The 12.5 Percent Presidency: Obama’s Climate Work Has No 180-Day Deadline

By Bill Becker

The conventional wisdom in Washington, DC is that President Obama has 180 days to move his agenda before the 2014 mid-term elections begin to freeze the public policy process. That means if we don’t see action on climate issues right now, we never will.


The Constitution establishes each presidential term at four years, not six months. Nowhere did the Founders write that when the congressional election cycle begins, the President must shift gears from the world’s most powerful leader to a mere custodian of the federal bureaucracy.

Besides, these days, members of Congress and political parties are in election mode 100 percent of the time. And with a few exceptions, Republicans in Congress were not, and still are not, inclined to act on the President’s agenda.

That won’t change as the 180 day deadline ticks closer.

The fact is, conventional belief about a 12.5 percent presidential term is contradicted by another piece of Washington wisdom: If anything is to get done on big issues such as global climate disruption, the President will have to do it himself with his executive authorities.

That conventional wisdom is correct. A fictional deadline won’t get Congress moving on climate action.

Four more years is precious little time for the Obama Administration to address the big and persistent issues on which we’ve reached the 11th hour, including America’s transition to clean energy and away from climate disruption. President Obama will need every day of his second term to tackle issues like those, and the conventional wisdom should expect no less.

-– William Becker is executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project.

20 Responses to The 12.5 Percent Presidency: Obama’s Climate Work Has No 180-Day Deadline

  1. Endofmore says:

    The president is as fixed in the headlights of the approaching catastrophe of climate change as the rest of us
    he might be able to fix a few minor things on the periphery, but he is powerless to stop it, thoughI have no doubt he will get blamed for everything that happens on his watch—which is unfair
    it’s too late, the party really is over

  2. Zimzone says:

    Our media makes up fictitious bylines to sell content. Some examples…
    -Sequestration is Obama’s fault
    -Boehner is correct about not raising revenue
    -Climate change is a theory
    -A 2nd term allows only 25% of it for actions
    -Republicans are conservative

    Fox News started this, but the rest of our ‘esteemed media’ jumped on it immediately.

  3. fj says:

    Great post.

    The crisis at hand and the dire necessity for a great transition is an extraordinary opportunity for truly profound advancements.

    The President has the power.

  4. Anyone who expects more than a nudge in the right direction from “No Drama Obama” has not understood his personality. He will not allow a confrontation unless there is something in it for him politically. I don’t think that he sees any political risk to his policy of small incremental change to address a massive problem.

    That also means that we have not done our job. When even his second inauguration turned out hundreds of thousands of people, we should not be so proud of only having 40K at our biggest rally yet.

  5. Superman1 says:

    In the War on Drugs, Reagan targeted both the suppliers and the addicts, and ultimately failed. Here, we are expecting Obama to target the suppliers only, and succeed? Give me a break!

  6. fj says:

    Rallies are nice and all but the real transition will not start until whole communities start transitioning and major corporations, cities, states, countries; everyone is exposed and those that adapt quickly and soon will be the most successful.

    And those with replicable commercial methods and apparatus for facilitating the transition will have terrific opportunities.

  7. Unfortunately, I don’t think we can expect much from Obama. His State Department just came up with a report — based on God knows what — claiming that the Keystone pipeline won’t facilitate and hasten the development of Alberta’s tar sands. This in the face of Canadian industry claims that it will and is necessary for just that reason. This will be Obama’s excuse to green light the project.

    Additionally, he just nominated Earnest Moniz to replace Chu at the DOE. A nuclear engineer who has apparently shown no interest in renewable development or energy efficiency, Moniz heads up an Energy Initiative at M.I.T. From Today’s NY Times:

    “And the studies [Moniz directed] over the last 10 years, were not always right; the 2003 study on nuclear power, for example, underestimated the price of building a new reactor by at least half.”

    “Like many academic leaders, he has strong ties to industry, some of them certain to draw fire now. The Energy Initiative recently announced that ENI, the Italian oil company, had renewed its participation as a founding member, and would contribute at a level that “significantly exceeds the founding member support level of $5 million per year.” The other corporate founding members are BP, Shell and Saudi Aramco. Other sponsors include Chevron and several utilities, including the parent company of Southern California Edison, Entergy, Duke Energy and Électricité de France, all nuclear reactor operators.”

    He’s been called a “known cheerleader” for fracking.

    And finally from the Times: “[Moniz] was the associate director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Clinton White House. At the Energy Department, he led a major effort to determine how the nation would maintain its stockpile of nuclear weapons without test explosions…”

    Back to the 1950s.

    As someone commented here on CP — now that Obama no longer needs our climate hawk and environmental votes, be prepared to be thrown under the bus.

  8. SecularAnimist says:

    Superman1 wrote: “we are expecting Obama to target the suppliers only”

    Nonsense. The Obama administration has undertaken multiple initiatives to reduce consumption of fossil fuels, ranging from home weatherization programs, to stronger energy efficiency standards for appliances & light bulbs, to stronger fuel efficiency standards for automobiles.

  9. Ken Barrows says:

    From Ms. Leber’s post, his agenda is apparently to grow and produce more energy (not even grow with less energy). Fail.

  10. Ken Barrows says:

    True enough. But isn’t that merely window dressing? Or lip service, if you prefer.

  11. Endofmore says:

    agreed, but world demand for hydrocarbon increased usage goes on. Obama has no control over that, and the American people demand.
    You cannot have ‘growth’ without burning fuel… the American way of Life must be preserved as a right—and the only way to do that is to consume more and more oil
    and no–spending money on job creation schemes doesn’t make everyone rich

  12. Superman1 says:

    Right. A Band-Aid on a gaping wound, and we’re supposed to be impressed.

  13. Superman1 says:

    There are 65 million Americans in the 15-30 age demographic. They have the energy and personal longevity motivation to do what is required to save their future. If 1/2000 turns out at a rally, that is not a good omen for the future. Probably less than 1/2000; I saw a number of older faces present.

  14. Superman1 says:

    In Secular’s case, that’s the usual rubber-stamping. As the ship is going down, he’s praising the kitchen staff for polishing the silverware.

  15. Dick Smith says:

    His best shot for legislation is 2015. Maybe a better House after the mid-terms like Clinton in ’98. Also, the Durban Platform puts some pressure on both the U.S. and China (however small) to work out a deal in 2015-2016. So, if you agree EPA regulation alone is not going to be adequate to get us an 80% emissions reduction by 2050, and that we need a federal price on carbon, then 2015 has always looked more realistic–at least since he quashed all carbon tax talk in the lame duck session.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    But not the desire, and never did have it.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    His agenda is, always was and always will be, to serve his patrons as faithfully as they demand.

  18. wili says:

    Dick, you probably realize this, but 2050 is waaaay too late.

    We need to get big reductions in the next few years (really, over the last few decades).

  19. Superman1 says:

    We need some real numbers in this debate. Kevin Anderson uses 2 C as a target for computing emissions constraints, using climate models that do not contain positive feedback mechanisms. Even under those unrealistically optimistic conditions, he finds we need on the order of ten percent gobal CO2 emissions reductions starting essentially now. If one uses a more realistic temperature target (Anderson suggests 1 C, as he believes 2 C is way out of bounds), the required global emissions reductions ramp up rapidly, and for what he called the Annex 1 nations (developed countries), the reductions required are even higher. Globally, we should be reducing CO2 emmissions at least 20-30% today, not forty years from now.

  20. Superman1 says:

    Wili, Given the numbers I have laid out above, and the collective and individual sacrifices they imply, is there any realistic way we can get out of this in one piece?