetoric around election time, but act as a right of center politician the rest of the time.

    And the worst part is, he gets the science. He understands what’s at stake and how short time is.

    Sigh. I guess it’s good he’s raising the issue, I just wish I could believe him.

    Hope he surprises me.

    • KenL says:

      He hopes you hope that he’ll surprise you….

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      With Obama, cynicism is realism. This is pre-election ‘Rope a Hope Dope’ time. Get the enthusiasm flowing, so that the four years of consistent betrayal can be forgotten. No US President can do the needful, ie begin rapidly to de-carbonise the US economy and lead the world in so doing. The money interest that determines all political outcomes in the ‘capitalist democracies’ has twenty-five trillion or so in assets in hydrocarbons, and, therefore, the rapid destruction of that ‘wealth’ is never going to happen, certainly not under Obama.

      • Clinton M says:

        So what is your solution? Don’t vote so Romney wins and BP gets a cabinet level position?

        Are you also espousing letting the Senate fall into GOPolluter’s hands so it’s a big-oil trifecta?

        Or do you just believe in magic?

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          Vote Green, and, if you’ll pardon my presumption, you appear also to believe in magic if you expect Obama to change his spots. Indeed, with no further election to face, I expect him to be worse.

          • Larry Chamblin says:

            Vote Green? No, but I will vote for the greener of the candidates. I live in a county in Florida that had more Green Party votes in 2000 than the margin in that presidential election. Why would anyone want to repeat that outcome.

    • MarkfromLexington says:

      Well here is a YouTube clip with Barack talking about climate change on Jimmy Kimmel – He starts talking about energy 2:00 minutes into the video, “We need to ensure that we are investing in the clean energy sources of the future, solar, wind, bio…” and then ”…that’s good for the planet, it helps us deal with climate change, its good for our economy…”

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KBHG_oRgwQ&t=2m0s

  3. john atcheson says:

    One more thought –for Obama to bemoan the shift in the Republican Party (and in a sizable portion of the public if the 2010 elections are indicative) is absurd, when it is his silence and complicity that enabled it is absurd.

    Look, when Obama took over, the Republican Policy agenda lay in ruins beneath the economic collapse it had caused. The time was ripe to have a national debate on the role of government and the need for more progressive policies in taxes, regulations, and economic policy. climate change and clean energy policy could and should have been a central part of that debate. But Markey and crew got hung out to dry by a timid White House.

    If you don’t even show up for the debate, you can’t expect to win.

    If you preemptively capitulate, you won’t win.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Obama’s role was and is to present a friendly face while ‘business-as-usual’ continued. He has been the third GW Bush term, and will be the fourth. His business owners expect nothing else.

      • Clinton M says:

        Other than the fact what you are saying is simply not true… what did you do to get the Senate votes to pass the House climate bill in 2009?

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          Not my role, as a foreigner. In my own benighted country, I was a member of the Greens for years, have solar water and electricity, warm the house in winter by burning our own wood, cool it is summer with trees shading the place, travel by public transport (five bus trips a day to work)and annoy the denialists, a little, with blog comments that send them into a lather. I’m afraid that I believe you have fallen for the ‘lesser evil’ aspect of the Obama Project, which may, indeed, be true, but a lesser evil is still evil. In this country we face the exact same dilemma-a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledummer.

          • question says:

            As a foreigner I don’t think you have the first clue how American politics works. The Green party is simply not going to make a substantial difference in national politics in the timescale that is important. We don’t need action in a few decades, we need action now. Voting Green in any large numbers in the US is essentially giving up on a livable climate. I couldn’t look my children in the face after that. In your country voting Green may be a wise and plausible action, but don’t attempt to tell US citizens what US party to vote for. You simply don’t understand the context and your advice would make things worse. It is as simple as that.

    • Will says:

      Silence? He mentioned clean energy in every major campaign speech, every State of the Union address, and even his national televised speeches on health care included at least a short comment about energy. There has been no silence.

      Perhaps the problem is that his comments are ignored by both the press and environmentalists. What if his positive comments were reinforced with an echo-chamber instead of being allowed to drop like a stone? Maybe we shouldn’t have such authoritarian expectations about Obama having the debate without any help from the grassroots?

  4. Raul M. says:

    thats the biggest hat tip to scientists that I’ve heard from a Pres. To his scientists in media in long time.
    Thanks

    • Michael S says:

      Actions speak louder than words, and the amount of science funding under President Obama speaks very highly of his view of scientists.
      Not only that, but he’s appointed several well qualified scientists into his administration. I understand “holding his feet to the fire” on climate issues, but President Obama is probably the most science-friendly President since…?

    • Raul M. says:

      Maybe he will ask “what do you mean picking on my climate scientists?” just so they will know it’s an honest hat tip.
      Something that should have happened long ago by I won’t say the ghost of raygun.

      • Raul M. says:

        Besides, there are real reasons that climate scientists who are willing to find out and tell the truth about our probable future climate should be backed up and not just left to be quiet and/or cynical.

  5. Forest says:

    At least it is a start and there is some hope in Obama’s comments. In Canada, we are going backwards at light speed. Money for the few is the only federal political value and it trumps every other value: clean air, clean water, any water, ecological integrity, species at risk, fishery habitat, coastlines, an on and on. Environmental advocacy, protection, enforcement, research… al of it has been attacked and cut in the budget. The USA is fortunate to have an elected leader who understands, appreciates and relies on science instead of being afraid of it.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Canada sounds a lot like Australia. Each new Rightwing regime which comes to power in the states is more Rightwing than the last, and their fanatical hatred for environmentalism is a feature they all share. Environmental law is being rolled back, coal and gas mining furiously promoted, ports built in the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef’s immediate vicinity (to facilitate a 1000% increase in coal exports) and all completely unmentioned before the elections. Harper is a work of art, but we have numerous Harpers of our own, and their essential allies, feckless, opportunistic, value-less ‘social democrat’ Governments that have tracked so far to the Right over recent decades as to be indistinguishable from the traditional Rightwingers. ‘Democracy without choices’.

  6. SecularAnimist says:

    Here’s what Obama said just one month ago:

    “Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years … I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some … So we are drilling all over the place … And as long as I’m President, we’re going to keep on encouraging oil development and infrastructure.”

    Mr. President, I think you’re going to need a bigger Etch-A-Sketch.

    • Dan Ives says:

      “Mr. President, I think you’re going to need a bigger Etch-A-Sketch.”
      Oh no. I’m pretty sure the Democratic Party has trademarked Etch-A-Sketch(TM) for the sole purpose of embarrassing Mitt Romney. And here you’ve used it to criticize President Obama…
      Heretic!!!
      /Sarcasm off/
      You bring up a great point with your quote.

    • Barry Saxifrage says:

      I’m not a fan of Obama’s climate actions. However increasing oil production in USA and reducing oil burning in USA are two totally different things. Both are happening.

      Here are changes from 2005-2010:
      +16% domestic production
      -25% imports
      -9% total consumption

      Production up and consumption down. The reason for this is because USA is bleeding money via oil imports. Despite imports falling 25% the bill for imported oil rose 40%. The USA paid $74b more to import 25% less. Total gong show. Any president is going to increase domestic production even while working to slash oil demand.

      By the way that 25% drop in imports in just five years is equal to the flow from four Keystone XL size pipes. The tarsands are panicking because their only customer is getting out of the oil import biz. USA can’t afford it anymore.

  7. Gail Zawacki says:

    1. “That there’s a way to do it that is entirely compatible with strong economic growth and job creation…”

    Endless growth is not sustainable on a finite planet whether it’s human population, resource extraction, or the capacity for the biosphere to absorb pollution.

    Aside from that,

    2. “.. it’s important to understand that Canada is going to be moving forward with tar sands, regardless of what we do. That’s their national policy, they’re pursuing it.”

    coupled with this: “The reason that Keystone got so much attention is not because that particular pipeline is a make-or-break issue for climate change, but because those who have looked at the science of climate change are scared and concerned about a general lack of sufficient movement to deal with the problem.”

    sounds to me like preparation for: “I may as well approve the pipeline, because the tar sands are going to be developed anyway and besides, it’s not that important in the big picture, what we really need is an international agreement.”

    I went to all the tar sands protests, and I got arrested and so forth. Color me cynical, but I’m not convinced that what Obama said in this interview constitutes a victory for climate activists, at least not as far as the Keystone XL goes.

    • Dan Ives says:

      I largely agree with your analysis of Obama’s statements. And I think Obama will approve the pipeline, for the reason you discussed, after the election.

      Also, I’d like to thank you for participating in the tar sands protests.

    • Sasparilla says:

      I want to 2nd what Dan said, I think your analysis is right on – there’s not even a wink of viewing climate change as an over-riding problem in his statements.

      Thank you for protesting the Keystone XL.

    • Barry Saxifrage says:

      Also agree. Also my thanks.

      Canada now supplies 25% of USA oil imports. That is a modern record of reliance on a single supplier. That kind of dependency influences policy for sure.

    • Eduardo Vargas says:

      I don’t agree with the fact that he is going to approve Keystone. He is simply saying that regardless of what the United States does, Canada would develop the Tar Sands and ship it to Canada. Yes, it’s an ambigiuous answer. I think that if the pressure goes on, Keystone will be cremated along with the Tar sands.

  8. Tom L says:

    Sounds like he’s saying ‘If it becomes an issue I can no longer avoid talking about I will talk about it’. Now that’s leadership.

  9. prokaryotes says:

    Perfect!

    I can already see the clip showing Rmoney flip-flopping on this very topic..

    • Dan Ives says:

      “I can already see the clip showing Romney flip-flopping on this very topic.” – Yes, because THAT will represent tangible action to combat climate change.

      *facepalm*

      • prokaryotes says:

        I assume most people are not even aware about his different stances about climate change.

        Now, in the presidential run ups he has a serious problem with his lack of accountability. A very bad impression when this is used in a Tv clip.

        He has two options now, either to keep saying non scientific things about climate change or he tries to do as much as possible.

        • Raul M. says:

          Good point, as a leader we won’t be able to expect his private storm shelter will welcome the 99% to safety in the bad storm even if one could get there.
          I think the real situation should be a something instead of them just saying you are right you can’t come in

  10. Peter Bellin says:

    Memo to Obama and the Democratic organization: I will make campaign contributions when you get serious about raising the issue of climate change. I will believe this commitment when I see it, but I have no urge to support a candidate who is not progressive on this issue. I donated to Barbara Boxer’s reelection fund in recognition of her actions on this issue.

    The Democrats have my vote, most likely, but not my wholehearted support.

    • Nick Berini says:

      100% agreed.

    • Jay Alt says:

      I agree with all but the Boxer comment, having read Eric Pooley’s tale of the campaign – Climate Wars. Boxer was a bad choice to push legislation. Her limitations were well known to Reid and he gave her the job anyway. Time after time she alienated and scolded GOPs, offering nothing. It would have been better to seek an imperfect framework and get that up & running.

  11. Sasparilla says:

    Excellent article Joe and I think you’re right – the GOP and the press probably won’t bring up climate change much if at all. Maybe a question during a debate and then it’ll disappear again.

    Now as to why he brought this topic up in Rolling Stone after the clear negative choices on climate change his administration has made from the beginning and the fact that lately he isn’t even mentioning it on Earth Day, that is a good question.

    If you look at it in light of the fact that climate change probably won’t be pushed by the GOP or the Press during the campaign, then this is an opportunity (media outlet that appeals to younger people who do care about climate change quite alot) to tell those young voters I’m the same guy I was back in the campaign of 2008 and I want to deal with climate change its just those nasty Republicans in the house that is holding us back…

    The only problem is that he will be the same guy as he was in 2008…and in 2013 he’ll approve the XL and stop talking about climate change again. Course that’ll be much better than Romney.

    • facts lean left says:

      Thanks for your guesses. Who’s going to win the world series, and what is next week’s Powerball number?

      • Sasparilla says:

        You’re very welcome. They’re just my opinions as are everyone’s postings here…its that comments thing.

        So facts lean left, what’s your guess, do you think Obama will approve the XL in 2013?

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          Certainly your opinions are mere speculation, but the probability of them being proved correct seems, in my opinion, to be in the high 90% range-the very high 90% range.

    • Sasparilla says:

      Just to clarify my comment, when I said “that’ll be much better than Romney”, I meant it.

      I fully expect Romney to roll back any or all of the green leaning regs from the current administration (a big part of his donations base wants this) and if the GOP gets control of the House and Senate in Nov I’d expect Romney to approve any of the crazy anti-green energy (end the EPA or outlaw future CO2 emissions controls) bills that float up from the House.

  12. Inhofe: “I believed in global warming until I found out how much it cost”
    That’s this issue. And to try to tell people who don’t have jobs and are losing their homes that we need to increase their energy bills… well they’ll just vote for the guy who says not to worry.
    This is a fact of life like it or not.

    • prokaryotes says:

      Messaging is important but if you tell people it cost about 10,00 or 20,00$ more (so not that much actually) and that with current in efficient systems in place, customer bill’s are about 40,00$ higher because the company has no intention to fix all the natural gas leaks in the infrastructure. They even flair it large scale.

      And a carbon tax (which really is crucial) should go right back to the people as James Hansen explains, with as less bureaucratic hurdles as possible – people will understand.

      Also if one uses strong metaphoric speak and connects the dots with the bad weather and that cost are just about to rise including disruption, etc etc.

      To make it clear that from the evidence standpoint this really is a win win situation.

      • Raul M. says:

        I thought it was supposed to be a government carbon tax not just people paying more at the pump and the oil companies keeping it for themselves.

    • john atcheson says:

      Cost has always been a shibboleth — the real cost is from inaction. The only cost Inhoffe is really concerned about is cost TO THE FOSSIL fuel monopoly.

  13. M Tucker says:

    Well, we will see how the Republican voters respond in November. I think is dubious at best to expect registered Republican voters to vote for President Obama based on the need for EPA regulations or policies that reduce emissions. Every issue is now “far out of the mainstream” and the Republican voters seem to like it that way. They even make up controversies where none exist: Obama will take away our guns for example. If President Obama is lucky the majority of independent voters will vote for him but, as has been said many times by the political observers, the real issues for them, the independents, are jobs and the economy. If they buy into the Republican rhetoric that President Obama has made the economy worse and botched the recovery, that EPA regulations are job killers, that government subsidies for alternative energy is big government interference with the free market, and the Ryan budget is the only solution to the economy and to address the debt, then it will be a very close race and I seriously doubt climate change will be a big issue in the coming months.

  14. squidboy6 says:

    I think it could be something much simpler than what you guys are looking for, it could be that he’s gotten an advanced forecast that reads “expect a long and very hot Summer coupled with a drought”! The local weather will influence more people than the reality of Climate Change, most Americans don’t look past their own noses so when they get burnt this Summer they may have doubts about the Republicans.

  15. Gail Zawacki says:

    Compare the bone that Obama threw for climate change to what he said about student loans in this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vAFQIciWsF4

    As I write this there is a passionate rally going on at OWS to demand forgiveness of student loans and free education. Obama is responding to people who are willing to actually disrupt business as usual.

    http://www.ustream.tv/occupiedair

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Another ‘non-core promise’ to borrow the rhetoric of our very own John Howard. The student loan racket has more money outstanding than credit card or home mortgage debt, and Obama is not going to impede his finance industry owner’s prerogatives.

  16. Ross Hunter says:

    I think comment #3 sums it up right. I further believe that Obama is shilling for the Dems to take the stray vote away from the Green Party and Jill Stein, and to defuse the 99% thinking that already concludes established parties and presidents are simply inadequate to the task.

    Only when we break out of this cozy 2-party pretense are we going to address climate change the only way it can be – through direct political action.

    I’m sorry, I just hate to see so many good people invest their last remaining hope in election posturing, when habeas corpus is still suspended and civil rights are being shredded unremittingly, when Obama and most all politicians are visibly in thrall to corporate interests, and when none of these little niceties even come close to meeting the scale of the challenge. Why cling to hope? Give up hope, simply work directly for change.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Absolutely on the money. ‘Hope’ is ‘hopium’ a drug to stupefy the better types, while business-as-usual proceeds. When they wake from their drug-induced dreaming, it will be too late, and Obama retired to his reward.

  17. Forest says:

    Theory and practice must work together on climate change. Theoretically, to make a difference on climate, Obama would have had to pursue climate change legislation over health care during his first mandate. In practice and with the other problems he inherited, he needed to do as much as he could with the tools he had available. One term just doesn’t cut it. You can’t do much in the future if you just put yourself into a grave over non-winning policy. I assume there will be much more attention to climate change should he get another 4 years. Don’t think so… vote republican and see how that turns out. If Obama is re-elected and he does nothing on climate then there is nowhere for us to go short of using massive civil disobedience. I just drove six hours to speak for 10 minutes against the tar sands at federal hearings. Hopefully it made a difference It was that or do nothing. Hope Obama comes through.

  18. katym. says:

    “The media also seems unlikely to bring up the issue given that they have generally ignored it as a topic for debate questions, and regular news coverage of it has collapsed.”

    ignored??? more likely orders from the bosses worried about losing ad revenue…

  19. Mike Roddy says:

    This is a good start, but we will need a lot more from the President to earn out trust. Passivity from the Democrats has been a big source of despair.

  20. Barry Saxifrage says:

    My view is Obama would not have brought it up unless polling data said it was a winner. I think the weather freak show has really made a fundamental shift in USA voter views on climate recently, as Joe discussed in recent posts.

    Obama avoided climate when the polls were unfavourable. Elections are the most poll driven time of all. So I take it as good news that Americans are slowly returning to climate realism.

  21. Mark says:

    If he was as interested in this catastrophe as he is in deploying killer drones, things would start to move.

    I don’t think he understands the problem.

  22. ANGRY BADGER says:

    I bitched Obama out two nights ago, when I learned, through this blog, of the ALEC threat to renewables. Having sampled the comments here, all I can say is that anyone who hasn’t called the White House comment line or dropped Obama an to support the idea of his wrapping climate around the GOP’s neck needs to turn in their “liberal” card.

    With all due respect, folks, quit complaining and tell the man you will stand with him! I’m out of a job, but I would still blow the gas to go to DC and attend a rally if he held one. The reason we lose is that we don’t show up as much as the Tea Party does.

    On another front, we just chose conservative Democrat Mark Critz to take over PA’s 12th District. Altmire is out. The question I have is this: what did Critz bargain to get Bill Clinton’s endorsement? Will he support Henry Waxman’s carbon pricing proposal, given Clinton is heavy into working on climate change? I’ll be calling up to find out.

  23. Raul M. says:

    There are points that could be made in the theme of “I learned I couldn’t do it by myself when I voted against going to war”. Though there are many who adamantly knew that going and stealing from the gas station is wrong even if it is a thouroughly bad gas station, we still pay for the decisions that were made, and some may point to the 99% paying more of the share.
    Certainly, the President has made decisions that he feels still were for the better.

  24. JoeSnow says:

    And that is THE ONLY thing it is to him.

  25. BillD says:

    Good news. This means that if Obama wins, he can move forward on climate change. If the topic were off limits in the election, it’s hard to imagine new efforts after the election.

    I agree that the March heat wave has shocked a lot of people who seem to be able make links to climate change even when the news media are practically silent.

  26. Steve says:

    The article is great, I think Obama’s understanding of the environmental issues is very refined. He knows his main enemies: the evil Koch Brothers, who’s carbon footprint is over 100 tons. Cap and Trade was fought tooth-and-nail by the Kochs via Americans for Prosperity (who, in turn, funded the Tea Party astroturf). So his mentioning of environmental issues is absolutely key, considering his opponents.

  27. ltr says:

    No matter, the President has done nothing to push the issue of climate change so far and I will never support him again for that and a slew of other matters. All Obama wants is to be re-elected. There is no principle beyond election.

    • question says:

      Where have you been in the past three years? “the President has done nothing to push the issue of climate change” How can you say this with a straight face? Do “car mpg regulations”, “science funding”, “massive investments in green technology and deployment”, “opening up vast areas of federal land to renewable development”, “carbon pollution standards for new plants”, “mercury rules for power plants” etc. etc. mean anything to you?

      Over the past four years we have seen an administration that has effectively banned future coal plants, set the stage for halving our use of oil, and financed a huge amount of research into both technology development and deployment for renewables. Not a big deal?

  28. Mark E says:

    Election year smoke

    >>>UNLESS<<<

    we see a prime time address announcing the signing of Executive Orders to set us on a climate war footing.

  29. Clinton M says:

    Sasparilla is the only commenter to mention the House or Senate in all the posts. TONNES of complaints, tonnes of implications that the President is King and doesn’t need Congress to pass legislation, tonnes of division, but nobody pointing out that withOUT a climate-friendly House and Senate, there is little opportunity for decisive action.

    Considering the fact that not a single one of you did any phone banking or door knocking in 2010 to get climate friendly legislators elected, your writing and actions here to divide climate friendly groups is absolutely, positively shameful.

    Do nothing to solve the problem, then blame others. If we don’t pull together and work together and put aside minor differences, then our movement is pathetic.

  30. Will says:

    Why exactly would that be a stunner? He talked about climate change and clean energy in his campaign announcement speech and every major campaign speech after. He was the first Presidential nominee of a major party to make clean energy a major campaign theme. He mentioned it in every State of the Union address. So it should be absolutely no surprise that he continues to talk about it while the self-defeating left fails to provide the echo-chamber that a Republican would have. Perhaps the author of this blog has been made deaf and blind by his own cynicism?

    And Obama is absolutely right that other policies he’s pushing are more important than Keystone XL. Such as, fuel economy standards and EPA regulations that will shut down 1/3 or more of the dirtiest coal plants in America. Keystone XL was chosen as the battleground for reasons of movement building and Obama knows it.

    • Joe Romm says:

      He stopped talking about it 2 years ago, that’s why.

      • Will says:

        Hogwash. He spent several paragraphs on energy in the 2012 State of the Union address.

        What did you write to reinforce his call in that speech to end oil subsidies and pass the clean energy tax credit? Or how about his previous call for a clean energy portfolio standard?

        I expect the corporate press to ignore those proposals. But, how exactly does it help to get anything through Congress when left blogs and pundits ignore them too???

        • Mark E says:

          Will, you could just as easily be defending the words of some bill collector trying to fend off collection agencies…. talk’s cheap, a sending in a few dollars once in awhile to make ‘em happy is easy. It’s time for NCA to take the big risk by making the big speech, the one that states the obvious, that jobs, economy, environment, and climate are all aspects of the same thing, and that thing is National Security issue #1.

          A few words in some paragraph buried in the next speech? Y-a-w-n.

          • Mark E says:

            PS of course, I meant to say “debtor” not “bill collector”, sorry about that

          • question says:

            But that’s the point! Obama’s been doing lots! He hasn’t been just sending in a few bucks. He’s been consistently talking about the need for green energy AND more importantly he’s been moving the country towards a much greener future. Look at the facts. The heck with rhetoric… look at the actual facts. What fraction of our energy comes from green sources now? How fast are renewables being deployed? Compare these to four years ago.

            There is no question that much more has been done. But to think that the world, or even the US can be turned around quickly is simply wrong. Think of how long it takes to get anything done in even a small organization. I work at a place with about 100 employees. It takes months to get practically anything done. I expect the turn around for the US to take a decade. Obama has done a good job in his first three years. With another 5 I think we will be a long way towards pointing in the right direction and picking up the necessary speed.

  31. Robert says:

    Look at the hand, look at the hand, forget universal health care, forget prosecuting those who initiated a false war for profit, forget prosecuting those who tortured, forget marijuana, forget fair trade, forget prosecuting whistle blowers, forget prosecuting those who committed the greatest bank heist in history, forget more infringement of rights, forget my little sheep it’s off the the shearing shed and then the slaughter house.

  32. greymatter says:

    So…I guess I won’t vote, or will vote for anyone who doesn’t sport a “D” or an “R” on the ballot. Vote Green or Indie. Maybe even the Mittwit. Yeah, that’ll help.
    FDR wasn’t a progressive at first, either. Put as many D’s in congress as we can, vote Obama and hold their feet to the fire. Got a better idea? It won’t be easy but we need to start thinking of Democracy as a verb. Getting arrested would be a lot better if there were more of us out there.

  33. Mark E says:

    @Question, who said Obama has done lots and “I expect the turn around for the US to take a decade.”

    The majority of what Obama has done is easily reversible. Why? Because the citizenry is not frothing at the mouth about global warming. Why is the citizenry not foaming at the mouth? FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP. Behind the scenses tax polices, regulations, and incentives do not mean SQUAT unless NCA ((((also)))) tells people there is a crisis. The world *did* change quickly when we tooled up for WWII. It *did* put men on the moon in a very short time. In both cases, the people were frightened about outside threats, and the news sank home because the PREZ HIMSELF told us we should be afraid of those threats.

    Where’s the prime time global warming speech, Mr. President? I’m sure many of the National Academy of Sciences would gladly sit in the background