Obama surprised almost everyone when he channeled his inner climate hawk in his powerful second inaugural address. Now everyone is wondering what he will say in his State of the Union address Tuesday.
This weekend, the Washington Post editorial board weighed in:
President Obama will deliver his 2013 State of the Union address on Tuesday, and expectations are high that he will devote significant time to climate change. We hope that he adopts a different approach to explaining the need for action than he did in much of his first term.
In past addresses, talking about green jobs didn’t work, nor did talking about energy independence. The credible way to justify fighting climate change is to discuss the science, the real reason to cut carbon emissions. There is overwhelming evidence that the planet is warming. The widespread burning of fossil fuels, meanwhile, pumps heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every second….
It is certainly nice to see the Washington Post opinion page — home to George Will and other deniers — acknowledge that those of us who have been urging blunt talk on climate science for years have been right all along (see Brulle [1/11]: “By failing to even rhetorically address climate change, Obama is mortgaging our future and further delaying the necessary work to build a political consensus for real action).
Let me say that while I think talking about green jobs and energy independence was — and is — a good idea, those who urged only talking about those things were clearly wrong in retrospect. That’s because the oil and gas folks have been able to make a rhetorically strong (albeit flawed) case that they are the ones who can deliver jobs and reduced oil imports. Only one set of technologies can deliver jobs, energy independence, and preserve a livable climate. So only one set of technologies can avoid betraying our children and future generations. Game, set, and match.
Certainly team Obama worked hard to make sure that when he and other political and environmental leaders did talk about the need for action, the science was left out (see “Team Obama Launched The Inane Strategy Of Downplaying Climate Change Back In 2009“).
To remind you of how much the President has muzzled himself in recent years, recall what he said about the “never seen before” Fargo flooding in March 2009:
“I actually think the science around climate change is real. It is potentially devastating,” Obama told reporters Monday. “If you look at the flooding that’s going on right now in North Dakota and you say to yourself, ‘If you see an increase of two degrees, what does that do, in terms of the situation there?’ That indicates the degree to which we have to take this seriously.“
Precisely. Yet for nearly four years of record heat, record drought, record wildfires — and record-shattering frankenstorms, Obama had little to offer but climate silence.
That’s why it was so surprising he said last month:
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.
Now it’s time for him to spell out the threat even more clearly — as well as the technologies and policies needed to address it.