Obama Goes Hawkish: Failure To Respond To Threat Of Climate Change, ‘Would Betray Our Children And Future Generations’

Obama went all climate hawk on America in his second inaugural address (full text here).

These are, I believe, his longest and strongest remarks on the subject in any major national speech, let alone one of this import:

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.

The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise.  That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaksThat is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.  That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We will soon see if these words have any meaning whatsoever — since approving the Keystone XL pipeline would utterly vitiate them.

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148 Responses to Obama Goes Hawkish: Failure To Respond To Threat Of Climate Change, ‘Would Betray Our Children And Future Generations’

  1. Constant Gardener says:

    Drink up, Joe.

  2. Curt Sommer says:

    Dear Mr. President,

    Talk is cheap.

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    Talk is cheap. No mention of a serious domestic carbon tax, designed to dovetail with other countries’ programs, or things like charging China port fees for the diesel and soot emissions of their container ships. Steps like those would strengthen US manufacturing, but Walmart seems to have more juice than US manufacturers these days. Maybe it’s because their low wage and benefits policy gives chubbies to the people who run this country.

    We’ll know the President means it when he prods EPA to get tougher, instead of extending industry deadlines, when he shows concern for fracking caused watersheds by calling for disclosure and serious regulations, and when he takes aggressive action to support wind and solar. Another good test will be Keystone; if Obama cancels it on GHG emissions grounds, we’ll know he’s changed. Don’t hold your breath on any of these measures.

    That said, at least he’s talking about it. Not enough to celebrate, but we battered activists at least got thrown a little bone.

  4. Artful Dodger says:

    Hi Joe,

    Real pleased with the President’s speech, and your coverage. The link above to the full text of the speech should be:

  5. Stefan says:

    He’s already betrayed this ideal with all the new drilling he’s approved, including and most notedly the Arctic. Put up or shut up America, there is no time to waste.

  6. Artful Dodger says:

    Baby steps, Mike. At least we’ve got him talking about climate again. Now let’s build the momentum into an avalanche of action. Boots On!

  7. John McCormick says:

    For a moment, lets enjoy the President’s inauguration and his calling on all of get involved in America’s next challenges.

    Our challenge is to win back the House, hold the Senate and defeat the flat earthers.

  8. That’s great but will still need tens of thousands to march on White House to get action.

  9. fj says:

    Obama needs to know that he will held accountable.

    And, he needs to know that he has the political capital to get the job done.

  10. Joan Savage says:

    The “We” emphasis of the speech leads me to believe Obama needs to have other voices besides himself stepping up as articulate leaders. Bill Clinton gave climate change the nod, but he hasn’t pulled out all the stops. Hillary Clinton formerly worked on the black carbon issue with emphasis on replacing cook stoves with more efficient models, but she hasn’t refocused her post-Secretary activities yet, and her Keystone XL role was problematic.

    The way I hear Obama is that he speaks of climate change largely in the policy contexts of related palatable objectives such as sustainable energy, government response to severe weather disruptions, infrastructure replacement and improvement, and inventing new kinds of jobs.

    Like others who post here, I’d be a lot happier if he’d understand that aiding and abetting expansion of North American fossil fuel extraction is a strategic failure that could wipe out the benefits of the other objectives.

    It’s not pretty to be given something with one hand, only to have it taken away with the other.

    I think he can get it, with our help, but we are short on time.

  11. Artful Dodger says:

    There was one more important line, delivered 3 sentences before the quote above:

    “We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm.”

    Recognizing that we are now committed to a certain amount of climate chaos. Adaptation and Reparation will be a way of life for the next 7 generations of humanity.

  12. question says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head.

    Obama has to lead, but he can’t do it alone. We have to show him, but also the nation that he has the political capital. He can do a lot, but he can’t get a carbon tax through a House that, quite frankly, has an irrational hatred for anything he supports.

    We have to be out there making sure we take back the house, but even before that, making sure that the nation understand that there is a mandate for strong climate action.

    Now is the time to push and push hard. National action, local action, personal action all are needed. We have to be loud, persistent and passionate. Flood the National Mall, flood the congressional switchboard, flood the mailbags of local newspapers.

    If everyone who reads this blog or gets it through twitter took action now it would make a huge difference.

  13. Artful Dodger says:

    Hold that thought:

    US reviews Shell’s Arctic drilling plans –

    Jan 9, 2013 – The review will take 60 days and will look at Shell’s practices to identify … secure those permits in the first half of this year so it can begin drilling complete wells as …. An oil spill in the cold zone does far more damage as the oil …

  14. I think his speech was great. He actually said the words “climate change,” and framed it well. The only way it could have been better would have been to link it to civil rights given that this is MLK Day. No one has the right to deprive us of our future, nor do we have the right to deprive our children’s.

    As Artful said, baby steps. He’s put the deniers on notice. That’s a start.

  15. PeterM says:

    The President gave a good speech on climate change. He addressed the issue with far more urgency then any President in the past.

    This is a credible start- there is far more work to do. Unfortunately there is really no time left to prevent the increasing disastrous effects of climate change.

  16. BillD says:

    Having the President speak out is very important. If the president speaks out, we can only hope that the media and the general public will follow. There will always be die hard deniers, but many will change their positions in response to public opinion.

    In Germany, a large majority of politicians and people from liberal to conservative have enough concern about climate change to pay substantially higher energy costs to fund a rapid transition to renewable energy. The main difference between the US and Germany seems to be that Germany has little fossil fuel resources and very little in the way of disinformation from fossil fuel interests.

  17. Brooks Bridges says:

    Thanks Stephen.

    Only near term chance for people to put their bodies where their mouth is: Feb 17.

    “We” is us also. The more attending, the more political capital he has to act.

  18. frank m. says:

    Question: What legal authority does any President have to stop a project that complies with all of the requirements put before it during the permitting process?

    If a proposed project meets all existing federal, state, and local environmental permitting requirements, then how do you expect the President to say, “I don’t care, you can’t build it.”

    Wouldn’t the permitting regulations need to be re-written first to incorporate the reasons for the objections to the particular project?

    Since when is the POTUS the ultimate permitting authority? What am I missing?

  19. I certainly appreciate Obama’s rhetoric, but like Mike, I await his actions. But we can not afford to wait for some final solution from big government. There is a lot of work to be done at the state and local level. Some even see reasons to be optimistic. My first real intro to climate change facts came from a webinar featuring Dr. James Hansen and Dr. Ed Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030.

    Read what Mazria had to say this week. ”
    “We can choose to plan, design and build truly sustainable, livable, and resilient built environments, or we can accelerate climate change and ecological degradation, leading to increased human suffering. How we plan, design, and build today will have lasting impacts for our children, communities, and planet.” There is little here that depends on federal action but the results can save us all.

  20. FWhite says:

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but don’t hold your breath waiting for “tens of thousands to march on Washington.” Short of a perceived threat of the imminent collapse of civilization it ain’t gonna happen soon.

    Associate Professor Harvey Young of Northwestern U writes in a recent article: “The cause of inaction: an inability to stop future dangers for want of short-term pleasures. Pleasure almost always trumps long-term self-interest.”

    “Why we won’t stop global warming”

  21. Ray Kondrasuk says:

    Artful, well said: Boots on!

    And thankfully, after this past election,
    Mittens off!

  22. Daniel Coffey says:

    Yes, please impose a tax that will ensure that the government FAVORS continued use of fossil fuels because it generates tax revenues, which can offset the need of the wealthiest to pay more.

    Yes, please tax everyone’s carbon use so that the least among us will bear the greatest proportion of the burden relative to their means, causing them to curse environmentalism and Democrats.

    Yes, please tax carbon to ensure a vague and ill-defined revenue stream that does not direct funds directly toward energy sources which eliminate carbon dioxide emissions. Make sure to include “low emission” natural gas in the mix so that it can displace solar and wind, driving those industries into bankruptcy and sustaining the oil/gas industries we all love to love.

    Yes, tax carbon, because Wall Street has not figured out how to exploit such a maneuver to benefit and arbitrage. The environmental community is the very best at anticipating high-finance and has a long track record of supporting great ideas – like corn converted to liquid fuels.

    Yes, please place a tax on carbon to ensure a talking point to the Republican Party that can engender greater hatred by their constituents of those trying to solve climate change.

    And, finally, please place a tax on carbon in order to make sure that wind and solar power are less affordable because people are spending more NOW on the things that they need, thus slowing the transformation to renewable resources and driving people to use natural gas ’cause its cheaper even with a tax.

    Good – no great – idea. Nothing could go wrong.

  23. Daniel Coffey says:

    Thank goodness Sierra Club made sure to block those pesky large-scale solar and wind projects. If we continue a bit longer, maybe we can extend it to 9 generations, or even to the LAST generation.

    There is nothing that wildlife loves more than a good drought than makes sure that there is little or no water or food, because the rain does not fall and the plants don’t grow. Thank goodness we delayed those renewable energy projects with studies and lawsuits and complaints and political pressure and all the tricks environmental lawyers have become famous for.

    As for the fossil fuel interests, be sure to support your local obstructionist environmental groups, that is your best bet for continued success and profits. Driving the competition into the ground by delays is a great approach, and as the Chinese have now done, the best way to buy them for pennies at the bankruptcy.

  24. Daniel Coffey says:

    If you watch the approach of the lawsuits filed against large-scale solar and wind projects by environmental groups, you will be assured that we have nothing but time on our side. Viva delay – make sure that no project gets past the environmental gatekeepers.

    Koch Bros., be sure to secretly contribute to the largest and more aggressive environmental preservation groups who will litigate and complain and lobby for every delay measure known to man, and a few more for good measure. Who needs the Heartland Institute when you have local environmental organizations to throw up every absurd challenge ever imagined.

  25. Daniel Coffey says:

    Accountable? Are you kidding? What do you mean?

  26. Joe Romm says:

    The national interest.

  27. Joe Romm says:

    I’m already on my way to Vegas with Chelsea and Charlie both!

  28. SecularAnimist says:

    So, Daniel Coffey, you propose that we continue to allow carbon polluters to use the Earth’s atmosphere as a free dumping ground for their pollution, so that they can impose the resulting costs on all of humanity rather than bearing those costs themselves.

  29. SecularAnimist says:

    Daniel Coffey wrote: “… the lawsuits filed against large-scale solar and wind projects by environmental groups …”

    What lawsuits? List them, list the organizations that filed them, list the projects they were filed against, list the basis on which they were filed, list the outcomes of the suits, and list the resulting delays or cancellations of specific projects.

    You won’t, because you don’t have any of that information, and you don’t know what you are talking about. You are just regurgitating scripted, green-bashing bumper sticker slogans.

    The reality is that “environmental groups” both large and small, both local and national, have worked very closely with the Obama administration to expedite renewable energy development in the areas where there will be the least negative environmental impact. This approach has been hugely successful, as demonstrated by the fact that wind power now accounts for the installation of more new electric generating capacity than any other source (including natural gas) and solar electricity generation has more than doubled during Obama’s first term.

    And it’s thanks to that cooperation that an unprecedented number of large-scale solar power plants, some of them with thermal storage, are going to be constructed in the next few years, on public lands, while minimizing negative environmental impacts.

  30. David Goldstein says:

    Everyone who comments on this site knows something that most people do not yet know: The physics of climate change is implacable, absolutely implacable. We do not do ‘implacable’ very well, especially when it comes to a progressive political/legeslative process unless we are perceived to be on a wartime footing. THIS is the real problem- though Obama may turn out to be more progressive on the climate then he has so far demonstrated, I would be EXTREMELY surprised if he proposes action that is commenserate with the urgency of the physics. I hear all who have comments that we must bring public pressure to bear to make this happen (and I agree)…but to be congruent with the physics, we are talking about 1) A full out, no holds barred deployment of non-carbon infrastructure AND a full out scale down of carbon output and 2)A likewise process in China and India and, etc. We are learning beings, but if we come close to accomplishing this I will be astonished (and astonishingly glad!). As I move forward with activism, I also move forward the grieving process that I have personally begun.

  31. Ray Kondrasuk says:


    Thank you for the Al Jazeera link. Very sound and soberly reasoned… sadly.

  32. caerbannog says:

    And remember — boots aren’t just for walkin’. They’re also for kickin’. (For the benefit of DHS web-crawlers, that’s a *metaphorical* kickin’.)

    And as for Mittens — thank goodness he’s gone and well on his way to being forgotten.

  33. Roger says:

    These words are great baby steps in the right direction. Now we need an all out “State of the Climate” address, complete with specific action plans, pulling out all the stops!

    Wanna help? It’s a bit of a “Catch 22” deal: Obama, like all presidents, likes to have public support. But, being POTUS, he’s in the best position to clear up climate confusion–by talking about Climate Change the same way he recently spoke about guns.

    And that means that folks who get CC, such as the ardent readers of Joe’s blog, need to go all out supporting the idea that Obama speak out. WE can break the deadlock.

    How? Easy: 1) Call Obama’s WH Comment Line, 9-5 EST, workdays, at 202-456-1111; 2) Go to, click on “Contact Us” in the upper right, and leave a comment; 3) Write B. Obama, The WH, 1600 PA Ave, WDC 20500; 4) Fax a letter to the POTUS at 202-456-2461; or, best, 5) Go see him in WDC, along with 1000s of others, on February 17th, as part of the action.

    Please do one or more of the above. We who know have the responsibility to all future generations to act…as Obama said. As much as we wish he would, or could, he can’t or won’t do it without our strong support.

    Counting on you,

    P.S. Pls also like:

  34. Daniel Coffey says:

    Quite the opposite. I plan to replace the technology that uses fossil fuels with non-carbon energy extraction technology such as large-scale wind, solar and geothermal. The best and quickest way to do that is by demanding that technology, not through market forces which find cleaver ways of finding other devices and other external costs in which to hide.

    We have the technology, but so far it has been blocked from deployment by a weird amalgam of Republicans on the Right and Environmentalists on the left, each demanding that the equipment not be used, but for reasons of their own imagining.

    I know that my simple and direct approach challenges the orthodoxy, but I am not unaware of how games get played and people get misled.

    For me there is only one problem: global warming. It is literally a destroyer of worlds. Until you really appreciate the scale, scope, intensity and duration of its astonishingly adverse effects, you will lack adequate dread to know when you see a path out of the current tangle.

    The Chinese, by the way, have taken the task seriously and now lead the world in deploying solar and wind technology. The scale of their efforts dwarfs anything anywhere else in the world. Educated projects place their deployment of solar PV at 100,000 megawatt by 2020.

    America, on the other hand, has found ways to study, debate, restrict, fumble, defeat, bankrupt, and discourage most efforts to do solar on a scale that makes sense. Instead, its all about a few rooftops – or even many – which will never be enough.

    Anyway, you think that I am somehow against the efforts to improve our situation vis a vis global warming. That is because you assume too much.

  35. Roger says:

    Sad, true, AND the very definition of leadership–putting survival and success ahead of other things.

    Leadership starts with parents teaching their children how to feed themselves. It continues with encouraging education and etc.

    For Obama, leadership is telling Americans what we’ll face (e.g., even food shortages) if we don’t act against climate change now.

    For climate activists and readers of CP, it’s encouraging Obama to be a climate leader by calling him (202-456-1111), writing him(, fax 202-456-2461), or going to see him in WDC on February 17th, with 1000s of others (

    It’s “do or die” time, folks. If you don’t act, then don’t complain when the SHTFan.

    Faxing now,

  36. C.A. Lawrence says:

    People need to get up off the couch and join the already engaged citizens. We don’t need and can’t afford large scale anything anymore. Community solar, community wind, geothermal,reduce and reuse. The U.S. needs to stop being the energy hogs of the planet. And STOP exporting coal to China, etc. China’s smog eventually ends up in the U.S. and Canada. And rein in the domination of multinational corporations.

  37. Daniel Coffey says:

    Ah, you think you have caught me in an exaggeration. What your comment reveals is a rather typical lack of appreciation for the number of such lawsuits. I will point you to one which can be easily reached on the internet, but for the enormous volume of such efforts you will have to do your own homework. Be aware that I spend more than my share of time following how these projects are handled and writing about the absurd amounts of time wasted in such endeavors.
    Take a look at

    where you will see a classic lawsuit filed by those seeking to stop wind power in Mexico and in the US. The pleadings are posted for your review.

    This effort to delay a three tower transmission line on the US side of the border has been ongoing for at least 4 years and is blocking at least 1250 Megawatts of wind power – about 1 billion pounds of CO2 avoided each 3 months. Add up the total pounds of CO2 emitted.

  38. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    “We do not do ‘implacable’ very well…”
    I’m afraid the GOP does implacable quite well, at times rivalling Physics itself. And that they will continue to do so… So BHO, whom I’m convinced is well aware of both the seriousness of the situation, and of GOP implacability, will go about this in a piecemeal fashion – doing what can be done without GOP cooperation. I also expect BHO not to give a full out public speech on AGW, revealing the full seriousness of the situation. As a result, too little will be done, and too late. That’s my expectation, and I too will be “astonishingly glad” should my pessimism prove to have been unfounded.

  39. David Goldstein says:

    I do wonder: It is feasible that the entire Arctic sea ice cover will vanish at some point in the late summer during Obama’s last administration. We know that 80% of the volume is already ALMOST all of it, but perhaps the ‘zero point’ will provide some extra motivation. But, man oh man, at that point with the sea drinking in all the ‘non-reflected’ energy (even for just a few days to begin with)…who knows what fun and mayhem may be unleashed?

  40. Robert Nagle says:

    To David: The question boils down to how much of a difference that individual efforts to decarbonize one’s life can make and how quickly that can proceed. I was able to reduce my carbon footprint fairly quickly, and I think lots of like-minded individuals are trying to do the same for purely altruistic reasons. There is the tendency to think that government intervention is the ONLY way to fight this problem. I think that government intervention can do a lot of good, but so can the choices we make as consumers and employees. It’s clear that federal and international intervention is lagging far behind grassroots initiatives. Is that really surprising?

    I see the problem as more attitudinal than legislative. Perhaps I am naive. :)

  41. prokaryotes says:

    Correction, the SPIEGEL adds 1 word about “more climate protection”. Not mentioning “Climate Change”.

  42. Karla Miles says:

    So well said. Thank you.

  43. Brooks Bridges says:

    I’m well aware of your “bad tidings”. Exactly what have you accomplished by spreading them? It’s precisely your attitude that keeps people from getting out. If you can’t suggest action to improve things then please keep quiet and stop discouraging others.

    Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right?

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
    ― Margaret Mead

  44. Daniel Coffey says:

    You say: “You won’t, because you don’t have any of that information, and you don’t know what you are talking about. You are just regurgitating scripted, green-bashing bumper sticker slogans.”

    Yes, since I hold a degree in chemical engineer and have been a lawyer for many years, I can see how you could conclude that I am at a total loss to understand lawsuits and technology. Bumper stickers? Is that your source?

    Your comment reflects a rather too usual misunderstanding of reality. Maybe you should read some of my work first. Oh, but it is easier to attack first and sustain the illusion for faithful followers. Global warming has not listened to the environmental community in an obedient fashion. Instead, it has continued its relentless accumulation of energy into the planet’s environment, oceans, ice and atmosphere.

    As an aside, with respect to solar-thermal, I am not a huge fan of that technology, as it is far less efficient than PV, most often requires water, involves vastly more complex equipment, cooling water treatment chemicals, and all of the other technology typically associated with older-style energy extraction techniques. But that is another lengthy topic.

  45. Jane Jerome says:

    Last week, when I was on, the site asked me to prioritize my concerns. Climate change wan’t on the list and I commented on its absence. To my mind, this speech is an historic moment and I am overjoyed that this on the President’s top priorities for his second term. Let’s do all we can to help him, as the resistance from the right wing extremists will be vociferous.

  46. Ken Barrows says:

    I missed the speech (I’m not sorry about that), but didn’t the President also refer to no limits in his rhetoric? If so, enjoy the day and then you’ll complain about him next week.

    I think the concept of limits is what separates the commenters on this website. Those who think that technology will push off limits will love the speech. Those who don’t are deluded if they give two hoots about it.

  47. Ken Barrows says:

    From the speech: America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention.

    And there’s the problem. I know it’s a rhetorical device, but it is not true unless you wish to be a techno-cornucopian. Mr. Obama, the world does have boundaries. Sorry.

  48. Bob Lang says:

    In 1976, on the occasion of the centennial of the American Chemical Society, the only person to have been awarded 2 unshared Nobel Prizes, Linus Pauling (1901-1994), tried to predict what might be expected of the world in the next 100 years:

    “I am forced, as I think about what has happened to the world in my lifetime and as I observe governments in their decision-making processes, to conclude that the coming century is probably going to be one in which the amount of suffering reaches its maximum.

    Unless we are wiser than we have shown ourselves to be in the past, there will be a catastrophe during the coming century, perhaps a series of catastrophies. The human race might survive. By 2076, we shall I hope, have solved these problems, and from then on we may have a world in which every person who is born will have an opportunity to lead a good life.”

    Not a bad prediction considering when it was made.

  49. Roger says:

    David, You have hit the nail on the head: To do what’s needed, we need to actually get Obama to declare war on climate change (CC). Sandy’s as close to a reason as we’re likely to get, one can hope. We could be spending all the relief $$$ on prevention.

    Obama can do this. Climate change is the biggest US threat. For one measure, look at the number of US deaths and injuries from CC versus terrorism in the past decade. For another, look at US property destruction…

    Declaring war gives the POTUS special powers, and these, as you point out, are powers that he may need to save humanity, let alone “preserve the union.” In fact, looking at the US Constitution (Article 1, Section 10, last line), states may declare war under conditions of “…Danger as will not admit of delay.” New York could set a great example here.

    So, please call the WH to suggest Obama declare war on climate at 202-456-1111 (9-5 workdays), and/or call NY Governor Cuomo at 518-474-8390 to suggest he do this, as an example for others. Seriously!

    I just called Cuomo, he’s even got an answering machine, unlike Obama. I left him a message re the above. It only took a minute and cost a few cents. Can you other readers please help? We’re worth it.

    Asking readers to please act on this,


  50. M Tucker says:

    Well I am surprised he mentioned it in the Inaugural Address. But past experience with this President has me thinking he could both allow Keystone and somehow “respond to the threat of climate change.” But he thinks new mileage standards that will slowly go into effect several years from now and slowly trickle down to the average driver is responding to the climate threat. He thinks that the slow transition to solar and wind is responding to the climate threat. So, this rhetoric might just be more of the same tepid effort. It really sounds to me like the long and sometimes difficult path towards sustainable energy is all he’s got. Long and difficult…longer than 6 months to a year…after that the duck is so lame no one will pay any attention to him.

  51. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    And Dr. Pauling would have won a third Nobel Prize had he not over-thought and over-theorized the structure of DNA. It was left to Krick and Watson to realize that DNA was merely a Double Helix. But that’s a bit off topic…

  52. prokaryotes says:

    If this would be an axiom we would not had the Clean Water Act or Nuclear waste regulation, would not had stopped Mushroom clouds etc.

  53. Roger says:

    Curt has a good point. At last he’s talking, but we need action, and Obama needs lots of encouragement, as I’ve noted below (please call him at 202-456-1111, and go to WDC with of others on February 17th).

    For some perspective on our “climate progress,” keep in mind that ~23 years have gone by since President Bush gave a February 5, 1990 speech (toned down by John Sununu) calling for a White House Global Warming Conference. This is more than Obama has done so far.

    At the time of Bush’s speech, the EPA’s Bill Reilly was pushing for the US to take the lead on global climate action, and the GAO was accusing Bush of a “leadership void.”

    If Bush was a void, Obama’s been a vacuum. (I know…he’s better than Mitt, but that’s a false choice: Saving a livable climate, or not, is the choice I’m talking about here.)

    So, yes, we got a bone, but we, our families, and others are going to be starving before long unless Obama comes up with the meat.


    P.S. Please encourage Obama to give a “State of the Climate” address, like:

  54. Gillian says:

    Got any other examples? This one seems pretty small scale (3 wind turbines) – not enough to support your extravagent claims about the overall pernicious effects of environmental organisations.

  55. SecularAnimist says:

    Daniel Coffey: “Anyway, you think that I am somehow against the efforts to improve our situation vis a vis global warming.”

    I said nothing of the kind. I pointed out that opposition to a carbon tax — or some other equivalent means of putting a price on carbon pollution — equates to supporting the ability of carbon polluters to dump their carbon pollution in the atmosphere, for free, which artificially lowers the cost of fossil fuels by “externalizing” the cost of that pollution and imposing it on the rest of us.

    Your response did not even address that argument. Nor did you offer one single reason why a carbon tax should not be implemented IN ADDITION TO directly supporting the deployment of renewable energy technologies.

    Interestingly, pretty much every renewable energy industry advocacy group, including the SEIA and AWEA, does strongly support a carbon tax, or cap-and-trade system, or some means of forcing the fossil fuel industry to internalize the costs of its pollution.

  56. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I’m sure I’m not the only ‘alien’ that hopes this speech translates into national action so the USA can start catching up. But be prepared when the action starts. Given the current divisiveness in the US, your battle is likely to be even more unedifying than ours was, ME

  57. Will says:

    So, Obama continued his streak of mentioning climate and energy in all of his most important speeches since the announcement of his candidacy in 2007.

  58. Leland Palmer says:

    Oh, that’s just great!

    Yes, we must respond to this challenge, and lead the world into a clean energy future.

    The fossil fuel corporations have trillions of dollars to lose in this fight, though.

    It’s not going to be easy.

    It hasn’t been easy, and there’s no sign that’s going to change.

    Trying to do it while leaving the opposition in place with their power intact may make true energy reform impossible.

    Obama should just declare a state of climate emergency, band together with other countries around the world, and nationalize ExxonMobil and in fact all of the non-state controlled fossil fuel corporations.

    In the U.S., this could be done without use of Presidential emergency powers as well, I think. If our Solicitor General to the Supreme Court were to lead a fight to overturn American Electric Power vs. the State of Connecticut, the U.S. government could then use common law nuisance provisions to charge the fossil fuel corporations climate damages.

    Since these damages amount to trillions of dollars, this would bankrupt them and allow the U.S. government to take them over.

    Since they would be unable to pay the full bill, the major banks like JPMorgan Chase that have been the historical beneficiaries of over a century of fossil fuel profits could then be bankrupted and seized as well.

    Then, we could make some progress.

    Until then, anything achieved will likely be diluted, diffused, and not particularly effective.

    Unless, of course, the fossil fuel corporations and the super rich dynasties that control them could be persuaded to cooperate with true energy reform. So far, there is no sign of that.

    ExxonMobil did support a straight carbon tax- knowing all the while that the chances of any bill labeled a tax passing the Congress are just about zero, and knowing it would drive the rabid anti-tax Tea Party into a frenzy.

    Since ExxonMobil’s public support was for something that is essentially impossible, and since they already have the astroturf network to oppose such a carbon tax covertly, likely this was not a true sign of cooperation but merely a tactic.

    So, absent any real cooperation from the fossil fuel corporations on energy reform, it’s going to be tough.

    There is a lot that the fossil fuel corporations could do. Buying up old coal fired power plants, transforming them into Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) power plants plants is one thing they could do which is actually carbon negative, and could offset carbon produced by their fossil fuel products.

    Algae based gasoline, is another thing the fossil fuel corporations could implement. Ethanol from cellulose could likely be done, as well.

    Gasoline may be possible from biomass, too. There is nothing wrong with gasoline as an (possibly transitional) energy storage and transmission medium…so long as the carbon contained in the gasoline comes from a source already part of the active carbon cycle, such as biomass.

    If nothing else, I believe there a processes to make methanol from gasified biomass.

    The fossil fuel corporations have immense reserves of capital and employ some of the best scientists in the world. Their true cooperation in avoiding a climate catastrophe could be very valuable. Petroleum engineers have the expertise to do carbon storage, as well.

    They would be acting against their own short term self interest, though- at least until a credible threat of having to pay legal climate damages or suffer nationalization emerges.

    So, it’s likely not going to happen.

  59. BillD says:

    Climate is not going to be Obama’s highest priority nor is he going to propose spending a lot of money. However, putting the topic on “the front burner” would be a vast improvement. We need strong public sentiment for action–we are not there yet, but we could build momentum.

  60. cynthis says:

    Sounds good. But he also vowed to restore our civil liberties stolen by Bush and his abominable administration. Instead, he expanded on Bush’s agenda. It’s practically illegal to protest now days– you can go to prison for a couple years, he’s chipping away at the second amendment, he signed the NDAA bill, which allows the president/military to pick Americans up off the street and throw them in prison without trial. I imagine by the time he leaves office, only the
    rich, powerful, elite will be able to buy guns. Anyhow, like you said, time will tell. But so far, I have little confidence in him. But then, as my sister pointed out– he was put into office with the help of Goldman Sachs and other gang members… figures!

  61. Sasparilla says:

    I’m definitely surprised that he mentioned it and mentioned it relatively well. Even mentioning it would be an improvement over the last 4 years, so I’ll take it. Hopefully he’ll mention it again this year.

    As Joe pointed out, the real test – is the XL expansion, I don’t have much (as in any) hope there – but we’ll see how things unfold.

  62. Sasparilla says:

    True, someone looking back on his speeches from a historical perspective it would seem he was a President who wanted to confront and solve climate change..instead of an administration who dodged and ran from any pure climate change action that his administration faced..and perhaps that is the purpose of placing climate change in his big speeches – a good coat of whitewash for history (if you don’t dig too deep).

  63. Will says:

    From a historical perspective, Obama has already invested more in clean energy, energy efficiency, and and done more to reduce oil dependency than any President in American history, by far.

  64. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Lots of God-bothering, too.

  65. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Exactly. This is bog-standard Obama rhetoric. If he follows through on it (which I hope he will) he will be acting contrary to his practise over the last four years.

  66. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Daniel, can you please explain why desperately needed renewable energy projects must be built on the tiny pieces of remaining undisturbed or minimally disturbed biospheres? Why, when there is so much derelict, destroyed and desecrated land, not to mention huge areas set aside for the military, must the little pieces of intact habitat be targeted for destruction?

  67. I agree with secular animist. A carbon tax can reach the smallest of decisions, and while we need many other policies also, it is a mistake to dismiss the powerful effect it can have. The key is to understand that its purpose is not mainly to affect consumer behavior, although it won’t hurt there. The biggest effects are on the supply side, particularly in the electricity sector. $10/ton of CO2 is equal to 1 cent/kWh on a coal plant and 0.5 cents per kWh on a gas plant. If we set it at $20/ton of CO2 (rising at a steady clip every year) we’ll get 2 cent/kWh added to the price of all coal use, which is enough to displace the production tax credit for wind (or double its effect). Recall also that the $20/ton of CO2 is about where the european emissions trading system was for years. It’s about 10 cents/gallon of gasoline, so consumers won’t even notice, But it will really hit old existing coal plants hard, and that’s where the quick action can happen.

  68. Jeff Poole says:

    I no longer believe in skygods, but a pithy verse from the book of James – always a particular favourite – seems apt.

    ‘As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.’
    James 2: 26

  69. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    al Jazeera is the propaganda arm of the Qatari despotism, and Qatar is a leading pusher of hydrocarbon drugs in the form of gas, mostly, and this article reads to me like quasi-soft denialism of the ‘we can’t change our greedy destructiveness’ type. I’d rate it one out of ten. The experience of populations drastically changing their behaviour during wars puts the lies to this defeatist pap, and this is a war.

  70. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    How about the quasi-divine ‘National Security’, not to mention International Security.

  71. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Dennis, I cannot square your belief that Obama appreciates the severity of our situation, with your assertion that he cannot make a speech revealing the seriousness of the situation. I’d expect the first to dictate the second. After all, the worst the denialist lunatics can do is jump up and down and screech. In fact, if Obama wants his side to win back the Congress, I’d imagine that campaigning strongly on the national crisis theme would excite the ‘Hope Fiends’ and other non morally insane voters to turn out in large numbers in 2014. Does he not want that to happen?

  72. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The ‘Free Press’ in capitalism.

  73. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    How long was the list? Quite revealing, really.

  74. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Perhaps they got the ouija board out and had William Simon ‘ghost-write’ that bit.

  75. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The USA is increasingly making itself irrelevant. The Germans and Chinese, with assistance from most of the rest of humanity, will be the salvation of our civilization. The Anglosphere is moribund, intellectually and morally.

  76. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘Greenwash’, surely?

  77. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Damning with faint praise. That’s not too high a hurdle to leap, is it?

  78. Gillian says:

    Obama has launched a new grassroot movement called Organizing for Action.

    It sounds like it will be a bit ‘bottom up’ in that…

    “At a neighborhood and regional level, OFA members will grow their local chapters, bringing in new leaders and helping train a new generation of volunteers and organizers to help fight for the issues at stake.

    There’ll be times when we pull together at the national level to get President Obama’s back on passing major legislation, like reducing gun violence or immigration reform. And we’ll all work to help transform Washington from the outside while strengthening our economy and creating jobs.

    But for the most part, the direction our work takes will be completely in your hands—with the support of this organization behind you every step of the way.

    In the next few weeks and months, I’ll be asking for your input on putting together an OFA plan for 2013, we’ll be holding online briefings about the issues we want to tackle, and we’ll start organizing on those issues as they’re debated in D.C.”

    It sounds like some of the OFA regional cells could be nicely colonised by climate activists. It seems that whoever set up Organizing for Action needs to hear that climate policy is a burning issue for thousands/millions of people.

  79. Daniel Coffey says:

    You said: “This is more than Obama has done so far.”

    I beg to differ. President Obama, faced with an utterly obstructionist Republican controlled house, has done what is possible. Specifically, note that he has employed the military and its bases as powerful laboratories for solar power systems. Secretary Chu has taken actions right and left to get new energy systems in place. And public lands have been made available for non-carbon energy systems.

    While this was done, a concerted effort was mounted to oppose many of these efforts…. including by environmental groups that did not want large scale solar and wind projects to be deployed.

    President Obama did not pick a fight over a topic which would feed into the Republican meme machine, but he took action in a low profile manner. It has been more effective than it is given credit.

    There is blame to go around, and thankfully, if society is destroyed by global warming there will be no long lasting body of critics to judge those who failed to act properly.

  80. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Altogether, far too leisurely an approach. Like FDR arguing to build momentum and strong public sentiment- on December 8, 1941. And this is a threat immeasurably greater than that of Japanese fascism.

  81. Francois T says:

    “including by environmental groups that did not want large scale solar and wind projects to be deployed.”

    Sometimes, I get the strong feeling that enviros are their worst enemy.

  82. Daniel Coffey says:

    For those who advocate for reaching “the smallest” decisions with respect to use of carbon, please understand that I am not just talking without thought.

    A tax on carbon, as that vague phrase has been bantered around, generally enters at the earliest stage of extraction. That means that even the myriad of products which will almost never be burned to produce greenhouse gases, but are used for things like lighter car chassis, will be increased in cost.

    Taxes are a surrogate for reduction in use, but they do not create substitute technology, only reduction in use. A reduction in use – ask anyone who does not have a lot of money – can form a hardship, one which many policy wonks don’t seem to consider.

    If you want to fix global warming build the carbon-free exogenous energy systems and deploy them like there is no tomorrow; electrify transportation to the maximum extent possible as fast as possible; and, don’t waste time with the little stuff at the bottom of the heap until you have slashed the big stuff at the top.

    And for goodness sake, don’t go down the “slow walk” path designed by oil and gas to “conserve.” That only sustains the status quo methods for making and using energy, and extends the lifetime of their products, as it allows increases in price and profits.

  83. Vic says:

    Meanwhile, the man widely touted to become the UK’s next Prime Minister – Boris Johnson, has nailed his climate colours firmly to the mast in a sickening opinion piece published in Rupert Murdoch’s The Telegraph.

    In it, he draws on the wisdom of the ancient Aztecs, the Egyptian pharaos and “learned astrophysicist Piers Corbyn” to call into question the “Martini Theory” of climate change.

  84. Daniel Coffey says:

    Its worth noting that AWEA has been most interested in the PTC renewal, not a general tax on carbon as such. This makes sense in that it directs otherwise widely dispersed costs via a tax to the building of actual equipment.

    The use of RPS and Production Tax credits has had a big effect on deployment of wind power.

  85. prokaryotes says:

    And i thought Cameron was really bad with his greenest gov ever. Though UK will be disproportionally effected by Jet Stream changes, hence more floods – extremes in general. Probably the cry of the fools before the final leap begins to dawn.

  86. prokaryotes says:

    “Obama should just declare a state of climate emergency, band together with other countries around the world, and nationalize ExxonMobil and in fact all of the non-state controlled fossil fuel corporations.”

    Make it so.

  87. prokaryotes says:

    And energy + food security… or habitable security. Climate action is the purest form of patriotism.

  88. prokaryotes says:

    The truth is often somewhere in between.

  89. Paul Klinkman says:

    Elections have implications. The energy barons backed their guys with hundreds of millions of dollars, but every single one of their favorites got de-elected by the voters.

    President Obama and staff looked around and asked, “who gave me my job? Who gave me a majority in the Senate?” The post-Sandy voting public was voting for a clean energy future.

    President Obama has just started to frame a possible issue for the 2014 election: Democrats in general support climate progress, while Republicans can sink with the fossils or abandon their ship as they choose. Yes, talk is cheap, but it’s better than a political world of flat denial.

  90. John McCormick says:

    Likely, not on this blog.

    We are rhetorians with our one-liners and wild techno-ideas. The pragmatics of democracy and the need to feed the needs of others like inner-city youth and long-term unemployed, (Please don’t anyone say reforestation or biochar)who get employed by federal expenditure of project funds for retrofit of America’s grid, infrastructure replacement, etc. then WE have to get the Congressional votes to spend the federal Treasury in ways that we must. Of course, to reach those decision points, we’ll have to greatly increase taxes on the wealthy or otherwise confiscate the capital on which they sit.

    Oh, hell. I’m just talking to myself. Sorry.

  91. Huh?

    What’s wrong with reforestation as a means of creating jobs? That’s what the Conversation Corps did during the depression — worked out fine. Created lots of jobs, fed lots of families, planted lots of trees.

  92. Paul Magnus says:

    not bad. I think he read your 1st chapter.

  93. Paul Magnus says:

    I think we are over the edge now. Its just going to be one pearl harbour event after another.. there wont be time to catch our breaths… maybe not even vote!

  94. Paul Magnus says:

    and dont forget the drones…. not good.

  95. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The BRICS bloc is the one to watch, gathering allies and support, ME

  96. Merrelyn Emery says:

    History is not linear. No clear info but I suspect the temperature is also rising in those murky diplomatic circles, ME

  97. Leif says:

    IMO a fundamental flaw in western capitalism it the ability of the few to profit from the pollution of the commons. The GOP do not fund abortion. Fine! A precedent. Why must “We the People” be forced to fund the ecocide of the planet for lack of alternatives. This is far worse than “taxation without representation” this is “taxation with dire consequences” to humanity and Earth’s life support systems. I object!
    On a level playing field the Green Awakening Economy wins hands down. Without subsidies even.

  98. prokaryotes says:

    Stefan Aust the old SPIEGEL CEO has been a vocal wind power opponent. Though he had to go because of a revolt in 2008.

    Auch in der Medienstadt Hamburg hat man sich über die Rolle des Spiegel, wie Aust ihn sah, gelegentlich gewundert. So hat der Pferdenarr nie bestritten, einen positiven Artikel über Windkraft nicht gedruckt, stattdessen aber eine Windrad-Tirade ins Blatt genommen zu haben – Aust gilt als scharfer Gegner von Windrädern in der Umgebung seiner Koppeln.

    He was also a climate skeptic: Chefredakteur Stefan Aust nach Aussage von ehemaligen Kollegen den Warnungen vor dem Klimawandel sehr skeptisch gegenüberstand.

    A coupe of years later, the same journalist Aust hired and promoted are still in place.

  99. David B. Benson says:

    Please no more war on … whatever.

    They always turn out so badly.

  100. David B. Benson says:

    Australia has a carbon tax. Still here.

    For longer British Columbia has a carbon tax. Still here.

    Looks doable.

  101. Jack G. Hanks says:

    Hey Joe, I’d like you to consider making a front page post about conservative Angela Merkel’s recent loss of political power in Germany, and what this means for Germany’s renewable energy future as it continues to lead the pack on solar and wind power.

  102. Bill D. says:

    That was my first reaction too but, just maybe, he’s prepared to back up these bold words with some concrete actions. And if he fails to meet this challenge, nothing else that happens during his presidency will matter. After all, who will care about political issues when the outdoor temperature is 200 degrees? This is the mother of all issues and we have to take large-scale action soon.

  103. Adam C. Hall says:

    Let’s get real on this, Obama has paid service to the reality of climate change. That’s the good news! However, the political reality is such that he, like all other politicians, serve a constituency other then our natural environment. When we give our rivers, forest, mountains similar rights as citizens, then we will be well on the way to avoiding the ultimate cliff. Where do you think our government ranks climate change as a priority?
    The environmental cliff has come and the best that we can do is save ourselves.

  104. prokaryotes says:

    Angela Merkel’s energy transition is on the shoulders of the taxpayers, plus the infrastructure is designed to cause bottle necks and delay. The real contribution still comes from the EEG (Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz) which was created back in the 90’s by the Green Party.

  105. wili says:

    “It is feasible that the entire Arctic sea ice cover will vanish at some point in the late summer”

    Yeah…like…this summer!

    Oh, there’ll still be some ice in the ocean up there from all the calving coming off of the Greenland Ice Sheet and the Canadian Archipelago. But all of what most folks think of as sea ice is likely to be gone either this summer or one of the next two.

    But as dramatic is this seems to nerds like you and I, it is just not going to be an event in the news world. If a Kardashian is having a baby that week, or if some terrorists blow up an embassy, that will knock Arctic collapse clear off the front page, if if ever had a chance to get there in the first place.

    Perhaps someone like Obama could make a big enough deal about it that it could stay in the news for a while, though. But keeping GW in the news hasn’t been his strong suit so far.

  106. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    As far as I can see, these groups did not wish renewable energy projects deployed on pristine areas required for biodiversity protection. Why the projects had to be placed in these precious areas, when these reserves are so few in number and so meagre in extent and when there is vastly more land available that is not undisturbed, that has been degraded by human activities or been reserved for vast ‘military’ purposes, fills me with suspicion. Setting greens against renewable power protagonists would be straight out of the ‘divide and rule’ playbook.

  107. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Just for accuracy David, Oz has a carbon trading scheme with a fixed 3 year starting price. We have now joined the EU trading system which I believe from memory S Korea has or is about to join, plus others, ME

  108. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    A carbon tax would work well if the proceeds are hypothecated to compensation for poor and middle income earners, and for renewable research and development and ecological repair. It would be even more effective as part of a tax reform package that increased high earners’ income tax, that increased capital gains tax, that instituted a proper inheritance tax, that taxed financial transactions and which taxed land value. The closing down of off-shore tax havens ()a better use for the Marines!) and a general drive to reduce inequality are essential to human salvation. Wealth creation is good, but equitable wealth distribution is far, far, better.

  109. Ernest says:

    Inspirational speech. I’m also glad he’s saying what he truly believes in instead a more cautious political calculation of not offending certain quarters. But I think even he knows by now that an inspirational speech is a long ways from moving from A -> B in terms of actual Congressional legislation.
    May he have many good days as a happy warrior, fighting the good fight, in what realistically are daunting odds.

  110. Len Conly says:

    “The physics of climate change is implacable, absolutely implacable.”

    Who gets credit for:

    “There’s no turning back the tide on global warming.”

  111. Danny. H says:

    Not to mention the ability to restore degraded lands and natural hydrologic and soil-building cycles that have been broken.

  112. Spike says:

    The man is just another member of the feral elite of the UK, concealing his rabid views behind a veneer of amiable buffoonery. He is an opportunist, interested only in the great prize of the prime minister’s job, and will appeal to the basest of constituencies to achieve his ends. It bodes ill for our times to see such creatures thrive and prosper.

  113. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    BoJo is a Bozo-but not that funny. Just when you think that the Right has hit rock bottom they find new depths.

  114. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Reforestation, biochar and lots more. Sorry! Plus confiscate the klepto elite’s larcenously obtained wealth. That is the moral imperative upon which all else rests.

  115. Artful Dodger says:

    MM, ask not for whom the coffee tolls, it trolls for thee… ;^)

  116. fj says:

    The positive effects of serious reductions in GHGs stabilizing the climate probably won’t be seen for decades, while intense adaptive efforts to add high levels of resilience to infrastructures, the built environment, and civilization will be highly visible virtually immediately — like a warm coat on a cold day — as extreme climate events ramp up.

    It’s inevitable that things will get scary out there for some time to come before we can get this thing under control.

  117. fj says:

    Allowing more damage to the environment from rampant waste and dangerous fossil fuel mining like the BP oil spill and the future XL pipeline if it happens are prime examples where he will be seriously held accountable.

  118. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Why, after 10+ hours is my comment still in the penalty box?

  119. Belgrave says:

    Concrete policy statements are for the State of the Union address – this was setting out the big picture. I’ll hold my breath a little longer. He can’t hold off on Keystone XL much longer – if he nixes it, we’ll know he’s serious. If not…well sometimes in my darker moods I fear it may already be Game Over – Keystone XL or not.

  120. Belgrave says:

    The Chinese? While building coal-fired power ststions like there’s no tomorrow? (And there won’t be if they keep on at it).

  121. Belgrave says:

    God, I hope not! I think even the Tories would baulk at such an obvious buffoon. Glad I don’t live in the UK any more! Anyway, Labour has been ahead in the polls for ages & their leader, Ed Milliband, used to be energy & climate change minister (I think that’s the correct title) so hopefully he gets it.

  122. BBHY says:

    I want to see (well hear actually) solid follow up in the State of the Union speech coming up in February.

  123. Chad says:

    After the carbon tax is implemented, it should be split into three

    1: One half refunded as quarterly dividend to all tax payers. This makes it progressive

    2: One quarter to environmental-related R&D, infrastructure, environmental remediation, etc.

    3: One third to offset a reduction in the income tax rates

    Other user fees (mining, logging, and oil leases, royalties, etc) should be blended into the quarterly dividends. This would again be a progressive change AND cause Americans to pay attention to low-ball give-aways of our natural resources. As it stands now, every person in the country “pays” a couple hundred bucks a year in sacrificed dividends in what is essentially a head tax. No one, especially conservatives, ever consider this when they calculate the share of the “tax” burden people bear.

  124. Anne says:

    Our best shot right now is usurping EPA’s authority, upheld by the Supreme Court, to regulate CO2. Just who replaces Lisa Jackson, and their particular views and skill sets regarding climate change, will be key. Our current Congress will not let a climate bill pass. It’s all up to the Executive Branch. Words are good — deeds are better and frankly, all that matters right now.

  125. Consider the Connection to: CTC123GREEN
    Climate Refugee Katrina

  126. Great Posts Everybody
    What can we do?
    The answer lies in the collective hearts & minds of the informed & concerned people!
    Climate Refugee Katrina

  127. Joan Savage says:

    Dunno. I’m not fond of the tide metaphor.

    Tides go out on their own once or twice a day. And they are natural.

    A climate change policy that is the equivalent of waiting until the tide changes isn’t the course of action we are trying to evoke.

    Some of those who deny human influence on climate are very fond of the notion that it is all a natural cycle that could resolve itself without intervention.

    We know it is not the case. This accelerated climate change is not a natural cycle.

    Actually the metaphor that comes to mind is the build up of nuclear arsenals in the Cold War. It wasn’t until people on both sides began to understand the mutually assured destruction of both aggressor and target, and the ensuing nuclear winter, that disarmament talks got serious.

  128. Mark E says:

    (Joking) do carbon emissions that happen in Vegas stay in Vegas?

    Here’s another plug for the best global warming party in town:

    Noon in DC, Feb 17

  129. Joan Savage says:

    Update on that. Triple helices have since been found, as have quadruplex DNA formations. Pauling’s proposal of triple helices missed double helices that are far more common, but he wasn’t wrong in foreseeing a possible configuration.

    It’s not so off-topic, as manifestations of some uncomfortable scoffed-at predictions about climate have emerged, at well.

  130. kermit says:

    Quite true, Mulga. The problem is that by the time the US sees our “Pearl Harbor” moment it will be much harder for us and our descendants than it would be if we acted now.

    I imagine that Australia, China, India, and many other countries face the same inertia and the same need for too-late disasters to occur in order to be motivated.

  131. kermit says:

    Robert, in one sense individual changes in lifestyle, a reduction in carbon footprint, means little. If I give up my insanely long commute (three years before retirement, with no local jobs open), that will be X amount of gasoline unburned …by me. But that gas will simply be sold, slightly cheaper, to my neighbor with the SUV. It would be like trying to help the national budget by giving them all of my “spare” money.

    Large scale green practices will require government action such as laws, declarations, tax incentives, education, etc.

    That said, I think that all of the things we do along these lines have numerous beneficial effects:
    1. It creates an atmosphere and culture of acceptance for a simpler lifestyle;
    2. Infrastructures and industries are encouraged and supported, e.g. bicycle use and manufacture, gardening and small farm supplies and tools, recycling companies, etc.;
    3. A knowledge base is grown, and the knowledge deepened in fields which are essential, or may become so, and which may not be available in twenty years except from neighbors, e.g first aid, gardening and farming, clothes making, smithing of various kinds, bookmaking, etc.;
    4. Tools and other resources become more accessible, e.g. seeds and cutting of food plants that do well in the area.

  132. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Your 1 is only progressive if it forms a graduated, means tested scale with greater rebates going to the poorest, ME

  133. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Including wars on nouns, ME

  134. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The Chinese are moving faster on renewables than probably any other nation on Earth. If you are from a Western industrialized country, you have already done your bit at destroying the planet, ME

  135. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You’ve just spent 108% of your money!

  136. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’ve posed the question a few times, as to why, precisely, renewable energy projects need to be sited on the few meagre undisturbed environments and habitats for endangered creatures, when there is so much degraded, derelict and disturbed land about, particularly the vast military reserves. I do wish you would answer that question.

  137. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I was particularly unimpressed by his efforts to denigrate the notion of acting in the interests of our descendants. I read it more as some sort of advocacy, of assertion rather than disinterested speculation.

  138. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The referee’s cheque is still in the mail.

  139. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    i rather think that it would be great fun. Restoring degraded land, seeing the birds and little animals, the insects and wildflowers, returning, is pretty fine. Chuck in some fruit trees, perennial vegetables and berries and a vegie patch or two and a few animals and chooks, of course, and it is very heaven.

  140. Tom says:

    Great proposals and interesting comments about a future we might have had if we hadn’t already polluted the planet past the point of kicking in all those positive feedback loops that will surely kill us off as a species, if not all life on earth before the middle of the century. Look around at all the dying trees and vegetation from all the excess ozone down here in the troposphere where we live our sloppy, poisonous lives of “civilization.” The oceans are dying too and we keep right on doing what we’re doing.

  141. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You know the lines from ‘Ruling Class’, where Peter O’Toole, Lord Gurney or whatever, tells his shrink that he knows that he is God, because, when he prays to God, he finds that he is talking to himself. Keep on mumbling-it’s the High Road to the Divinity.

  142. Aussie John says:

    An inspiring speech; imagine if only half the people in the audience were to march on Washington to demand meaningful action on climate change???

    When speaking on the US economic situation I thought he missed a golden opportunity to remind disloyal selfish wealthy US corporate’s that vast wealth earned and secured through times of economic stability don’t come without a debt to their nation; a re-iteration of the powerful quote from JFK “Ask not what your country can do for you…ask what you can do for your country” would have been very effective.
    ‘B*gger you, I’m alright Jack’ is not the way to secure a nation, let alone Earth’s life support ecosystems!

  143. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    I am glad President Barack Obama wants to give top priority to deal with Climate Change issue.

    For developing countries growing trees in vacant lands is the easiest way to control Climate Change.

    Much of the waste land in developing countries can be utilized to grow care-free growth plants like Agave and Opuntia. Mexico is pioneer in the production of Biofuel from Agave. Also Opuntia is the potential input for biogas and subsequent power generation.
    What is more Agave is a regenerative plant. Agave is also a CAM Plant. Crassulacean acid metabolism, also known as CAM photosynthesis, is a fixation pathway that evolved in some plants as an adaptation to arid conditions. In a plant using full CAM, the stomata in the leaves remain shut during the day to reduce evapotranspiration, but open at night to collect carbon dioxide (CO2). The CO2 is stored as the four-carbon acidmalate, and then used during photosynthesis during the day. The pre-collected CO2 is concentrated around the enzyme RuBisCO, increasing photosynthetic efficiency.

    There are other uses of Agave: Hecogenin, a steroid is obtained from agave; since it has cellulose it can be used in paper making(already a paper mill is there in Brazil which uses agave as input); the fibre is used in cloth making and shirts are made under the name DIP DRY in Philippines. The Specialty of this cloth is water won’t stick to it. Also in Kenya and Lesotho the agave plant is cut into pieces, dried and mixed in concrete since agave has strong fibres which have binding force.

    Yet another option for biogas production and power generation is Water Hyacinth which has pervaded in many countries. In Andhra Pradesh,India in the Krishna and Godavari Delta in Kolleru Lake, water hyacinth is spread in about 300 Sq. Km area and is available for about 9 months in a year. Water hyacinth along with animal dung can be utilized to produce biogas on a large scale for power generation.

    It is unfortunate that power generation through biogas route has not taken off in sunbelt countries like India while countries with temperature not exceeding 25 degrees Celsius(Denmark,Germany,Netherlands) have biogas power generation plants.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  144. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    I agree with you.

    Infact I am taking up the issue of wasteland area development in India.

    According to Wasteland Atlas of India -2005 :NRSA(National Remote Sensing Agency),the waste lands in India is around 552692.26 Sq. Km in the Total geographical area of India: 3287263 Sq. Km. In Andhra Pradesh the wasteland is around 45267.15 Sq. Km. Much of this land can be utilized to grow care-free growth plants like Agave and Opuntia. Mexico is pioneer in the production of Biofuel from Agave. Also Opuntia is the potential input for biogas and subsequent power generation.
    I suggested a scheme to our Government in India:

    Agro Economic Zones(AEZ) on the lines of SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES(SEZ) can be set up in rural areas waste lands. Unemployed youth can be given training in agricultural methods and Farm Co-operatives can be setup. Fast growing and care-free growth plants with multiple uses like Agave,Opuntia, Jatropha can be grown in large areas. Units for biofuels production and biogas production and subsequent power generation can be set up locally to generate power. This way there will be less unemployment among youth and waste land can be brought under use besides producing power on a massive scale.

    Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi long back advocated Rural Indistries (Agro Industries) utilising local resources and resourcefulness.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP),India