New York Times Pushes Obama On Climate: ‘He Needs To Do A Great Deal More Than…Foster A Conversation’

Many were disappointed after President Obama’s first post-election press conference when he talked about the urgency of climate change — and then immediately swept aside specifics for action in his second term.

Days after, White House press secretary Jay Carney shot down the prospects for a carbon tax by saying the Administration would “never propose” such a policy.

There doesn’t seem to be much urgency coming out of the White House.

In response, The New York Times is calling out the President for his plan to address climate change with a “conversation”:

Since his re-election, Mr. Obama has agreed to foster a “conversation” on climate change and an “education process” about long-term steps to address it. He needs to do a good deal more than that. Intellectually, Mr. Obama grasps the problem as well as anyone. The question is whether he will bring the powers of the presidency to bear on the problem.

Enlisting market forces in the fight against global warming by putting a price on carbon — through cap-and-trade or a direct tax — seems out of the question for this Congress. But there are weapons at Mr. Obama’s disposal that do not require Congressional approval and could go a long way to reducing emissions and reasserting America’s global leadership.

One imperative is to make sure that natural gas — which this nation has in abundance and which emits only half the carbon as coal — can be extracted without risk to drinking water or the atmosphere. This may require national legislation to replace the often porous state regulations. Another imperative is to invest not only in familiar alternative energy sources like wind and solar power, but also in basic research, next-generation nuclear plants and experimental technologies that could smooth the path to a low-carbon economy.

Mr. Obama’s most promising near-term strategy may be to invoke the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act to limit emissions from stationary sources, chiefly power plants.

Indeed, the Administration deserves credit for passing numerous critical executive policies promoting vehicle efficiency, mercury standards, building efficiency standards, and renewable energy. And with Congress unable to act on climate policy, the importance of EPA regulations for global warming pollution is even greater in Obama’s second term. However, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in on her way out, opening up some uncertainty about leadership at the agency: The New York Times explains:

Any such regulations are likely to be strongly opposed by industry and will require real persistence on the administration’s part. If Mr. Obama takes this approach, he will certainly need a determined leader at E.P.A. to devise and carry out the rules. Lisa Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator who on Thursday announced her resignation after four productive years in one of the federal government’s most thankless jobs, was just such a leader.

She suffered setbacks — most notably the White House’s regrettable decision to overrule her science-based proposal to update national health standards for ozone, or smog. But she accomplished much, including tougher standards for power plant emissions of mercury and other air toxics, new health standards for soot, and, most important, her agency’s finding that carbon dioxide and five other gases that contribute to global warming constituted a danger to public health and could thus be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

The New York Times piece fails to point out one of the most critical — and often ignored — pieces of climate policy. Creating new standards for power plants and building renewable energy is only one piece of the equation. In order to truly address carbon pollution, we must keep large amounts of coal, oil, and gas in the ground. According to the International Energy Agency, nearly two-thirds of known fossil fuel reserves must stay underground in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. While the Obama Administration has done more than any other administration in history to promote alternative forms of energy, it has also shown a willingness to aggressively promote unchecked fossil fuel extraction.

In a recent Time Magazine interview, President Obama said that climate would be one of his top three priorities in his second term. So far, there aren’t many strong signals that the Administration has a coherent plan to actually back up those claims.

61 Responses to New York Times Pushes Obama On Climate: ‘He Needs To Do A Great Deal More Than…Foster A Conversation’

  1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Excellent article. Yes. Much is expected from President Obama on Climate change front.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  2. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Hopium: An addiction in vain when the POTUS refrains with reams of refrain refusal.

  3. Leif says:

    Injustice ignored = Injustice condoned. “We the People” all pay fees in our personal lives to mitigate our environmental waste impact. From garbage, to gray water, to storm water run-off. Corporations are “People” now but still get both tax subsidies and free dumping of toxins into the commons. How come? Does not “We the People” mean all of us? The GOP do not fund abortion. Fine. A precedent. Why must progressives be forced to fund the ecocide of the Planet via subsidies to the Fossil Barons?
    “Tax revolt” anyone?

  4. Leif, you always seem to beat me to CP and then say what I want to say, only better than I would.

    Those of us who live on the so-called “Left Coast” continue to have to deal with our Representatives in Congress, like Washington’s Doc Hastings, Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources whose Energy Issue statement starts with “As the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, I helped lead opposition to the cap-and-trade national energy tax and I’m pressing for an all-of-the-above energy solution. ”

    Then there us House Majority Whip, Kevin McCarthy of California who says that “It strains credibility that the Obama Administration would reject the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline project.”

    It is clear to me that nothing will change until we make it clear that even Republican legislators will have to answer for their head in the sands views as we all go over a man made climate cliff.

  5. prokaryotes says:

    A technological overview of the German roll-out

    Talk begins in 10 mins

  6. prokaryotes says:

    The “Energiewirtschaftsgesetz” (ENWG) was renewed in 2005 and amended in the following years to reflect aspects like smart grids and renewable energy sources. It also covers the energy directives. The important aspect is that it makes the roll-out a law.

    In charge of the roll-out is the “Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Technologie” (BMWi) which delegates the task of defining the technical details to the “Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik” (BSI). The BSI therefore is in the process of developing a so-called protection profile (PP) (or common criteria) for smart meter gateways and security module used in a smart meter. The BSI also develops a technical guideline (TR 03109) which describes how the communication related details of whole smart meter infrastructure have to be implemented to provide security and interoperability.

    This talk will present the different roles defined by the TR and PP. The rights and duties of the different roles in the model will be presented. The cryptographic mechanisms that will be used to secure the communication will be shown. Further the additional services that are planned to be supported and the use cases that are defined for the smart metering system will be explained.

  7. john atcheson says:

    It’s good to see the NYT calling for Obama to take action on climate change, but their list of actions he could take leaves something to be desired.

    R&D, and natural gas are answers that made sense a decade or more ago, but time has passed them by. We need to replace NG and as for R&D it takes a couple of decades for anything significant to penetrate the market. By then, it will all be over but the crying.

  8. NJP1 says:

    Obama doesn’t know what to do about climate change any more than the rest of us
    being POTUS doesn’t make him superman, he inherited a problem that’s been building up for 200 years, expecting him to fix it is the height of naive stupidity

  9. M Tucker says:

    “The question is whether he will bring the powers of the presidency to bear on the problem.”

    OK. What “powers” are you talking about?

    “But there are weapons at Mr. Obama’s disposal that do not require Congressional approval and could go a long way to reducing emissions and reasserting America’s global leadership.”

    OK. I’m listening!

    “One imperative is to make sure that natural gas — which this nation has in abundance and which emits only half the carbon as coal — can be extracted without risk to drinking water or the atmosphere. This may require national legislation…”

    NATIONAL LEGISLATION! You f’ing moron! That is Congress!!!

    OK, next.

    “Another imperative is to invest…”

    Does the office of the President control investments? Are you saying the Energy Department is holding back on basic research investment? Doesn’t seem like it. You are talking about more investment. Who controls the nations purse? Have you read the Constitution? What branch of government controls the spending?

    OK. Next.

    “Mr. Obama’s most promising near-term strategy may be to invoke the Environmental Protection Agency…”

    THAT’S IT!!! Finally you have arrived at the most important weapon old Obama has. Is he willing to attempt to implement tough regulations in the face of obvious industry and congressional disapproval? Is he willing to listen to the whining about harm to the economy if tough regulations are implemented? I think that with the Republicans in Congress determined to throw our nation back into a recession old Obama has to take a careful tack when it comes to tougher industry standards and even limits to fossil fuel production. With crude at $90 a barrel even with our extremely weak recovery he won’t do anything that will cause fuel prices to rise. Republicans have tried their best to blame him for rising gasoline prices in the absence of any evidence but they would have much more success if a clear line could be drawn between an EPA or Administration policy and rising prices.

    BUT, how ‘bout we pay the fossil fuel companies to NOT develop coal, gas, and crude? You know, like how we pay farmers to not plant in certain parts of the country. Then we subsidize the gasoline and diesel like how we subsidize milk and eggs. I know, you are thinking we already give fossil fuel companies plenty of government money to develop those resources. Well, how ‘bout we stop that money and tell them they can have it back if they DON’T develop the resources? Maybe it is just the Christmas nog, but it seems like a possibility to me.

  10. Joan Savage says:

    When I read that Obama’s administration would “never propose” a carbon tax, my immediate reaction was, So who would?

    Ideally it would be a coalition in Congress that includes both House and Senate leaders. A freshman appointee senator from a solidly ‘blue” state like Hawaii might not be the leader in such an initiative, but he sure looks ready to add enthusiasm, which is great!

  11. I agree about NG. It’s a decade too late. It could have supplanted coal within a year or two, but that opportunity has passed. We need wholesale fossil fuel reductions ASAP.

    There’s still room for R&D, if we approach it like the Manhattan Project. In fact, I think it’s critical. That’s not the entire solution, or even the biggest piece, but it’s an important piece.

    The bigger piece is emergency conservation, just like in WW2, when people saved everything from tin cans to bacon grease, many commodities were rationed, and most industrial production was diverted from consumer goods to military goods. The government walked into GM, Ford, and Chrysler and said, you used to make cars, but now you make tanks and airplanes. Here, sign the contract.

    Meanwhile, as Joe R. says, deploy, deploy, deploy renewables.

  12. Tom King says:

    It isn’t fair that massive competence is demanded from Obama, but not from his opposition. As far as I’m concerned, Obama could sleep in bed all day and still be light years ahead of the plodding cyphers who plot against him. Go Obama!

  13. Dave Bradley says:

    Take a look at the top graph in this article. This is actually what this adminisation is planning on, energy wise. And essentially it can be translated into “no more renewables” for a long, long time (till the gas starts running out and all the easy money has been extracted). They need to be pushed hard into abandoning that loser proposition…

  14. David Goldstein says:

    As I see it, the fundamental problem is this: We (meaning most people and almost all political-certainly including Pres. Obama- and economic leaders) are still looking at climate change as if it is a ‘workable problem’. In other words, it is something that can be solved by working within the existing frameworks, outlooks, and business-as-usual approaches- the only question being how far or hard things need to be pushed within the framework. A broad analogy is if someone comes down with say a fever, say 101 or 102. Usually this is a ‘workable situation’- aspirin, fluids, rest for a few days. But- sometimes it develops into a different animal- a situation where the normal homeo-static systems of the body are not enough to keep things in check and push them back into balance. In these situations in can be critically important to recognize the qualitative shift and to take appropriate action. We have not done that yet- though the ‘doctors’ are screaming their diagnoses at us. And…there is absolutely no indication that president Obama will be capable of this in his 2nd term. Let us be honest with ourselves about this.

  15. prokaryotes says:

    Video is now available here

    SmartMeter roll-out in Germany an overview of the technology

  16. Max1 says:

    Because it’s NEVER pro-environment when a Democrat is in Office…

  17. This is the crux of the problem. It can’t be solved incrementally. That window closed (if it was ever really open) when the Supreme Court handed the 2000 election to Bush. Marginal incentives are not capable of removing 5%+ of fossil fuels from the economy every year for the next 20 years, any more than they would have been capable of the first moon shot or defeating the Axis powers. It requires something immediate and revolutionary.

    Government is the only plausible organ of social cooperation to effect that kind of change.

    A stiff carbon tax is a start. That will link the market to the larger effort, and create the right national mindset. Obama doesn’t have the Constitutional authority to impose a tax, but he does have the “bully pulpit,” plus a Dem majority in the Senate and hoards of scientists and religious leaders who could be employed to persuade the troglodytes in the House. That’s a big hill to climb, but I think the necessary handful will see that centralized government effort is less to be feared than societal collapse, just as it was less to be feared in WW2 than a Nazi takeover of Europe.

    Obama could issue a lot of Executive Orders. Among them could be to switch the government’s own energy use to maximize renewables and institute massive conservation as fast as possible. The military is already going down this road.

    The longer he waits, the more pressure will build to do something extra-Constitutional, as Lincoln and Roosevelt did. I think we’re already there, but without some kind of clear climate disaster, suspending any part of the Constitution will lack legitimacy. Although we could point to recent precedent–it was done in the wake of 9/11, and it was done in reaction to the Credit Crisis of 2008. Sandy wasn’t quite enough. Maybe a massive crop failure and skyrocketing food prices will do it. I think we’ll see that soon. (Of course, that may be the signal that it’s too late for ANY action to work.)

    BAU is not going to cut it, I agree.

  18. Marie says:

    Why the media thinks Obama is the one to fault is a mystery. They should be chiding the Congressional republicans and Boehner.
    It’s the same false equivalency they have always employed: “both parties” or “both men” or however they spin it, but the facts are plain to see: Obama has given much in compromise and has been rebuffed — his open hand is slapped down — they use the “my way or the highway” strategy and don’t get called on it — instead, both parties are blamed.

  19. Marie says:

    Sorry, my mind was drifting as I wrote and I focused mostly on politics rather than the environment.
    But again, why Obama is tasked with the responsibility and the republicans are not is frustrating.

  20. John Paily says:

    The first step to transition should be knowledge of principle and design on which nature functions sustain certain energy to matter ratio and thus temperature of earth. We need to develop global energy and time management to survive climate catastrophes. We need evolve our knowledge to nature and life into a new dimension to understand the truth and oneness of nature and its functioning. Every action of modern man to exploit the material world and its energy for self-advancement without knowing the whole truth or principle and design on which earth functions is leading the world to uncertainty and disaster. If we do not awaken to the fundamental realities of nature and develop new technologies to harness energy and use it judiciously in harmony with nature and its energy cycle we would end in giving huge prize. Earth does not care for nation’s material and economic interest and no nations can stand against her fury. The best way open is to understand and develop strategies to live in harmony with her.

  21. M Tucker says:

    Yep, you are exactly right! The media perpetuates the false equivalence so most American’s just believe it. They also perpetuate the false notion that the Executive branch is the most powerful branch of government. Just because the President is the one the media flocks around does not make that position the most powerful. If Congress cut of funding for the war in Afghanistan the military would have to run on home no matter what the President did or said.

    Which branch confirms or denies or ignores (and thereby leaves a department without a leader) all Presidential appointments to offices in the Executive branch?

    Which branch controls the purse and thereby controls the amount of debt the nation labors under?

    Which branch controls taxes?

    Which branch writes laws?

    Which branch has the most control over the economy, health, defense, and the wellbeing of the nation?


  22. PeterM says:

    The kind of action needed now to prevent us going into very dangerous climate change would capsize the entire ponzi scheme consumption based economy we have. Obama cares about his legacy like any other poltico- expecting him to be like FDR is an illusion.

  23. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Hit the fiscal cliff, crush the US economy and then the world economy follows. Not the course I would choose to reduce carbon emissions, but it looks like the path we are going to follow.

    The desperately poor are not good little consumers, but they do have a much smaller carbon footprint.

    Thanks to the NRA the new desperately poor, will all be armed. Armed starving people, surrounding the walled fortresses of the 1%.

  24. Mike Roddy says:

    You’re right, that the EIA is a passive, drop case organization, along with the rest of our government. IEA, the global equivalent, is much better, and actually details the disaster we are headed toward.

    American and global fossil fuel companies have assumed control of the public dialogue. Bribing of Congress keeps the lid on EIA, and they control major media companies by allocating advertising according to the outlets’ ideology.

    We accept this passively, since schools teach students not to think, and the corporate agenda has penetrated universities, too. Americans have become overweight consumers,
    easily led and kept oblivious to the horrors we are bequeathing on the world.

    Thanks to Romm, Mann, McKibben, and many others for your inspiring work, but until we the people know the gravity of the situation you will be continue to be brushed off like so many fleas.

  25. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    IMHO it’s not the 1% they’ll be going after. I think the poor, armed, and hungry are more likely to invade the local Wal-Mart, setup barricades around the parking lot, post armed guards, and use the store for supplies, rations, and as an ammunition depot.

  26. Merrelyn Emery says:

    These comments seem like a microcosm of the USA’s polarization, as real as it is unfortunate in the face of the realities we all share, like a planet. I still believe in miracles (of the aetheistic variety) but it is getting harder by the day, ME

  27. Ernest says:

    It’s not exactly “leading from behind”, but I think Obama learned the lesson harnessing political opportunity. Right now, the fiscal cliff is the most immediate crisis and he needs people to focus. Next is immigration since the 2012 elections have softened up the Republicans on this issue. Gun control is another opportunity after Newtown. If he “fosters a conversation” later in his 2nd term, it is to build a “consensus” (or at least a majority) to move forward on this issue. Long term, we won’t get very far if a major party is vehemently opposed to a solution, and will find any manner and means to undermine it. This is the unfortunate *political* reality. Right now, he can’t even get a good infrastructure bill through Congress, something immediate, tangible, concrete, obvious, involves jobs, something we should be doing anyway.

    If the fiscal cliff is not resolved, we dive into a recession in 2013 (along with the slowdown in China, European debt crisis) there won’t be the space to talk about anything else but jobs and the recession.

  28. John McCormick says:

    While we demand more from President Obama we are witness to the collapse of American Constitutional law that states clearly ‘the House shall raise taxes’. Oh!! Breaking news: the Republican Speaker of the House has broken with Constitutional law and asked the Senate to send the House a tax bill.

    Where is this ship of state taking us? Are we helpless to grab hold of the emergency brake and throw those rethugs off the ship.

    If you think this dervish is unrelated to Congress taking action on climate change…watch.

  29. Ernest says:

    The other big temptation of fossil fuels is “energy independence”, predicted for the US by 2030 due to the shale gas and shale oil boom. Right now, there’s no quick way economically, politically, technologically to get off of fossil fuels. It’s very hard, politically, to argue for getting these resources from an unstable middle East if you can get the same from your own backyard. Neither solves the climate issue. But energy independence is preferable on national security grounds. I wonder how he’ll finally rule on Keystone XL.

  30. Agree that shale resources seem an expedient to “energy independence.” But nothing would fill that bill like massive conservation and renewable deployment. It’s a major vested-interest and stranded-investment problem.

    Someone above mentioned buying out the fossil companies. I’ve suggested that myself. As distasteful as it is, it bears consideration.

  31. That is the depressing truth. Obama’s circumspection is arguably necessary, but it’s probably as self-defeating as being aggressive in the wrong way. I think there’s a right way, involving religious leaders and scientists having intimate conversations with key climate-change deniers. As events unfold, they’ll recall these conversations and begin to align with them.

    I think we’re going to see some very weird weather very soon, much weirder than Sandy, much more destructive than last year’s drought. The jet stream is becoming very unstable. We could see some serious agricultural devastation, along the lines of the 40% wheat-crop loss Russia experienced in 2010.

    Bottom line, Obama is being too timid, too short-sighted, and too unimaginative on the climate. He’s learned on fiscal matters to be much firmer and assertive. I think he has to do the same with climate change. Not be obnoxious, just exude conviction.

  32. prokaryotes says:

    I wonder how we could possibly stem the energy transition. Or maybe that will be the answer to the economic down turn….

  33. fj says:

    Yes, let’s hope that the New York Times continues to further distance itself from this nation’s vast array of lagard climate-silent echo chambers which must be made to answer for the horrific environmental future they are helping to create.

  34. Leif says:

    It would be far less distasteful if the “buy out” included environmental clean up costs. That is not unprecedented. Corporations are People” now and I would be liable for trashing the ecosystems.

  35. David Goldstein says:

    Yes. Howver, I am perhaps less optimistic than you regarding what level and frequency of climate consequences will be necessary to affect even a beginning of what needs to happen in this country (which is, of course, only a very beginning of what needs to happen in the world as a whole). Making real and substantial cuts to carbon emissions (aside from the happenstancial cuts that have occurred b/c of the natural gas boon), I believe, is going to be a very long and painful process. FIRST- we need repeated, extreme climate suffering to even get the conversation on the table for the president to ‘go bully pulpit’ as you mention. THEN- we will need still more and worse to effectuate true policy transformation. I am guessing Sandy is about 1/25 (or so :) ) of what we ill eventually need.

  36. fj says:

    NYTimes: Hurricane Sandy Alters Utilities’ Calculus on Upgrades

  37. Mike Roddy says:

    If Obama gave an emergency national address, pointing to the recent studies showing us headed toward catastrophe, he would persuade the American public, and Congress, too act.

    He won’t do it, because he has proved he is the oil companies’ boy. Case in point: Carney announcing no carbon tax, and being quite adamant about it.

    Obama deserves blame. If the facts don’t wake him up, he will also deserve to be viewed by historians as a failure.

  38. Superman1 says:

    He can no more ‘fix’ our addiction to fossil fuels than he can ‘fix’ a drug addict’s addiction to heroin. We have to ‘fix’ it; fat chance!

  39. Superman1 says:

    Our military leaders and their intelligence counterparts understand what lies ahead, and it will affect their grandchildren along with everyone else’s. At some point, to save their grandchildren, they, and possibly their counterparts from Russia and China, will use the levers of power they control and, one way or another, implement CO2 reduction worldwide.

  40. Superman1 says:

    A recent Fed study showed the top one percent had $32T in net personal wealth. Levy a Special Assessment of fifty percent, and buy out the energy companies and the energy countries. Other countries follow with their upper one percent.

  41. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Merrelyn – with regard to yours at #17 –
    the bit I find hard to take is the closet denialism – not the fabricated circus of AGW denial since 2009 that gave spurious cover for Obama’s silence and gross negligence of climate in his first 4 years, but the denial of the need to get beyond the BAU of political tribalism. Comments above asserting juvenile apologia for Obama are a case in point. However many times official gesture-scale actions on climate are cited, the fact remains that Obama’s chosen US ‘pledge’ for 2020 is a mere 3.67% off the 1990 baseline – which is far less than the US signed up to for 2012 at Kyoto and 8 years later. For comparison the impoverished EU is debating raising its 2020 goal from 20% to 30%.

    If people were actually interested in looking beyond the failed conventional ‘wisdoms’ of that political tribalism then future climate damages could be greatly reduced. Where for instance is progressives’ discussion of Obama’s staunch inspiring address to the Governors’ Climate Summit in November 2008 after being elected (and before adopting Cheyney’s ‘Brinkmanship of Inaction’ with China in 2009) in comparison with his response to the recent press conference after being re-elected ?

    By my count his latter brief statement crammed in 2 strawman prevarications, 3 hype-the-controversies, and 3 outright lies.

    There are of course a range of closet denialisms – from denial of the critical significance to mitigation strategy of the loss of the cooling sulphate parasol by closing coal-fired plants,
    – to denial of the critical significance to mitigation strategy of the ongoing interactive acceleration of six out of seven mega-feedbacks,
    – to denial of the obvious need for the US to begin negotiating an equitable and efficient global climate treaty at the UN,
    – to denial of the obvious impossibility of resolving AGW by an Emissions-Control-only climate treaty,
    – to denial of the viability of resolving AGW by means of a climate treaty mandating Emissions Control + Carbon Recovery + Albedo Restoration.
    (Unlike many of CP’s commenters, I note that JR’s posts are clear, explicitly or tacitly, on each of these).

    Yet the denial of the White House’s obdurate pursuit of the bipartisan policy of a Brinkmanship of Inaction with China is the pivotal issue, since in assuming that US prevarication is only accidentally heading for food shortages in China it misdirects progressives’ critique onto the exceptionally thick-skinned fossil fuel lobby (that funds the circus of denial partly to ensure the focus continues) and it wholly fails to instigate widespread adamant demand for effective presidential action by the ~ 80% popular support for action.

    Obama’s recent fervent commitment to action on gun control – despite around 50% vitriolic opposition – utterly discredits the old excuse for his ongoing silence and inaction on climate being due to lack of support – yet still most progressives ignore the reality of the bipartisan policy of inaction being pursued in their name.

    Maybe that policy needs to be put in context of previous precedents ? Seeking the end of China’s bid for global economic dominance via prolonged inaction on GHGs while awaiting sufficient crop failures and food shortages to empower massive Chinese civil unrest, and thus to impose the climatic destabilization of the Chinese government, may be a novel tactic but it is far from being a novel strategy. – History is replete with examples of nations disrupting the food supplies of their rivals for dominance. The classic international example was of the WW2 U-boat campaign to cut off Great Britain’s food supplies, while the classic internal US example was Washington’s decision to exterminate the buffalo as a means to advance its policy of the genocide of the native peoples of America and the seizure of their land.

    Maybe the reasons for the policy’s obvious risks being strategically acceptable need clarifying ? These are, first, Washington’s paramount priority since WW2 of maintaining US global economic dominance – on which the profits of all US corporations and America’s whole “way of life” depend – and for which the 8yr Bush terms notably launched no military build-up, though the previous generation saw the immense costs and existential risks of pursuing a 40yr cold war nuclear arms race as entirely justified in deflecting the USSR’s bid for global dominance.

    Second, the risks of inaction on climate were seen as acceptable by Cheyney owing, firstly, to Edward Teller’s ’95 paper proposing sulphate aerosol geo-engineering as a reliable means to halt climate destabilization promptly when that became desirable (as Secretary of Defence under Bush senior Cheyney was certainly acquainted with Teller). And secondly because the conventional wisdom in 2000 said that not only would developing nations like China suffer far greater climate impacts than the US, but also that the US would be far better able to afford the resulting damages, rebuilding costs and food-price rises than China.

    Obama’s adoption of the bipartisan policy in 2009 can already be seen as a tragic and unforced error. His reneging in March 2009 on the UNFCCC 1990 emissions baseline in favour of Bush’s unilateral 2005 baseline signalled that decision worldwide, but it was largely ignored within America. His crushing of the Copenhagen conference and derailing of the Senate climate bill were similarly ignored – with the notable exception on the latter of Ryan Lizza’s forensic New Yorker article – as JR reported at length.

    In 4 years in office Obama has gone much further than Bush went in his 8 years in pursuit of the bipartisan policy of a Brinkmanship of Inaction – even to the extent recently of denying the need of a treaty. If progressives are to have any significant effect on the chances of avoiding catastrophic climate damages they need to recognize his adoption of that policy and to focus their efforts on him personally and on getting the policy replaced. But how many are prepared to look beyond the conditioning to BAU political tribalism ? In terms of his conduct of foreign policy one point that should perhaps be better known is that Obama is said by friends to enjoy his very considerable talent at poker.

    Maybe the bipartisan policy needs criticizing on grounds of its evident incompetence for progressives to recognize and challenge it ? If so then Cheyney’s expectation in 2000 of advancing the ‘Project for a New American Century’ by using climate destabilization against the Chinese rival for global dominance has proven characteristically inept. China’s brinkmanship response was an immediate flat-out coal-fired growth policy (as anyone familiar with the graph of China’s emissions turning up abruptly by 2002 will be aware) which has made a nonsense of the expected relative-wealth advantage for the US – quite apart from Bush economics having now crashed the US economy. The upshot is that China’s economy is on track to exceed America’s during 2016.

    In addition, far from China facing far worse climate impacts, America’s impacts have been increasing faster than any other large nation, to the extent that 2012 US damage costs may well match most of the year’s GDP growth. With the accelerating decline of the cryosphere and consequent disruption of the Jetstream, the prognosis for the next decade is increasingly dire for the US in particular, but also for its former allies such as the European Union. As I write Britain is getting its most extreme annual rainfall in hundreds of years of records, while earlier this year we were still in extreme drought.

    In short the bipartisan US policy of a Brinkmanship of Inaction with China was always strategically reckless and genocidally immoral, and in practice has proven grossly incompetent and economically unsustainable. Obama’s reliance for his pursuit of the policy on consensus support across Western corporations is now history, with numerous powerful EU corporations and even some Australian and US ones pointedly promoting commensurate global collective action. Thus the policy is increasingly vulnerable to exposure and challenge internationally, but most particularly by the progressive wing of American politics. Once informed of it, will the American public’s national self-esteem tolerate such stupid immoral conduct by their government ?

    Merrelyn, I’ve laid out most of these points numerous times with little notable effect – JR did once remark that none of his official contacts would confirm the bipartisan policy – which begged the question of just how few staffers have any operational need to know of it, beside the fact that JR of CP is about the last person on earth an informed staffer would tell. So just what will it take for progressives to wake up from the futile reflex responses to the intentional denialist provocations of BAU tribal politics
    – and recognize just what is being done in their name
    – and take the struggle to where it is needed
    – at the gates of the White House ?



  42. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    So how many centuries would you expect to spend in that education process to generate enough Americans to make the vital changes without effective political leadership ?

    Or should we actually be demanding effective political leadership during 2013 ?

    How many years do you think we’ve got to spare ?



  43. Lisa says:

    Obama has the power of the bully pulpit. At the very least he could name climate change as THE problem of our life time, present the stark facts and challenge American voters to elect a Congress in 2014 that will work with him and across the aisle to do what can be done to mitigate and adapt.

  44. fj says:

    Lisa Jackson EPA resignation a refusal to support Obama Keystone XL pipeline


  45. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Another cogent comment Lewis and I agree on all counts, albeit some reluctantly as you know. I fear there are even more disastrous calculations to come regarding China and I don’t know if you have looked at Hugh White’s ‘The China Choice’. He argues that America must share power with China but a brief perusal of America history makes that seem unlikely. Their internal lack of coherence and stability seem to demand an external common enemy and while the most logical, to say nothing of necessary, candidate would be climate change, that possibility has already fallen prey to the tribalism and other problems you mention. I can only hope at this stage that the global economy rapidly deteriorates, and the costs of climate escalate to the point where all nations must elevate domestic affairs above international designs, ME

  46. mulp says:

    The best way to make sure Republicans fight every and anything scientific is for Obama to make science driven policy a priority.

    Republicans will just say no to oppose Obama.

    If Obama points to the science of drought, Texans will be holding prayers for rain and will probably offer reservations to expelled Indian tribes if only they return to do rain dances.

    And if Mayans call for human sacrifice, Texans will sacrifice virgins rather than admit to Obama being right on the science.

  47. Superman1 says:

    Why do you think we have any years to spare? Specifically, where do you think McPherson is wrong?

  48. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    I personally don’t think we have weeks to spare – given the 30yr timelag, each week’s delay now is potentially another week of massively worsened global impacts 30 years hence.

    McPherson is dead wrong in my view to preach defeatism, which is potentially self-fulfilling, and serves the interests of the denial lobby to a tee. Every campaign I’ve ever fought has had to break the ploy of the outcome being ‘inevitable’. Few people will fight if they’re convinced a cause is hopeless, and disabling your opponent’s moral is a hell of a lot cheaper than fighting him. Moral is critical.

    In practical terms McPherson is dead wrong in asserting his belief that we cannot succeed in generating the required political changes for America to finally stop prevaricating and start to negotiate a commensurate global climate treaty.

    The starting point of that change is recognizing that progressives are being gulled into applying all pressure to the wrong target – the US fossil fuel lobby – when in fact your government has been running a bipartisan climate policy of a Brinkmanship of Inaction with China.

    I’ve put an outline of the issue at #22 below, which you may find of interest. Suffice to say here that the policy is a Cheyney legacy adopted by Obama as a means to break China’s bid for global dominance, that is was launched on badly flawed assumptions and is proving increasingly unsustainable, and that it is genocidally immoral to the extent that its exposure to the US public will predictably cause it to be binned.

    The core question is just when American progressives will start to connect the dots and realize just where pressure actually needs to be applied.



  49. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    He’s not supposed to find the solutions. He’s supposed to appoint and support thóse who can, and he hásn’t, and I doubt that he ever will.

  50. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Thể ís a revolving dổor between all ÚS Federal agencies and the corporations that they are supposed to police. You live in a plutocracy where the rich control the bureaucracy ás totally ás they do the legislative árms òf Government (and the MSM propaganda system, tôo, òf course).

  51. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Like a ‘cytokine storm’ that rúns amuk.

  52. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Thểre ís only one political party in the ÚSA, the party òf the money power. It has two wings that engage in mostly mock combat, while ‘business-ás-usual’ continues. It’s all done to confuse the rabble into imagining that they live in a ‘democracy’. Periodic outbreaks òf mass hysteria like the Tea Party ínsanity are used to divert the proles with ‘colour and movement’.

  53. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You are quite correct, in my opinion, Lewis. The ÚS and Western elites have only one priority at the moment and it ís derailing China, not addressing climate destabilisation. After 500 years òf Western global dominance they are not about to cede global hegemony to a bunch òf ‘Asiatics’. You can bet your house on that.

  54. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Saving humanity requires destroying free market capitalism, which ís why the elite and their employees like Obama and all other Western politicians (with very few exceptions) are so adamantly opposed to the utterly necessary actions required. They love their money and power mỏre than humanity, ás we have known since the beginning òf ‘civilization’.

  55. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Ás we can sêe already in Spain, Germany, Greece etc, where the ultra-Right ís on the march, the 0.01% will mobilise fascists ás they đid in the 1920s and 1930s, to avert social change harmful to their interests. The vilest elements òf the mob will eagerly accept that their sorrows are caused by the pổỏr, welfare recipients, foreigners, Moslems and the hated ‘Greenies’ rather than the rich.

  56. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Obama ís designed to be a pressure reliever after social tensions built up over the Bush years and with the massive growth in inequality over the lást forty years. Hís role ís always to promise, but never, ever, deliver. It’s really quite clever, immensely cynical and thóse with a knowledge òf the means utilised by the plutocrats to control society, like Nader and Chomsky, never fell for it.

  57. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’d take 99% for the 99%. Not one nickel òf that enormous lôot has ever bêen honestly earned. It ís all stolen property that humanity hás a right to sêe restituted to íts rightful recipients-the 99%.

  58. Superman1 says:

    I was just trying to show some generosity. Actually, the $32T is probably an underestimate. I doubt whether the concealed offshore accounts were included. Let’s make it 60%.

  59. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Mulga –

    “After 500 years òf Western global dominance they are not about to cede global hegemony to a bunch òf ‘Asiatics’.”

    You have their quandary in a nutshell – given that the brinkmanship is increasingly counterproductive in weakening the US economy, what other options can they pursue ?