‘Invest, Divest’: Obama Goes Full Climate Hawk In Speech Unveiling Plan To Cut Carbon Pollution

Obama delivered a real stemwinder on the moral urgency of cutting carbon pollution (video, transcript below). So of course Politico reports, “Cable news skips Obama’s climate speech.”

The President surprised everyone by bringing up the Keystone XL pipeline, even though aides had said he wouldn’t. Obama left his Administration very little room for approving it. Heck, he even called them “tar sands”–a phrase that “oil sands” advocates never use.

And Obama gave Climate Hawks a new slogan: “Invest, divest.” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tweeted:

Climatologist Michael Mann said of the speech, “It is the most aggressive and promising climate plan to come out of the executive branch in years and President Obama should be applauded for the bold leadership he has shown in confronting the climate change threat head on.”

Since this is such an impressive and well-crafted speech, with many lines you will want to quote again and again, I’ll post the entire transcript below. It’s hard to say what the best part was, but we knew yesterday that he was going to put on the table a plan to meet his Copenhagen target of a 17% reduction in carbon pollution by 2020, including regulations for existing power plants.

He also offered a terrific push back against the pessimists who don’t believe Americans and American businesses are up to the challenge of solving this problem:

The problem with all these tired excuses for inaction is that it’s a — (inaudible) — a fundamental lack of faith in American business and American ingenuity. (Applause.)

You know, these critics seem to think that when we ask our businesses to innovate and reduce pollution and lead, they can’t or they won’t do it. They’ll just kind of give up and quit. But in America, we know that’s not true. Look at our history.

And just yesterday, CP argued, “Obama Should Tell Ex-Im Bank To Move Beyond Coal” and Obama responded, “Today, I’m calling for an end of public financing for new coal plants overseas — unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity.”

But for me the best part was perhaps the least expected, where he calls on young people, indeed on all Americans, to become climate hawks and create a nationwide climate movement:

I don’t have much patience for anyone who denies that this challenge is real. We don’t have time for a meeting of the flat earth society. (Cheers, applause.)

Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm. And ultimately, we will be judged as a people and as a society and as a country on where we go from here.

Our founders believed that those of us in positions of power are elected not just to serve as custodians of the present, but as caretakers of the future. And they charged us to make decisions with an eye on a longer horizon than the arc of our own political careers. That’s what the American people expect. That’s what they deserve. And someday our children and our children’s children will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could, when we had the chance, to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more stable world? And I want to be able to say, yes, we did. Don’t you want that? (Cheers, applause.)

Americans are not a people who look backwards. We’re a people who look forward. We’re not a people who fear what the future holds; we shape it.

What we need in this fight are citizens who will stand up and speak up and compel us to do what this moment demands. Understand, this is not just a job for politicians. So I’m going to need all of you, to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends.

Tell them what’s at stake. Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings. Push back on misinformation. Speak up for the facts. Broaden the circle of those who are willing to stand up for our future. (Applause.)

Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. (Applause.) Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices. (Applause.) Invest. Divest. Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth.

And remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote! Make yourself heard on this issue. (Cheers, applause.)

In short, become climate hawks, become single issue voters on the issue. Invest in clean energy, divest from dirty energy.

Here is the video:

Yes, there are legitimate questions about why someone who understands the science and the morality of the issue so well didn’t give this speech four years ago. And Obama himself hasn’t fully divested from fossil fuels — he still praises domestic oil and gas production. But these are matters for a later post.

Right now, Obama deserves kudos for delivering a inspiring and substantive speech. If he truly follows through on it, if he keeps speaking out, if he puts in place EPA regulations that would enable the 17% cut, and if his Secretary of State negotiates a global climate deal, then this speech will certainly be remembered as a turning point for the climate issue.

Here’s the entire transcript:

(For ease of reading, I am not indenting this.)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you, Georgetown! (Cheers, applause.) Thanks. Thank you so much. Now — thank you, Georgetown. Everybody please be seated.

And my first announcement today is that you should all take off your jackets. (Laughter.) I’m going to do the same. We got — (cheers) — it’s not that sexy, now. (Laughter.)

(Chuckles.) (Laughter.)

It is good to be back on campus, and it is a great privilege to speak from the steps of this historic hall that welcomed presidents going back to George Washington. I want to thank your president, President DeGioia, who’s here today. (Cheers, applause.) I want to thank him for hosting us. I want to thank the many members of my Cabinet and my administration. I want to thank Leader Pelosi and member of — members of Congress who are here. We are very grateful for their support. And I want to say thank you to the Hoyas in the house for having me back. (Cheers, applause.)

You know, it — it was important for me to speak directly to your generation because the decisions that we make now and in the years ahead will have a profound impact on the world that all of you inherit. You know, on Christmas Eve 1968, the astronauts of Apollo 8 did a live broadcast from lunar orbit, so Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders. The first humans to orbit the moon described what they saw, and they read Scripture from the book of Genesis to the rest of us back here.

And later that night, they took a photo that would change the way we see and think about our world. It was an image of Earth: beautiful, breathtaking, a glowing marble of blue oceans and green forests and brown mountains, brushed with white clouds, rising over the surface of the moon.

And while the sight of our planet from space might seem routine today, imagine what it looked like to those of us seeing our home, our planet for the first time. Imagine what it looked like to children like me. Even the astronauts were amazed. It makes you realize, Lovell would say, just what you have back there on Earth.

And around the same time we began exploring space, scientists were studying changes taking place in the Earth’s atmosphere. Now, scientists had known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels released those gases into the air. That wasn’t news. But in late 1950s, the National Weather Service began measuring the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, with the worry that rising levels might someday disrupt the fragile balance that makes our planet so hospitable.

And what they found, year after year, is that the levels of carbon pollution in our atmosphere have increased dramatically; that science, accumulated and reviewed over decades, tells us that our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind.

The 12 warmest years in recorded history have all come in the last 15 years. Last year, temperatures in some areas of the ocean reached record highs and ice in the Arctic shrank to its smallest size on record, faster than most models had predicted it would. These are facts.

Now, we know that no single weather event is caused solely by climate change. Droughts and fires and floods, they go back to ancient times. But we also know that in a world that’s warmer than it used to be, all weather events are affected by a warming planet.

The fact that sea level in New York — in New York Harbor are now a foot higher than a century ago, that didn’t cause Hurricane Sandy, but it certainly contributed to the destruction that left large parts of our mightiest city dark and underwater.

The potential impacts go beyond rising sea levels. Here at home, 2012 was the warmest year in our history. Midwest farms were parched by the worst drought since the Dust Bowl and then drenched by the wettest spring on record. Western wildfires scorched an area larger than the state of Maryland. Just last week, a heat wave in Alaska shot temperatures into the ’90s.

And we know that the costs of these events can be measured in lost lives and lost livelihoods, lost homes, lost businesses, hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency services and disaster relief.

In fact those who are already feeling the effects of climate change don’t have time to deny it. They’re busy dealing with it. Firefighters are braving longer wildfire seasons, and states and federal governments have to figure out to budget for that. I had to sit in on a meeting with the Department of Interior and Agriculture and some of the rest of my team just to figure how we’re going to pay for more and more expensive fire seasons.

Farmers see crops wilted one year, washed away the next, and higher food prices get passed on to you, the American consumer.

Mountain communities worry about what smaller snow packs will mean for tourism, and then families at the bottom of the mountains wonder what it’ll mean for their drinking water.

Americans across the country are already paying the price of inaction — in insurance premiums, state and local taxes, and the costs of rebuilding and disaster relief.

So the question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science, of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements, has put all that to rest. Ninety-seven percent of scientists — including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data — have now put that to rest. They’ve acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.

So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.

And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you but to your children and to your grandchildren.

As a president, as a father and as an American, I am here to say we need to act. (Cheers, applause.) I — I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing. And that’s why today I’m announcing a new national climate action plan, and I’m here to enlist your generation’s help in keeping the United States of America a leader, a global leader in the fight against climate change.

Now, this plan builds on progress that we’ve already made. You know, last year I took office — or — or the year that I took office, my administration pledged to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent from their 2005 levels by the end of this decade. And we rolled up our sleeves, and we got to work. We doubled the electricity we generate from wind and the sun. We doubled the mileage our cars will get on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade. (Cheers, applause.)

Here at Georgetown I unveiled my strategy for a secure energy energy future. And thanks to the ingenuity of our businesses, we’re starting to produce much more of our own energy. We’re building the first nuclear power plants in more than three decades, in Georgia and South Carolina. For the first time in 18 years, America’s poised to produce more of our own oil than we buy from other nations. And today we produce more natural gas than anybody else.

So we’re producing energy. And these advances have grown our economy, have created new jobs that can’t be shipped overseas, and by the way, they’ve also helped drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly 20 years. Since 2006, no country on Earth has reduced its total carbon pollution by as much as the United States of America. (Applause.) So it’s a good start.

But the reason we’re all here in the heat today is because we know we’ve got more to do. In my State of the Union address, I urged Congress to come up with a bipartisan market-based solution to climate change, like the one that Republican and Democratic senators worked on together a few years ago. And I still want to see that happen. I’m willing to work with anyone to make that happen.

But this is a challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock. It demands our attention now. And this is my plan to meet it, a plan to cut carbon pollution, a plan to protect our country from the impacts of climate change, and a plan to lead the world in a coordinated assault on a changing climate. (Applause.)

This plan begins with cutting carbon pollution by changing the way we use energy, using less dirty energy, using more clean energy, wasting less energy throughout our economy.

And 43 years ago, Congress passed the law called the Clean Air Act of 1970.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah! (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That was a good law. The reasoning behind it was simple. New technology can protect our health by protecting the air we breathe from harmful pollution. And that law passed the Senate unanimously. Think about that. It passed the Senate unanimously. It passed the House of Representative 375 to 1. I don’t know who the one guy was. I haven’t looked that up. (Laughter.) I mean, you can barely get that many votes to name a post office, these days. (Laughter.) It was signed into law by a Republican president. It was later strengthened by another Republican president. This used to be a bipartisan issue.

Six years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are pollutants covered by that same Clean Air Act, and they required the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, to determine whether they’re a threat to our health and welfare. In 2009, the EPA determined that they are a threat to both our health and our welfare in many different ways, from dirtier air to more common heat waves, and therefore, subject to regulation.

Now, today, about 40 percent of America’s carbon pollution comes from our power plants.

But here’s the thing, right now, there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into our air, none, zero. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free. That’s not right, that’s not safe and it needs to stop. (Cheers, applause.)

So today for the sake of our children and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants. (Cheers, applause.)

I’m also directing the EPA to develop these standards in an open and transparent way, to provide flexibility to different states with different needs and build on the leadership that many states and cities and companies have already shown. In fact, many power companies have already begin modernizing their plants and creating new jobs in the process. Others have shifted to burning cleaner natural gas instead of dirtier fuel sources. Nearly a dozen states have already implemented or are implementing their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution.

More than 25 have set energy efficiency targets. More than 35 have set renewable energy targets. Over 1,000 mayors have signed agreements to cut carbon pollution. So the idea of setting higher pollution standards for our power plants is not new. It’s just time for Washington to catch up with the rest of the country. And that’s what we intend to do. (Applause.)

Now, what you will hear from the special interests and their allies in Congress is that this will kill jobs and crush the economy and basically end free enterprise as we know it. And the reason I know you’ll hear those things is because that’s what they’ve said every time America sets clear rules and better standards for our air and our water and our children’s health. And every time, they’ve been wrong.

For example, in 1970, when we decided, through the Clean Air Act, to do something about the smog that was choking our cities — and by the way, most young people here aren’t old enough to remember what it was like, but you know, when I was going to school in 1979, 1980 in Los Angeles, there were days where folks couldn’t go outside. And the sunsets were spectacular — (laughter) — because — because of all the pollution in the air. But at the time when we passed the Clean Air Act to try to get rid of some of this smog, some of the same doomsayers were saying, new pollution standards will decimate the auto industry. Guess what? Didn’t happen. Our air got cleaner.

In 1990, when we decided to do something about acid rain, they said our electricity bills would go up; the lights would go off; businesses around the country would suffer, I quote, “a quiet death.”

None of it happened, except we cut acid rain dramatically. The problem with all these tired excuses for inaction is that it’s a — (inaudible) — a fundamental lack of faith in American business and American ingenuity. (Applause.)

You know, these critics seem to think that when we ask our businesses to innovate and reduce pollution and lead, they can’t or they won’t do it. They’ll just kind of give up and quit. But in America, we know that’s not true. Look at our history. When we restricted cancer-causing chemicals in plastics and leaded fuel in our cars, it didn’t end the plastics industry or the oil industry. American chemists came up with better substitutes. When we phased out CFCs, the gases that were depleting the ozone layer, it didn’t kill off refrigerators or air conditioners or deodorant. (Laughter.)

American workers and businesses figured out how to do it better without harming the environment as much. The fuel standards that we put in place just a few years ago didn’t cripple automakers. The American auto industry retooled, and today, our automakers are selling the best cars in the world at a faster rate than they have in five years with more hybrid, more plug-in, more fuel-efficient cars for everybody to choose from. (Applause.)

So the point is, if you look at our history, don’t bet against American industry. Don’t bet against American workers, don’t tell folks that we have to choose between the health of our children or the health of our economy.

(Applause.) The old rules — the old rules may say we can’t protect our environment and promote economic growth at the same time, but in America, we’ve always used new technologies, we’ve used science, we’ve used research and development and discovery to make the old rules obsolete.

Today we use more clean energy, more renewables and natural gas, which is supporting hundreds of thousands of good jobs. We waste less energy, which saves you money at the pump and in your pocketbooks. And guess what. Our economy is 60 percent bigger than it was 20 years ago, while our carbon emissions are roughly back to where they were 20 years ago.

So obviously we can figure this out. It’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and. We’ve got to look after our children, we have to look after our future, and we have to grow the economy and create jobs. We can do all of that as long as we don’t fear the future; instead, we seize it. (Cheers, applause.)

And by the way, don’t take my word for it. You know, recently more than 500 businesses, including giants like GM and Nike, issued a climate declaration, calling action on climate change one of the greatest opportunities of the 21st century. Wal-Mart is working to cut its carbon pollution by 20 percent and transition completely to renewable energy.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Hear, hear ?). (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Chuckles) Yeah, but Wal-Mart deserves a cheer for that. (Applause.) But think about it. Would the biggest company, the biggest retailer in America — would they really do that if it weren’t good for business, if it weren’t good for their shareholders?

A low-carbon clean energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come. And I want America to build that engine. I want America to build that future right here in the United States of America. That’s our task. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, one thing I want to make sure everybody understands. This does not mean that we’re going to suddenly stop producing fossil fuels. Our economy wouldn’t run very well if it did. And transitioning to a clean energy economy takes time. But when the doomsayers trot out the old warnings that these ambitions will somehow hurt our energy supply, just remind them that America produced more oil than we have in 15 years.

What is true is that we can’t just drill our way out of the energy and climate challenge that we face. (Cheers, applause.) That’s not possible. I’ve put forward in the past an all-of-the-above energy strategy, but our energy strategy must be about more than just producing more oil.

And by the way, it’s certainly got to be about more than just building one pipeline. Now — (applause) — I know there’s been, for example, a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build the pipeline, the Keystone pipeline that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands down to refineries in the Gulf. And the State Department is going through the final stages of evaluating the proposal. That’s how it’s always been done.

But I do want to be clear. Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interests.

And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact — (applause) — the net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.

Now, even as we’re producing more domestic oil, we’re also producing more cleaner-burning natural gas than any other country on Earth. And again, sometimes there are disputes about natural gas, but let me say this: We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because in the medium term, at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.

Federally supported technology has helped our businesses grow more effectively and extract more gas. And now we’ll keep working with the industry to make drilling safer and cleaner, to make sure that we’re not seeing methane emissions, and to put people to work modernizing our natural gas infrastructure so that we can power more homes and businesses with cleaner energy.

The bottom line is, natural gas is creating jobs. It’s lowering many families’ heat and power bills. And it’s the transition fuel that can power our economy with less carbon pollution even as our businesses work to develop and then deploy more of the technology required for the even cleaner energy economy of the future.

And that brings me to the second way that we’re going to reduce carbon pollution, by using more clean energy.

For the past four years, we’ve doubled the electricity that we generate from zero-carbon wind and solar power. (Cheers, applause.) And that means jobs, jobs manufacturing the wind turbines that now generate enough electricity to power nearly 15 million homes, jobs installing the solar panels that now generate more than four times the power at less cost than just a few years ago.

I know some Republicans in Washington dismiss these jobs, but those who do, need to call home, because 75 percent of all wind energy in this country is generated in Republican districts. (Cheers.) And that may explain why last year, Republican governors in Kansas and Oklahoma and Iowa — Iowa, by the way, a state that harnessed — harnesses almost 25 percent of its electricity from the wind — helped us in the fight to extend tax credits for wind energy manufacturers and producers. (Applause.)

Tens of thousands of good jobs were on the line, and those jobs were worth the fight. And countries like China and Germany are going all in in the race for clean — (audio break) — I believe Americans build things better than everybody else. I want America to win that race, but we can’t win it if we’re not in it. (Applause.)

So — so the — the plan I’m announcing today will help us double again our energy from wind and sun. Today, I’m directing the Interior Department to green-light enough private renewable energy capacity on public plans to power more than 6 million homes by 2020. (Cheers, applause.)

The Department of Defense, the biggest energy consumer in America, will install three gigawatts of renewable power on its bases, generating about the same amount of electricity each year as you’d get from burning 3 million tons of coal.


And because billions of your tax dollars continue to still subsidize some of the most profitable corporations in the history of the world, my budget once again calls for Congress to end the tax breaks for big oil companies and invest in the clean energy companies that will fuel our future. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, the third way to reduce carbon pollution is to waste less energy in our cars, our homes, our businesses. The fuel standards we’ve set over the past few years — years mean that by the middle of the next decade, the cars and trucks we buy will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. That means you’ll have to fill up half as often. We’ll all reduce carbon pollution. And we’ve built on that success by setting the first-ever standards for heavy-duty trucks and buses and vans. And in the coming months we’ll partner with truck makers to do it again for the next generation of vehicles.

And meanwhile, the energy we use in our homes and our businesses and our factories, our schools, our hospitals — that’s responsible for about one-third of our greenhouse gases. The good news is simple upgrades don’t just cut that pollution; they put people to work, manufacturing and installing smarter lights and windows and sensors and appliances. And the savings show up in our electricity bills every month, forever. And that’s why we’ve set new energy standards for appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers.

And today our businesses are building better ones that will also cut carbon pollution and cut consumers’ electricity bills by hundreds of billions of dollars.

That means, by the way, that our federal government also has to lead by example. I’m proud that federal agencies have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 15 percent since I took office. But we can do even better than that. (Applause.) So today I’m setting a new goal. Your federal government will consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources within the next seven years. (Cheers, applause.) We are going to set that goal. We’ll also encourage private capital to get off the sidelines and get into these energy-saving investments. And by the end of the next decade, these combined efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings will reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion tons. That’s an amount equal to what our entire energy sector emits in nearly half a year.

So I know these standards don’t sound all that sexy. But think of it this way. That’s the equivalent of planting 7.6 billion trees and letting them grow for 10 years, all while doing the dishes. It is a great deal, and we need to be doing it. (Applause.)

So using less dirty energy, transitioning to cleaner sources of energy, wasting less energy through our economy is where we need to go. And this plan will get us there faster. But I want to be honest. This will not get us there overnight. The hard truth is carbon pollution has built up in our atmosphere for decades now. And even if we Americans do our part, the planet will slowly keep warming for some time to come.

The seas will slowly keep rising and storms will get more severe, based on the science. It’s like tapping the brakes of a car before you come to a complete stop and then can shift into reverse; it’s going to take time for carbon emissions to stabilize. So in the meantime, we’re going to need to get prepared. And that’s why this plan will also protect critical sectors of our economy and prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that we cannot avoid.

States and cities across the country are already taking it upon themselves to get ready. Miami Beach is hardening its water supply against seeping salt water. We’re partnering with the state of Florida to restore Florida’s natural clean water delivery system, the Everglades. The overwhelmingly Republican legislature in Texas voted to spend money on a new water development bank as long — as a long- running drought cost jobs and forced a town to truck in water from the outside.

New York City is fortifying its 520 miles of coastline as an insurance policy against more frequent and costly storms. And what we’ve learned from Hurricane Sandy and other disasters is that we’ve got to build smarter, more resilient infrastructure that can protect our homes and businesses and withstand more powerful storms. That means stronger seawalls, natural barriers, hardened power grids, hardened water systems, hardened fuel supplies.

So the budget I sent Congress includes funding to support communities that build these projects, and this plan directs federal agencies to make sure that any new project funded with taxpayer dollars is built to withstand increased flood risk. And we’ll partner with communities seeking to help to prepare for droughts and floods, reduce the risk of wildfires, protect the dunes and wetlands that pull double-duty as green space and as natural storm barriers.

And we’ll also open our climate data and NASA climate imagery to the public to make sure that cities and states assess risk under different climate scenarios, so that we don’t waste money building structures that don’t withstand the next storm.

So that’s what my administration will do to support the work already underway across America, not only to cut carbon pollution, but also to protect ourselves from climate change. But as I think everybody here understands, no nation can solve this challenge alone, not even one as powerful as ours. And that’s why the final part of our plan calls on America to lead, lead international efforts to combat a changing climate. (Applause.)

And make no mistake, the — the world still looks to America, believe me. You know, when I spoke to young people in Turkey a few years ago, the first question I got wasn’t about the challenges that part of the world faces, it was about the climate challenge that we all face and America’s role in addressing it.

And it was a fair question, because as the world’s largest economy and second-largest carbon emitter, as a country with unsurpassed ability to drive innovation and scientific breakthroughs, as a country that people around the world continue to look to in times of crisis, we’ve got a vital role to play. We can’t stand on the sidelines. We’ve got a unique responsibility and the steps that I’ve outlined today prove that we’re willing to meet that responsibility.

While all America’s carbon pollution fell last year, global carbon pollution rose to a record high.

That’s a problem. Developing countries are using more and more energy, and tens of millions of people entering a global middle class naturally want to buy cars and air conditioners of their own, just like us. You can’t blame them for that.

And when you have conversations with poor countries, they’ll say, well, you went through these stages of development. Why can’t we?

But what we also have to recognize is, these same countries are also more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than we are. They don’t just have as much to lose. They probably have more to lose. Developing nations with some of the fastest rising levels of carbon pollution are going to have to take action to meet this challenge alongside us. They’re watching what we do, but we’ve got to make sure that they’re stepping up to the plate as well. We’ll — we compete for business with them, but we also share a planet. And we have to all shoulder the responsibility for keeping the planet habitable, or we’re going to suffer the consequences together.

So to help more countries transitioning to cleaner sources of energy, and to help them do it faster, we’re going to partner with our private sector to apply private sector technological know-how in countries that transition to natural gas. We’ve mobilized billions of dollars in private capital for clean energy projects around the world.

Today I’m calling for an end of public financing for new coal plants overseas, unless they deploy carbon capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity. (Applause.) And I urge other countries to join this effort. And I’m directing my administration to launch negotiations toward global free trade in environmental goods and services, including clean energy technology, to help more countries skip past the dirty phase of development and join a global, low-carbon economy.

They don’t have to repeat all the same mistakes that we’ve made. (Applause.)

We’ve also intensified our climate cooperation with major emerging economies like India and Brazil and China, the world’s largest emitter. So for example, earlier this month, President Xi of China and I reached an important agreement to jointly phase down our production and consumption of dangerous hydrofluorocarbons, and we intend to take more steps together in the months to come. It will make a difference; it’s a significant step in the reduction of carbon emissions. (Applause.)

And finally, my administration will redouble our efforts to engage our international partners in reaching a new global agreement to reduce carbon pollution through concrete action. (Applause.)

You know, four years ago, in Copenhagen, every major country agreed, for the first time, to limit carbon pollution by 2020. Two years ago, we decided to forge a new agreement beyond 2020 that would apply to all countries, not just developed countries. What we need is an agreement that’s ambitious, because that’s what the scale of the challenge demands. We need an inclusive agreement, because every country has to play its part. And we need an agreement that’s flexibile, because different nations have different needs. And if we can come together and get this right, we can define a sustainable future for your generation. So that’s my plan. (Applause.)

The actions I’ve announced today — the actions I’ve announced today should send a strong signal to the world that America intends to take bold action to reduce carbon pollution.

We will continue to lead by the power of our example, because that’s what the United States of America has always done.

I am convinced this is the fight America can and will lead in the 21st century, and I’m convinced this is a fight that America must lead. But it will require all of us to do our part. We’ll need scientists to design new fuels. And we’ll need farmers to grow new fuels. We’ll need engineers to devise new technologies. And we’ll need businesses to make and sell those technologies. We’ll need workers to operate assembly lines that hum with high-tech zero-carbon components, but we’ll also need builders to hammer into place the foundations for a — a new clean-energy era.

We’re going to need to give special care to people and communities that are unsettled by this transition, not just here in the United States but around the world. And those of us in positions of responsibility will need to be less concerned with the judgment of special interests and well-connected donors and more concerned with the judgment of posterity — (applause) — because you and your children and your children’s children will have to live with the consequences of our decisions.

As I said before, climate change has become a partisan issue, but it hasn’t always been. It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans led the way on new and innovative policies to tackle these issues. Richard Nixon opened the EPA. George H.W. Bush declared — first U.S. president to declare human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected and unprecedented ways. Someone who never shies away from a challenge, John McCain, introduced a market-based cap-and-trade bill to slow carbon pollution.

The woman that I’ve chosen to head up the EPA, Gina McCarthy, she’s worked — (cheers, applause) — she’s terrific. Gina’s worked for the EPA in my administration, but she’s also worked for five Republican governors. She’s got a long track record of working with industry and business leaders to forge common-sense solutions.

Unfortunately, she’s being held up in the Senate. She’s been held up for months, forced to jump through hoops no Cabinet nominee should ever have to, not because she lacks qualifications, because there are too many in the Republican Party right now who think that the Environmental Protecting Agency has no business protecting our environment from carbon pollution. The Senate should confirm her without any further obstruction or delay. (Cheers, applause.)

But more broadly, we’ve got to move beyond partisan politics on this issue.

I want to be clear. I am willing to work with anybody — Republicans, Democrats, independents, libertarians, greens, anybody — to combat this threat on behalf of our kids. I am open to all sorts of new ideas — maybe better ideas — to make sure that we deal with climate change in a way that promotes jobs and growth. Nobody has a monopoly on what is a very hard problem.

But I don’t have much patience for anyone who denies that this challenge is real. We don’t have time for a meeting of the flat earth society. (Cheers, applause.) Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm. And ultimately, we will be judged as a people and as a society and as a country on where we go from here.

Our founders believed that those of us in positions of power are elected not just to serve as custodians of the present, but as caretakers of the future. And they charged us to make decisions with an eye on a longer horizon than the arc of our own political careers. That’s what the American people expect. That’s what they deserve. And someday our children and our children’s children will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could, when we had the chance, to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more stable world? And I want to be able to say, yes, we did. Don’t you want that? (Cheers, applause.)

Americans are not a people who look backwards. We’re a people who look forward. We’re not a people who fear what the future holds; we shape it.

What we need in this fight are citizens who will stand up and speak up and compel us to do what this moment demands. Understand, this is not just a job for politicians. So I’m going to need all of you, to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends.

Tell them what’s at stake. Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings. Push back on misinformation. Speak up for the facts. Broaden the circle of those who are willing to stand up for our future. (Applause.)

Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. (Applause.) Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices. (Applause.) Invest. Divest. Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth.

And remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote! Make yourself heard on this issue. (Cheers, applause.)

I understand the politics will be tough. The challenge we must accept will not reward us with a clear moment of victory. There’s no gathering army to defeat. There’s no peace treaty to sign. When President Kennedy said we’d go to the moon within the decade, we knew that we’d build a space ship and we’d meet the goal.

Our progress here will be measured differently, in crises averted, in a planet preserved. But can we imagine a more worthy goal? For while we may not live to sea the full realization of our ambition, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that the world we leave to our children will be — be better off for what we did.

It makes you realize, that astronaut said all those years ago, just what you have back there on Earth.

And that image in the photograph, that bright blue ball rising over the moon’s surface containing everything we hold dear, the laughter of children, a quiet sunset, all the hopes and dreams of posterity, that’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for. And if we remember that, I’m absolutely sure we’ll succeed.

But thank you, and God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

151 Responses to ‘Invest, Divest’: Obama Goes Full Climate Hawk In Speech Unveiling Plan To Cut Carbon Pollution

  1. prokaryotes says:

    Obama Climate / Economy Speech June 25, 2013

    10 min version..

  2. Dan Ives says:

    “The President surprised everyone by bringing up the Keystone XL pipeline… Obama left his Administration very little room for approving it.” – That’s laughable.
    All he has to do is play word games (as Obama often does) with “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” For example, if they assume that the tar sands will get exploited anyway, or if they assume that without the pipeline they will be transported by rail, they can make a case that it doesn’t exacerbate carbon pollution to build it. I agree that these are bogus assumptions, but come on, Joe. That’s what politicians do. As someone who wrote a book on the importance of language, I can’t believe you don’t see these obvious outs Obama is leaving himself to later justify approving the pipeline.

  3. Dan Ives says:

    And as for the whole “he deserves praise for the speech for now – let’s see if he follows through” schtick, spare me.People who still hold out hope for Obama are getting borderline-disgusting. How many times does Obama have to pull the football away at the last minute before progressives stop buying his deception? Turn your brains back on.

  4. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    i applaud him on the speech.

    Let’s see what comes of it, that will be the real test. But at least the words have escaped from the POTUS’ mouth that climate change is real and a danger. I think the rest of the world must be shaking their heads at us, wondering how such an advanced and educated (once) nation can take so long to even acknowledge the problem (though many still don’t).

  5. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    And yes, Dan, I’m in that camp you so disparage. None of us really know what’s coming down the pike when it comes to Obama and his promises, but we have to hope. At least he’s acknowledging the problem, which most Repubs refuse to do. (I’m an independent, BTW.)

  6. Dan H says:

    Dan, with all due respect, this was a huge, stand-alone, stand-up statement on climate from the head of the most powerful nation in the world, as opposed to just a couple of throw-away sentences in a regularly scheduled speech. Pres. Obama didn’t talk about legislative plans either, he talked about specific actions that will not require the approval of Congress. It strikes me that his advisors have turned him loose on this challenging topic, at long last. I look forward to seeing the response from the international media.

  7. prokaryotes says:

    In Keystone boost, U.S. study sees no added risk from Canada oil

    Uh Oh…

  8. MarkfromLexington says:

    “Can we imagine a more worthy goal?”

    – Barack Obama

  9. Joe Romm says:

    There’s more to this than a speech. There is a plan and executive orders are being issued, one with a timetable for the EPA. I’m as big a critic of Obama as anyone, but this was a stand up speech. Yes, if he approves Kxl then it’s Lucy with the football. But I don’t think he will

  10. Steve says:

    The speech was fine….it was the fireside chat that this blog has been urging he deliver for years now… he has enormous competing demands on his time and competing pleas to which he must respond, many involving much more urgent needs of countless people of many walks of life.

    His overriding point — this IS a real issue that requires response and dialogue at the federal, state, local, community, individual, and private sector levels.

    It will not be addressed with a federal government top-down, shut-down-life-as-we-know-it solution, whether or not some people here think that is the ONLY solution worth pursuing.

    What is needed is for climate activists and NGOs to launch a public education and motivation campaign to build on this — PSAs on prime-time television, websites with countless do-your-part suggestions, billboards, posterboards, even cocktail party conversations. How many decent, caring, committed people do not know about the accelerating arctic ice cap melt?

    Visible protests by the most committed activists are great, but they should be parlayed into public awareness and action by voters and consumers. They should not be line-in-the-sand symbolic adventures that do not meaningfully reduce the CO2 headcount.


  11. Dan Ives says:

    I’m aware that you don’t think he’ll approve KXL. I strongly disagree, and I’d love to hear your response to my comment above regarding that.

  12. M Tucker says:

    “Right now, Obama deserves kudos for delivering a inspiring and substantive speech. If he truly follows through on it, if he keeps speaking out, if he puts in place EPA regulations that would enable the 17% cut, and if his Secretary of State negotiates a global climate deal, then this speech will certainly be remembered as a turning point for the climate issue.”

    I wholeheartedly agree. Very inspiring. That is qualified by the four ‘ifs.’ He needs to show action. I know it will be a couple of years before EPA regulations will go into effect but we need to see actual movement on this.

    Expect Senate Republicans to continue to block the new EPS director.

    “But for me the best part was perhaps the least expected, where he calls on young people, indeed on all Americans, to become climate hawks and create a nationwide climate movement”

    That was the best part for me also. Here is what they will be up against:

    From Huff Post on 6/24

    “Many around the world see climate change as a major threat, but Americans rank among the least concerned about the issue, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

    Only 40 percent of Americans surveyed said the warming planet is a “major threat,” according to Pew. Similar results were seen in China, Jordan, Egypt and Pakistan, among several others of the 39 countries surveyed.

    The top threats to the U.S. include North Korea’s nuclear program (according to 59 percent of Americans), Islamic extremist groups (56 percent) and Iran’s nuclear program (54 percent).

    Yet more than half of all respondents in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa said climate change was a “major threat” to their individual countries. 54 percent of Canadians surveyed also listed climate change as a threat.

    An April 2013 Gallup poll showed a majority of Americans acknowledge the reality of climate change. But public opinion can be fickle, with fewer Americans acknowledging climate change after a cold winter.

    Pew’s results come from a survey of 37,653 individuals in 39 countries over the course of two months.”

    I expect Chris Hayes to have a segment about this on his show tonight.

  13. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Some cooperation in the international negotiations would be very welcome but if ‘flexible’ means everyone can do as little as they choose, it will be worse than useless, ME

  14. EJ says:

    So truth time, Dan. Are you one of those “progressives” that pulled the lever for Obama in ’08 and promptly sat on his hands and awaited a magical, overnight transformation? Who sat idly by while the radical neocon Tea Party took over the House and state governments?

    People with your passion and anger need to understand that the president is only as good as the people willing (or not) to give him leverage. Here, he has exercised his power in a convincing and bold way even while those on his left eye him with suspicion and stale animosity. I think it’s time for you and thousands on the progressive left to wake up and stop taking the easy way out by blaming Obama for everything that’s wrong- work to change our entire government and the presidency will follow.

  15. Paul Magnus says:

    I wonder if he check with Ms Obama on this?

  16. Note: the report at this link talks about the risk of spills, not the risk of increased climate pollution.

  17. He may still be leaving himself an out, but the logic claiming that approving the pipeline won’t increase carbon pollution is circular, and thus invalid:

  18. mulp says:

    Now that Obama has raised one billion dollars for Karl Rove and friends to take over Congress and repeal the Clean Air and Water Acts and eliminate the EPA and EIS, will environmentalists mobilize the million activists going door to door getting out the vote to defeat the conservatives who favor corporate profits over the future of human children in every Congressional race in 2014 and 2016 and 2018 and 2020?

    This speech will potentially mark the move to a 66-33 split in the Senate and House between the parties, but whether Republicans or Democrats win will be determined by the inaction or action of millions of environmentalists getting out the green vote for every seat in Congress.

  19. Michael Dowd says:

    Fabulous post/overview, Joe.


    M & C

  20. prokaryotes says:

    Notice this paragraph is missing from the official CSPAN video recording…

    “And that image in the photograph, that bright blue ball rising over the moon’s surface containing everything we hold dear, the laughter of children, a quiet sunset, all the hopes and dreams of posterity, that’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for. And if we remember that, I’m absolutely sure we’ll succeed.”

    Obama Climate/Energy policy speech, June 25, 2013 Georgetown University #ActOnClimate

  21. Dave S. Nottear says:

    Talk to people like this:

    George Mobus
    Nate Hagens
    Tad Patzek

    They can explain what you are missing (or deliberately ignoring).

  22. Jeff Huggins says:

    Anticlimactic and (if you think about it) Incoherent In Many Ways

    So we will make a “bold statement” to the rest of the world, and “lead” the way to address climate change?

    With bold assertions like this: that we will only approve Keystone XL if the U.S. State Department feels that it will have no net positive influence on GHG emissions relative to the case if we don’t approve it. That’s bold for ya!

    And what is all this talk about “lead” and leadership, and “bold”? Have the reviewers there at CAP been drinking the Washington DC kool-aid?

    The numbers suggest (as far as I can tell, although CAP has not published them in recent posts) that a 17 percent reduction in GHG emissions levels from 2005 would take us back to levels that are only barely below the 1990 levels, whereas the most recent analysis says that developed countries should reduce emissions by 50 percent BELOW 1990 levels by 2020 if we are to have a medium chance of limiting the temperature increase to 2 deg C. In other words, even if we achieve the cut that President Obama seems to have in mind (although even he is not talking about the numbers or providing any numerical specifics about his proposals), our emissions in 2020 will still be nearly twice as high as they should be, that is if we want to be on a pathway to limit the temperature increase to 2 deg C.

    And what I’ve already seen in the international press (e.g., the BBC) already points out that some other countries’ aims and commitments are already greater, and have been, than the aim President Obama seems to have. That’s leadership?

    Indeed, it is not clear to me — I promise to read the transcript twice again — what is actually new or surprising, let alone “bold”, in what the President said, other than the fact that he finally said it in one speech themed around climate change. (Sad that it wasn’t in prime time and that the major media didn’t cover it much.)

    I promise to calm down and read it again. I DID like the beginning, the part where he set the stage by talking about the wonderful view of Earth from space. But Joe, a speech that started that way and then ended so anticlimactically (listen to and watch the last fifteen seconds) — that’s a great speech?? Of course, he used the word “bold” and the word “lead”, but these actions are far less than bold and they in no way reach to the level of leading the world in the fight to address climate change. Words, words, words.

    He talked about our children and their children, but his aims are such that they are a factor of two shy of what is needed, especially if we want to consider ourselves leaders!

    In any case, more later. I’ll read it again, but we need a paradigm shift in Washington DC, if you ask me.



  23. Colorado Bob says:

    Footnote :
    It’s 91F degrees at mile maker 1244 on the Alcan highway. The Alaska DOT is going to be very busy this summer.

  24. catman306 says:

    I wonder if there are still stretches of the Alcan Highway that are built on permafrost?

    If there are, this might just be a bumpy ride this summer.

  25. BobbyL says:

    This should be called “the speech that should have been given in 2009.” It was back then that China, much earlier than expected, was just passing the US as the number one carbon dioxide polluter. Fast forward to 2013 and China’s emissions are now about double those of the US and the chances of not surpassing the 2C guardrail are now dismal. So the speech as to seen in the context of lost opportunity. Therefore, my feelings are mixed, great speech but a tad too late.

  26. catman306 says:

    No need to wonder about melting permafrost effecting the Alcan highway. It is:

    Permafrost plagues Alcan as historic highway celebrates 70th birthday

  27. Mark Shapiro says:

    I positively love the “invest, divest” phrase, partly because it is language that every businessman and economist (and congressman and journalist) understands easily.

    But more important, it reflects the reality of the inertia of the energy economy. All capital equipment either generates or uses energy, and no one will throw it away and start fresh. It is tens of trillions of dollars and it all lasts decades. What matters is how we invest going forward.

    Invest in clean, and divest from dirty. Good mantra, easy to remember.

  28. Jeff Huggins says:

    My Favorite Line — “prerequisite for your vote!”

    My favorite line is near the end, when President Obama urged us to remind everyone that “… sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote!”

    That sounds like something we ought to, and need to, do. And it’s entirely consistent with what I’ve been suggesting to CAP and CP, and others. The crucial word is prerequisite — PRE-requisite. It means that we shouldn’t nominate or vote for someone who can’t or won’t provide the leadership necessary to address climate change.

    It doesn’t mean that we should elect someone and then have to beg and plead with them to do what they promised to do. Instead, it means that our votes should be conditional: it means that would-be leaders who want our votes should have to demonstrate that they deserve them — should satisfy the prerequisite — before we vote for them.

    I suggest that we pose this question to Hillary Clinton ASAP and persistently, until she answers it one way or another: “How would you rule regarding Keystone XL if you were president today — that is, if it were your decision to make? Would you approve it or deny approval? Please be clear, forthright, and decisive. Thanks.)

    In any case, we should have — and state — prerequisites for our votes. I agree with the President on that. Let’s start that process with a close eye on would-be Democratic presidential nominees, so we get ourselves into a better situation four years from now than we are in today.

    Be Well,


  29. Dan Ives says:

    Since when did invalid reasoning/arguments stop politicians from justifying their horrible policies?

  30. John Atkeison says:

    It is not just up to Obama — *WE* need to take hold of this opportunity and independently and strongly and democratically make change happen.

  31. mulp says:

    If environmentalists take your attitude, the result will be Republicans taking over Congress and eliminating the EPA and all the environmental regulations.

    Obama today has raised a billion for conservatives like Rove and ilk.

    Obama has given you 2010 and 2012 to overcome the Republican opposition to addressing the environment, but how many votes for climate action have you delivered in Texas. Obama will sign anything that Congress can pass that makes progress, so it doesn’t require going for a back to the stone age stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow member of Congress to gain ground. Texas is burning in hell, so going door to door you can argue that either we need to do something about the green house gases, or god is punishing Texans for failing to be good stewards of the land and stopping the pollution of the earth, water, and air.

    Rove et al will have the money to flood the voters with the message that Obama is an angry black radical commie who is determined to have you freeze in winter and boil in summer and force you to walk through the desert because he will reserve all the oil to his fat cat liberal backers.

    Will you be going to door to explain why their votes for State legislators and Congress persons matters for the future wellbeing of their children and grandchildren?

  32. Artful Dodger says:

    A very telling tale from the media control centers in NYC.

    U.S. Network news coverage of President Obama’s speech was a joke. All the major networks cut away from the speech before he delivered his plan. None of the Networks even mentioned the speech in the opening to their nightly news broadcast.

    CBS News presented a 15 second blurb about the speech, during which they showed canned video of a cooling tower at a nuclear power plant while Dianne Sawyer narrated “For the first time, the President is calling for regulations on carbon dioxide from power plants”.

    There IS no C02 in the steam from a nuclear power plant cooling tower. But to paraphrase PT Barnum, ‘No Network News division ever went broke by flat-out lying to their audience’.

    The U.S. Media deliberately misinforms the U.S. public on basic climate facts. The U.S. Media is criminally complicit in the ongoing climate disaster. They will face a reckoning from the public as society continues to break down.

  33. Mark Shapiro says:

    An excellent speech. It hit just about everything I could ask for.

    A note about the KXL decision: my own guess is that Obama will approve it, and I will be as disappointed as any climate hawk.

    However, much more important than the KXL decision is the success of Tesla, Volt, Leaf, and bicycle, pedestrian, and train programs everywhere.

    Destroying oil demand is critical.

  34. Artful Dodger says:

    Do not pretend this is on Obama. 2009 was not the time for this speech, 1998 was.

    If you have a solution for money in politics, driven by the pollutocrats, please, share it.

  35. Henry says:

    Was this on TV?? I couldn’t find it anywhere!

  36. John Atkeison says:

    Nobody should have expected Obama to suddenly turn into McKibben or Hansen. But he did just change the terms of engagement. It will take us all a bit of time to sort out how we will take advantage of the new situation.

  37. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    After this speech, which, while still insufficient, is miles ahead of anything that he has uttered before, any backsliding, particularly approving Keystone, will be the most massive double-cross so far, and be absolutely demoralising to the Hope Fiends. I won’t be so presumptuous as to declare what I think will happen, for once, as I really do not know, although I have my suspicions.

  38. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    People working to ‘..change our Government’, are precisely the target group of PRISM and all the other massive apparatus of surveillance of the National Security state. If you look like succeeding, for example by making US ‘democracy’ more than a hollow sham camouflaging a rapacious and aggressive plutocracy, I’d look out for Big Trouble.

  39. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    There is no more urgent problem, let alone ‘..much more urgent..’, than the survival of humanity. I remember our late, unlamented PM, Rudd, in my opinion a Dudd in all ways possible, intoning that climate destabilisation was the ‘greatest moral challenge’ of the age. Then, when he delivered a speech outlining his plan to reduce emissions by 5% by 2020, I well recall the audible gasps and cries of outrage from members of the audience at the preposterous, indeed insulting, inadequacy of the target.

  40. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Wasn’t LBJ warned of the danger in 1965?

  41. Jeff Poole says:

    Utterly clueless.

    “Fracking is good y’all! No, I won’t stop deep ocean drilling or exploration (ie drilling) of the Arctic. No I’m not going to do anything radical, like actually commit to anything.”

    “But I’ll throw you all a rhetorical bone and watch you wag your tails like the tame, lame, toothless, spineless fools y’all are.”

    Instead of trotting out the form ‘it’s not enough but it’s a start’ mantra like it means something other than the end of our civilisation – and probably our species – why haven’t the conga line of comfortable, well-fed ‘campaigners’ who are currently being even-handed about this outrageous pack of lies and dissimulation blockading the white house as we speak?

    Oh that’s right, because they’re tame, lame and spineless – including Al Gore who really does know better.

  42. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    jeff, ‘Pre’-requisites no longer amount to a hill of beans, coming from capitalist politicians out for votes. It’s actions, ‘post’-requisites that count, and it is a brave man or woman who trusts those who speak with forked tongues for a living.

  43. Brian Smith says:

    He targeted new & existing power plants & bolstered EPA authority; disputed the false choice between the environment and a stable economy; emphasized need for business leadership; called out congressional allies of oil & coal and put a zero net emissions proviso on KXL approval; warned that baked in change will require adaptation planning. Most importantly, he asked voters to make climate action a condition of support for their candidates at all levels.

    The speech was crafted to be a general call to arms on climate for the public and a rollout of several specific action plans he intends to pursue in Washington. He succeeded. It was the best we could have expected and much more to build on than anything since he came into office. It was Step 1, and it was an invitation. “I’m ready to work with everybody on this.” The young audience at Georgetown was impressed & thankful. Me too.

    He didn’t shoot down KXL today, he didn’t call for a price on carbon, and he didn’t talk about the worst-case outcomes of inaction. I think he knows these are Step 2 measures that have to be built up to and the speech was edited accordingly.

    The gate is open for climate leaders to follow up with strong support for the science and a broader, deeper campaign to bring the public up to speed. One measure of the need: both MSNBC & CNN cut away from the speech halfway through and went back to George Zimmerman and other stories. How many got on CSPAN 3 for the rest? This can all fade away. If we want momentum we are going to have to create it. Tag, we’re it.

  44. Mike Roddy says:

    Can’t agree, Joe, especially with the full blown climate hawk description. Coal is an easy target, and is a toxic, sunset technology. Coal will be exported if not burned here, thanks to Obama’s blowing off internationally negotiated carbon limits or taxes.

    We’ll know Obama means it when he takes on two things: fracking, and the false assumption that gas has half coal’s emissions, something CP readers know is not true.

    Fossil fuel companies are horizontally integrated. Koch and Exxon are heavily invested in gas, and they have persuaded the media to go along with all that “bridge fuel” crap. If we continue to build gas plants, and sabotage solar, we are doomed.

    Let’s not set ourselves up for one more round of false hopes to be followed by remorse. Until Obama gets serious about rapid conversion to clean energy, it’s just talk. His speech was mostly the latter, and I’m surprised you and Hayes were taken in.

  45. Gestur says:

    Jeff, good points in, well I’ll call it reality-space. For a bit more specificity, for 2011, the latest year for which the EPA has compiled the data, the U.S. GHG emissions (by their algorithm) were 6.9% below the 2005 baseline, but 8.4% above the 1990 baseline. A 17% reduction by 2020 for the US using the 2005 baseline would be a mere 3.4% reduction from the 1990 baseline. Finally and as you noted, but even if that 2020 US goal were achieved vis-à-vis the 2005 baseline, as Roger Harrabin notes in his BBC piece sidebar, reckoned in terms of the 1990 baseline, that US reduction (3.4% ) would be one fifth of what the EU is attempting to achieve. Another very interesting metric, methinks.

  46. Andy says:

    What I heard.

    Obama finally telling congress to go to XXXX. He’s going to deep six the Keystone XL.

  47. prokaryotes says:

    Michael E. Mann · 2,075 like this
    5 hours ago ·
    My statement on President Barack Obama’s climate plan announced earlier today

  48. Tom Bennion says:

    Some congratulations to Joe for your blog with its consistent messages which has contributed to this result.

    Obviously much more to be done. But what interests me is that Obama has finally got the message right – a low carbon economy is forward, visionary and progressive. Vision always wins over negativity and no vision.

    And he will not take any kind of poll hit on this, I would take bets that he will actually get a boost, so he gets more confidence, and other politicians will be noticing. That’s a further shift.

    I maintain the view we will look back on these decades as a time of very rapid movement by human society to new forms of energy etc in the face of the science. But the science suggests of course we are still a little too slow. Its a very big ship to turn around.

    Meanwhile, off to stop new deep sea oil drilling of the New Zealand coast. For those who dont know, our current government is seeking rogue petrostate status like Canada. We wont let them succeed.

  49. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Yes, and he planned to do something about it as soon as that “little” Vietnam thing was resolved.

    And then there’s this from a 1953 article in Popular Mechanics (when even I was but a wee lad):

  50. wili says:

    Joe, I agree that it’s a major speech. Thanks for covering it so well.

    Just one quibble:

    In the fourth paragraph of your article you write:

    “Copenhagen target of a 17% reduction in carbon pollution by 2005”

    I think you mean 17% reduction _from_ 2005 levels _by_ 2020, right?

    Thanks again for all your great work. I think you can take some measure of credit for helping move things towards the right direction that this speech begins to suggest.

  51. Joe Romm says:

    Thanks. What I really want to know is who came up with the slogan, “invest, divest.” I wish I’d thought of it first but now I’m glad that I didn’t.

  52. wili says:

    It is politically impossible to slay all the ff dragons at once. By pitting one ff dragon against another, perhaps he can bring about the eventual demise of them all.

    Don’t get me wrong–I wish he could, to paraphrase Norquist (of all people!), immediately contain and shrink all ff industries down to the size that they could be drown in a bathtub. But that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

  53. wili says:

    Maybe he meant this kind of ‘invest’??:

  54. prokaryotes says:

    The Full Obama Speech from June 25, 2013 in HD

  55. Jeff Huggins says:

    I agree, Gestur, and thanks for the comment and specifics. Be Well.

  56. Jeff Huggins says:

    Now here is a helpful article: “Critics: Obama’s Plan Lacks Urgency on Climate Crisis”, by Sarah Lazare, on CommonDreams

  57. TKPGH says:


    Agreed. This was the speech we all wanted to hear for so long. I agree with others here, thogh, that the main stream coverage was not what it deserved. Let’s see what happens on the Sunday shows this week…

    Thanks for all the hard work.

  58. BobbyL says:

    Of course it is not solely on Obama. Who ever said it was. Nevertheless he was elected in 2008 and could not have given such a speech as president until 2009. As late in the day as 2009 was he should have given such a speech. Instead he imposed a gag order on himself and others in his administration and showed up in Copenhagen and wound up with nothing but a weak voluntary agreement that was never adopted by the full membership. It appears in retrospect that Copenhagen was last good chance to stay under 2C. Despite all the cheering about today’s speech a sobering realization is that it looks like extremely dangerous climate change is now all but inevitable. It’s sort of like cheering for a touchdown in a football game when your team is behind 42 to 7.

  59. Ken Barrows says:

    Good speech. Great speech. No matter. How many of the readers here think our culture has to change to address climate issues?

  60. Omega Centauri says:

    Joe, Good rhetoric is good, -even if it doesn’t come from the guy who wrote our textbook on it.

  61. Colorado Bob says:

    The current heat is centered in the bowl between the coastal ranges, and the Brooks Range, it was 34F at Barrow. A long the Tana River. Back into Canada Very cool numbers all around . Really creepy.

    Mile Marker 1244 on the Alcan, the first station back into US territory if you left at mile zero off to Alaska. .

  62. Omega Centauri says:

    So outside of the green online media, did this get any airplay? Or was it just preaching to the choir?
    Was the only real money $8B for advanced fossil fuels?

    Its great to have an inspiring speech that we can show to up and coming activists, but is Joe average going to hear anything about it, other than what Rush L. tells them?

  63. Doug Bostrom says:

    Hopefully we’ll remember that Obama can’t and won’t carry the ball on this all by himself. Whether you’re congratulating Obama or castigating him for this speech and his history of delivering on promises, the promises he’s making are mostly yours to keep. Those that are broken are mostly our fault.

    Any expressions made here regarding Obama’s worth or debasement and especially the urgency of the matters he talked about are pretty much wasted breath. Take it someplace useful.

  64. Raul M. says:

    Looks like many who thought they had to be quiet about the need for change to a clean energy system may now say we need a clean energy system. Congratulations.
    Looking forward to seeing solar panels on the Dept. of Defense. Maybe they will put enough on there to see it from a good distance.

  65. Ken Barrows says:

    Stable economy? What does that mean? Does it mean the world can keep increasing the number of plane trips? Does it mean more car miles traveled throughout the world? Does it mean still producing 60 million internal combustion cars per year? Inquiring minds want to know.

  66. Colorado Bob says:

    My friend Jose left for Homer in late Oct. 1973, on the Alcan. in a 4 cylinder fast back Sababb . that they he did not own . With his buck toothed girl, the next time I heard from him.
    He was in Central America.
    I asked him years later about that trip , the tractor-trailers toss rocks in your windshield.

  67. Jeff Poole says:

    By that logic African Americans are responsible for the Ku Klux Klan…

  68. Bill D. says:

    It was a hot day in DC and the President was clearly tiring near the end of a great speech, but the words he closed with are the ones that I’ll remember and we can only hope will live forever in the history books:
    “And that image in the photograph, that bright blue ball rising over the moon’s surface containing everything we hold dear, the laughter of children, a quiet sunset, all the hopes and dreams of posterity, that’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for. And if we remember that, I’m absolutely sure we’ll succeed.”

    No one should be under any illusions as to the stakes involved in successfully addressing climate change. Nothing less than “All the hopes and dreams of posterity.”

  69. Colorado Bob says:

    We were at Smelter Town, Colorado. And it was cold, on the Arkansas River. Everything was covered in white.

    I thought a rock would fly in his forehead.

  70. Sasparilla says:

    Well said Dan. I look forward as well, this could be when the momentum shifts here in the U.S. from constantly falling back to starting to move forward – that’ll be huge if it plays out.

  71. Sasparilla says:

    Very true wili, and if he did that we’d have a massive crash of the market and associated consequences (the fossil fuel industries make up a very large part of the value of financial markets – so you’ll want to let the air out of one balloon at a time if possible).

    In reality we don’t have time for that, but at the political level I’m sure that is how it’ll be played.

  72. Sasparilla says:

    It’s a great saying and the perfect audience to be sharing it with.

  73. Sasparilla says:

    Based on that speech of his a couple of weeks ago someone must have told him “the science was in” on climate change in the meantime.

  74. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    I wonder if my denialist aunt and uncle in Fairbanks are rethinking their stance. I doubt it.

  75. squidboy6 says:

    Yeah, I agree that it’s a fundamental change. Ed Markey just won in Massachusetts so another TeaPer has bitten the dust. Let’s take a win or line getting drawn and push it further. Daily Kos believes the House can be won next election.

    The Supremes just gave the right a big ideological victory but it could backfire. Markey was elected with a low turnout so what we need in 2014 is a big turnout. I think we can count on greater gains if we can get the vote out.

    In won’t be simple. I was in the South for a couple of years, Louisiana, then went to Tennessee months before the election. I had the documents and registered early but they still suppressed my vote in Memphis. Memphis is a Democratic stronghold so I was targeted. That’s where turnout needs to be enabled. Even Jackson, Miss. had a good Democratic turnout – in spite of the attempts to suppress it. It can be done.

  76. Lore says:

    With the exception of Chris Hayes last half hour segment on MSNBC tonight the President’s announcement is getting rather pathetic coverage. Obviously MSM is not up to playing hardball with its fossil fuel industry advertisers.

    Then again the rhetoric of the President was brilliant, but the substance was a bit anemic. I’m not too enthused with a proposal that only represents a 4% reduction over 1990 emissions and will possibly change our current trajectory by only several months.

    Also, nothing in the President’s carefully parsed wording leads ne to believe that he will go against the State Department’s view that the Keystone XL pipeline represents no substantial increase in emissions.

  77. Sasparilla says:

    Great article Joe (and prior ones). Overall a very good speech and yes, lame goals – they will be totally inadequate to what we need and of course there is still waffling on the tar sands in there. But….

    If the President follows through on his plans then this may be the moment where the momentum on climate change action in the U.S. at the Federal Level shifts from endlessly falling back to gaining ground. It’s time for the tide to turn in the U.S. – I hope we just saw it. (we’ll see of course…)

    As to the TV networks/news not covering the speech – they are only serving to highlight their increasing irrelevance in today’s (and the future) world…most of the target market of this speech (young folks) don’t even rely on TV for news (they heard the whole thing on YouTube and places like this site).

  78. Sasparilla says:

    Amazing the only big paper that has the speech prominently displayed and says climate in the heading is the Wall Street Journal (probably because it serves the enemies of the speech and they’ll want to see it).

    The NYTimes has smaller, but still high up placing talking about greenhouse gasses.

    The Washington post has it buried, but at the bottom of minor headings on the main page (mentions climate strategy).

    The Los Angeles Times doesn’t even have it on their 1st page.

  79. Dan Ives says:

    My voting history is irrelevant to my critique. And please spare me with the “what have you done to change things?” stuff. It is nothing more than a demand for me to be quiet and fall in line, to conform, disguised as a plea for grassroots action.
    We call it “homework for heretics”

  80. Dan Ives says:

    A) I don’t live near anywhere near Texas.
    B) Republican scare-mongering is so used up and old. Can’t you progressives come up with anything more compelling?
    C) See my reply to EJ above regarding “homework for heretics”

  81. Colorado Bob says:

    We’ve been rollin’ this stone for a for a vey long time.

    If you don’t stand-up now. Please, stop bitchin’ on the ,world wide web.
    Which Al Gore helped get funded 22.5 years ago.

  82. question says:

    No Jeff, that is not the same logic.

    The Klu Klux Klan was (is?) a vicious group of haters who could act independently of its victims. African Americans had no control over the KKK. No action by the AA community could possibly have stopped the hatred of the KKK and in no possible way could one claim “they asked for it”.

    The fossil fuel industry is a short sighted, self-delusional group who are “serving” the desires and “demand” created by its victims (all of us). We (collectively) have it within our power to undo that demand.

    There is really no comparison, as compelling as it might be to draw one.

  83. nyc-tornado-10 says:

    It is understandable that many of us are not happy with pres obama’s lack of action on global warming until this point. It should be understood that when obama became president, america did not have much of a renewable energy infrastructure. today, we are building a large infrastructure, almost all of it accomplished since 2009, in spite of the billionaire’s tea party. this year america will install it’s 10 billionth watt of solar electric, almost all of it since 2009. 4 years ago, to propose cutting coal plants may have seemed like cutting all electric consumption, now we are building large amounts of wind and solar to replace coal energy. 4 years ago electric cars were almost non existent, now most car companies have an electric model, and tesla is the most successful american car company. When we propose ending fossil fuel consumption, there are alot of options that are available at a reasonable price, this was not the situation 4 years ago, and that is thanks to the energy programs obama put in the stimulus program.

    It is now possible to tell the american public we need to transition off of fossil fuels to renewable energy, the technology is here and being deployed, this was not possible 4 years ago. Perhaps pres. obama can be excused for lack of action until now, beyond this point in time there are no excuses, hopefully the pres understands this and is acting on it.

  84. About time. Now let’s see what reactionaries do, and how Obama responds. I think he should confront them with more “flat earth” and “America can’t do” insults, and point to their naked self-interest.

    An implementation fine point: if the carbon emission regs accelerate coal plant shut-downs (and what’s the point of them if they don’t), then those companies and their customers should get a tax preference to make the transition to the cleaner replacement. It’s a national problem whose solution yields national benefits.

    There will be deep economic dislocations. That’s unavoidable. We have to spread the pain. We can’t just tell Ohio and West Virginia, we’re done with coal, go figure something out. We have to pitch in to transition their power plants and their employment economy off coal. It’s a national problem, not a regional one. We have to agree and share and share alike.

    Now, onto the carbon tax.

  85. Doug Bostrom says:

    Good points.

    African Americans don’t elect the KKK.

    The KKK has no telephone number or address allowing African Americans to request that the KKK cease and desist or generally improve their behavior.

    African Americans do not avidly buy products from the KKK.

    Based on the changes we’ve seen in the US over the past 60 years, African Americans apparently did not spend too much time bitching and moaning, too little time actually doing.

  86. Colorado Bob says:

    Here’s how we win –
    Dr. Richard Alley,
    Send that small dog to stand up with Obama.

  87. Jeff Huggins says:

    Tim DeChristopher, speaking on “All In” with Chris Hayes, assessed the President’s speech well, by pointing out that the rhetoric (those elements of the speech other than the actual policies) was good, but the actual substance of the policies leaves a very great deal to be desired. He said that the President’s policies don’t match his rhetoric. For example, he pointed out — very clearly — the obvious: that the way the President explained the fine and vague line that would determine his stance on Keystone XL is at odds with the references to a major moral issue, protecting our children and their children, and so forth. This and other examples illustrate a major mismatch between the idealistic rhetoric and the nature of decisions and indecision reflected in the policies themselves.

    These are not direct quotes, but anyone watching Tim DeChristopher tonight (perhaps there will be a video of it tomorrow?) should “get it”. He assessed the speech well, and he even managed to put it politely in the process. We needed and still need a lot better.



  88. Brian Smith says:

    Well,ok, there’s no such thing as a “stable” economy. It was a mushy word choice. Stable in terms of continued human use of resources without destroying the planet is what I was thinking, but didn’t say. BAU fossil fueled economy with more cars is not what I’m rooting for.

  89. Colorado Bob says:

    Send that small dog to stand up with Obama.

    Nobody paid their dues. Like Dr. Richard .

    And he loves telling people about it.
    There is a clip : He’s in front of congress explaining the orbit of the Sun, the wobble of the Earth, and he’s using his bald head to do it.

  90. Colorado Bob says:

    He’s in the very minute of it. He kills them.

  91. Colorado Bob says:

    But mainly, he’s really sweet man.

  92. Colorado Bob says:

    Joe, tell Dr. Alley to march to the White House.
    We’ll never get this chance again.

  93. Colorado Bob says:

    Your spam sucks.

    Read seed, all 5 pages

  94. Colorado Bob says:

    As for me, I am going to the Lubbock County Court House, and I, plan to sit down and die.

  95. Martin V says:

    Henry, you could not find it because it wasn’t on TV. The media wouldn’t want to upset you with trifles.

  96. Vic says:

    The right wing politicians in Australia have long been bemoaning our price on carbon. They falsely claim we are far ahead of the rest of the world with regards to action on climate change. In parliament today they had their noses firmly rubbed in their do-do, with several quotes from Obama’s speech tied in nicely with China’s foray into emissions trading. So although Obama’s actions might only just whittle away a little of US emissions, it will have positive ramifications elsewhere.
    Climate hawks, if we can win USA we win the world.

  97. Leland Palmer says:

    Great speech.

    But the media is not covering it. Most people in the country will not know about it tomorrow.

    And, he’s still sugar coating the reality, I believe. He ought to tell people about future methane geysers shooting out of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf- the most rapidly warming place on Earth. He ought to tell people about the looming methane hydrate problem – global warming on steroids, and possible complete destabilization of the earth system leading to a new stable state – a planet devoid of all life, resembling Venus.

    What he ought to do is nationalize the coal fired power plants, and forcibly convert them to increased efficiency combined cycle biomass burning power plants with carbon capture and storage. This would actually start to put massive amounts of carbon back underground.

    What he ought to do is nationalize the oil corporations, and seize the major banks like JPMorgan Chase built on oil profits. Only then, when the power of the fossil fuel corporations and the super rich dynasties that grew obscenely rich from fossil fuel profits is broken, will we start to see major progress.

    Still, good speech. Glad he’s finally speaking out, loudly and unmistakably.

    If he’s going to take this long term approach, he is going to have to make so many speeches that the cable media cannot ignore them.

  98. Vic says:

    Don’t die Bob.
    A few years ago you posted a comment here at Climate Progress that said something along the lines of “I want you all to take a step closer to wherever it is your food comes from”. I want you to know your comment stuck with me Bob. I did take a step closer and now find myself living on a small acreage with an established orchard, off grid and a solar passive house. I’m glad I listened to you Colorado Bob.
    Interestingly enough, on the day the purchase was settled, a one in one hundred year flood washed away a section of the only road that goes into the valley where the property is located. A three tonne load-limit on that section of road has meant that much of my furniture is still in storage a year later – Doh!!!

  99. Eric Nadal says:

    Good point, and an overlooked one. There is an indirect political impact here as well as the more direct policy impact. No president has really given a speech on climate change like this and it has the ability to move the dial on public support for action, just as on other issues. This is new ground we’re breaking here, an opportunity for a new climate movement to seize. The President is helping create the political space and context for that movement perhaps.

  100. Colorado Bob says:

    As I said before, this count unless we step up.

  101. Stephen W says:

    I think that this is a really welcome speech, for all its lack of specific details. It doesn’t go far enough to really address the scale of the staggering challenges in front of us but I suppose if you’re not going to scare off the entire nation at once you have to change direction slowly.

    I suppose that this is of course the question of our time – is our current system of politics capable of dealing with the real issues we face? If you can’t tell people the truth and make the real cuts to emissions that science tells us that we need to make because it will scare the voters then what kind of use is the political system that frames it?

    The statement that always gets thrown in to these kind of speeches though, and the one that is the biggest lie is “… there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth.” I think it can be safely said from many studies over the years that “strong economic growth” is incompatible with continued human existence. But then we’re back to what’s it’s politically acceptable to say.

    However, I think it’s a bold and very encouraging speech from Obama and miles better than anything he’s said before and he’s to be congratulated. Now let’s see how those words become action.

  102. Colorado Bob says:

    Before this , I was waiting to make my move.

    I’m going to move.

    I’ll need every ones help , because I’m at Lubbock. Texas, and this won’t be easy,

  103. Mark E says:

    So long as there are humans, we will use resources. So ask instead

    (A) Are we using resources at an ever-increasing rate?

    (B) Are we using them faster than earth replaces them?

    Of course the answer to both is “of course, duh”. Since we are too afraid to consider what happens if we do anything else, we delude ourselves and call this situation “stable”.

  104. Mark E says:


    Volunteers wanted to elect democratic politicians in 2014. Listen to one firey speech and then sign up to work for free for the next 12 months

    That’s all it was….


    (1) We get the executive orders;
    (2) We get the money; and
    (3) Obama takes this speech on the road


    don’t volunteer for anyone’s campaign until they give some version of the same speech

  105. Mark E says:

    I agree;

    Not even a free, instantaneous switch to a carbon-free economy will prevent collapse if we keep trying to grow, and then grow more, and then grow even more than that….

    and so on….forever…

    But it might buy us some time to figure out the rest of what we need to do.

  106. Superman1 says:

    “Until Obama gets serious about rapid conversion to clean energy”. Wrong criterion! Unless we the consumers get serious about eliminating all unnecessary uses of fossil fuel immediately, in parallel with other draconian measures to control temperature rise, the game is over.

  107. Vic says:

    I’ll help if I can Colorado Bob. What help do you need?

  108. BillD says:

    Great speech and great plan. Certainly the most important speech by a “person with responsibility” who can actually do something. I contributed some money to the President’s fund, Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters from email appeals after the speech. I also wrote to my Senator. I can at least make a small difference from a lecture I give on environmental issues as part of a college course. We really need the President, Senators, citizens and scientists to speak out. At some point, the news media will start covering what they are saying. In any case, there is a lot that the President can do and he does not need to run for re-election again. His actions will make it easier for other politicians who follow.

  109. Superman1 says:

    Dan, There is no way the President can say what needs to be said, and remain in office. He is framing the argument along the lines of what sold the Space Program: jobs, growth, prosperity, etc. Those are our needs; what Mother Nature wants is drastic elimination of CO2 emission atmospheric concentration, and that runs counter to the growth, prosperity line.

  110. fj says:

    This is an excellent speech.

    The President must not let up.

    Mainstream media is ignoring him so he must do a lot more and we must do all we can do to help him.

    Some sort of continuing media information program must be established say through the Smithsonian, a website, pubic outreach via broadcast and cable tv . . . ;

    The action plan must be continually updated to the point of action on climate change at wartime speed.

  111. fj says:

    There must be a constant barrage of action with the media; media execs must be called to answer why they are denying coverage;

    with industry and major finance and business people

    with heads of state

    he and we must not let up until action reaches wartime speed.

  112. fj says:

    with joints of staff.

  113. fj says:

    climate change must be cause number one.

    everything else depends on it.

  114. Superman1 says:

    We are not getting the truth from ANY media source. The truth is: we need to get global mean temp increase BELOW 1 C, and the draconian reductions in fossil fuel use required NOW as a necessary (but not sufficient) condition will result in deep global Depression; no growth, no prosperity. Show me one media source that tells it like it is!

  115. fj says:

    the most important advancement in social change, economics, science and technology will happen because of climate change . . .

    he and we must not let up.

  116. Sasparilla says:

    “Experts say he will be lucky to get a final plan in place by the time he leaves office in early 2017.”

    That would be par for the course from this administration.
    From the NY Times – i.e. won’t be in place until just before he leaves office or after (meaning it’ll be a hostage to the next presidential election if the GOP doesn’t take over the Senate and try to destroy the CAA beforehand).

  117. Leland Palmer says:

    I think it’s possible to have a growing economy based on renewable energy, renewable resources, and recycled materials.

    The earth is vast, and we are wounding it in its most sensitive spot, with greenhouse emissions. Each ton of fossil fuel burned will eventually release on the order of 100,000 times its heat of combustion as greenhouse heating. This is an exquisitely sensitive trigger mechanism, and we have our foot on it in a truly massive way.

    If we avoid trigger mechanisms like this, we can have our cars and toys – electrical ones, run off of solar and other renewable energy sources.

  118. I agree with you. In addition, don’t forget the possibility of growth coming from information services instead of physical goods–these tend to be less energy intensive than the physical goods they displace.

  119. Dan Ives says:

    “There is no way the President can say what needs to be said, and remain in office.” – That’s completely asinine. He can’t run for another term! Seriously, how can your brain allow your fingers to type such an absurdly false sentence?
    Your reflexive Obama defending can’t possibly get more irrational than that.

  120. Mark E says:

    What the people of Ithaca or Boulder may do does not count. It’s one climate system, so it takes everyone everywhere, around the world.

    You REALLY think earth can support a 1st world clean energy life for all 7 billion of us? And then what? To keep growing we need more people enjoying that 1st world clean tech lifestyle, so we turn 7B into 8, and then 12, and then 23, and then, if we can manage it, keep growing the population to 3.0993x10e17th. And then? We still need more people with that lifestyle to keep growing…. and if you are thinking “that’s absurd” you are correct!

    We may not be able to project the date we hit the limit to growth, but it defies logic to think we can extend a 1st world clean tech life to everyone, everywhere, for all time, while we grow and grow and grow forever.

    It’s cheesy, but have you seen “Soylent Green”?

  121. Robert in New Orleans says:

    Great Speech, Soaring Rhetoric, but I think it is too little and for humanity way too late.

    Climate destabilization is occurring in front of our own eyes right now and the proposed changes are equivalent to going off a cliff at a 125 miles per hour as opposed to a 140 miles per hour.

  122. Superman1 says:

    C’mon Dan, you know what I meant; ‘he’ being the Democrat Party.

  123. Superman1 says:

    And, I object to being termed an ‘Obama defender’. If he gave even a Kevin Anderson-type presentation of what needs to be done (I believe far more is necessary), he (the Party) would lose their audience in a nanosecond.

  124. Superman1 says:

    “our late, unlamented PM, Rudd, in my opinion a Dudd in all ways possible. Given those who have followed him, and those who appear will follow, wasn’t he a diamond by comparison?”

  125. Superman1 says:

    “No I’m not going to do anything radical, like actually commit to anything.”” He can’t, and he won’t, because he knows we won’t support him.

  126. Andy Hultgren says:

    There is, understandably, a lot of backlash against Obama in the comments here. A lot of frustration that he isn’t doing more.

    I think we’ve all learned that we cannot sit back and trust Obama to champion progressive issues, all alone, left to himself, with no pressure from the left. We learned that in 2008 and following, and it’s still true. Obama has pursued and will still pursue the safe step, the half-measure that gets done what is “politically realistic.” To pretend that his political character has somehow changed or will change regarding global warming is silly.

    Given the context of who Obama is as a politician, let’s be honest: this speech is a victory for climate hawks. It is not a victory that says “ok you all can now take a break, leader Obama has it from here;” but it is a step in the right direction and should be treated as such. Further, it is *not* pure rhetoric. Obama included concrete actions he will take, that he can realistically accomplish, without congressional approval.

    Is it going to be enough? Of course not! Do we still threaten to shut down the country through non-violent protest if Obama moves to approve KXL? Of course we do! In this moment I think it is important that we applaud Obama and support him in this commitment, while simultaneously remembering that he is not on “our side” and therefore maintaining our unabated, unyielding, and ever-growing pressure on him to reject KXL, to create stiff EPA regulations on existing power plant CO2, to take a strong US position on climate change on the international stage.

    We are trying to change to course of a truly massive vessel. We should savor and applaud the victories we get, while at the same time unrelentingly continuing to push for no CO2 and recruiting more and more people to our cause.

    Mr. President, your recent commitments to further reduce GHG emissions and push clean energy are a good step and I thank you for them. But they are not enough; and I will continue to fight like a bulldog for the future of this world. Your party members are the first that I will organize to vote out of office if they do not take a strong, consistent stance on global warming.

  127. Chris Darling says:

    Great Speech. Will it translate into anything robust? Too soon to say. Obama has made lots of wonderful speeches.

    He said he would close Guantanamo. He made powerful statements in 2008 condemning Bush for violations of the Bill of Rights. He promised to walk a picket line for organized labor if their rights were threatened. He did none of those things and, in fact, embraced many of the civil liberties violations that he criticized so strongly in 2008. I could go through lots more statements that Obama made that he either never meant or later decided were promises that were too hard to keep. Will he keep these promises?

    I wonder if even Obama knows what he will do.

  128. Dan Ives says:

    How can you be so certain that the Democrats would lose on the issue if they really said what needs to be said? Doesn’t this blog regularly present the case that a majority of Americans want action on climate change and that addressing climate change is politically winning issue? You speak with a certainty that you can’t possibly have.
    As for my categorizing you as an Obama defender, I stand by that, and I base that assertion on your other comments on this article and elsewhere on this blog. “Blame the media, blame consumers, blame Congress, blame Obama’s supporters, blame anyone besides Obama.” That’s you in a nutshell.

  129. I appreciate the moral tone of the speech, and and very happy that our President has spoken out on climate change.

    I also think the plan that came out alongside it is a technical fail.

    I agree with Friends of the Earth which put out a statement that a real climate plan would renounce, rather than continue, the “all-of-the-above” energy policy.

    My reading of the speech is that “invest, divest” includes this proposition:

    “We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer…”

    That is politically palatable. But it won’t work. The hot reality of the climate crisis is that physics, not politics, dictate what is required from leadership.

    What would it have *actually* cost Obama, in his second term, with a sworn hostile House of Representatives, who is reduced to executive actions on climate anyway, to present a plan that includes realistically effective emissions national emissions targets for 2050?

    This rousing, long-awaited and much appreciated speech by Obama is nonetheless as if JFK had said, ‘let’s rally our country, create a great human achievement, and send a man halfway to the moon.’

  130. Stephen W says:

    Now way.

    Building ships, tanks, planes, power stations, cars, highways, factories and then power the lot (and more) using renewables? I don’t think that’s going to happen.

    There’s a book about this by Ted Trainer – “Renewable energy cannot power a consumer society”.

  131. Sailesh Rao says:

    Obama is a great orator, but the goal of a 17% reduction in emissions by 2020 over a 2005 baseline is truly an abdication of leadership. But it has been clear for a while that the leadership of the “Five Eyes” countries (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) are planning for a sustainable degradation of the environment and global human population. It is no coincidence that four of these countries (US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) were the last four to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and their legislatures promptly passed resolutions to the effect that the Declaration was non-binding.

    We have no choice but to take grassroots action. I blogged about this recently:

  132. Ken Barrows says:

    I’ll be more conservative than Superman, but admit he may be right. I say 5-10% global emissions reductions per year starting now. From 2012 levels, not 2005. Who thinks 5-10 is too much?

  133. fj says:

    Capturing the public’s imagination with net zero is crtical to the disruptive positive change needed to slow accelerating climate change at wartime speed.

  134. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    That has always been the ‘message’ that the human beings should have been pushing, relentlessly. Saving humanity, our own children for pity’s sake, against a life of mindless, greedy, consumption, in a system that deliberately impoverishes and immiserates billions, in even the richest states, all to enrich a tiny minority. It is simply Good against Evil, without anymore than a shadow of nuance. It is a really existing, palpable, authentic ‘Moral Crusade’. Why be hesitant in saying so, over and over again.

  135. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Oh, yes, Super. No doubt about it, but Gillard did a little good, if inadequate, although she was hamstrung by a hung Parliament and a savagely vicious Murdoch sewer, in full ‘Regime Change’ mode. Abbott, of course, will be a catharsis, but a debilitating if not devastating one, rather than ‘healing’. Our system ‘throws up’ (a fetching analogy) leaders of excruciating mediocrity.

  136. J4Zonian says:

    “Obama is following through on the promise in his Inaugural Address that if Congress didn’t act on global warming, he would.”
    Let’s not forget that Obama HAS acted on Climate Catastrophe; he’s put himself and all the resources of the most powerful government in the world in the way of strong international action to stop the catastrophe. At Copenhagen, at every COP, negotiation, stage and opportunity he’s bribed, threatened and strong-armed other governments into accepting nonsensical standards guaranteed to cause utter destruction, and deceived the world into sitting passively by while real action was blocked, goals were set that are well beyond any safe level (+2C) and measures were praised, even promised and not taken. Those few actions that were taken (CAFE standards…) are completely inadequate to meeting even those Maginot goals.

    Let’s also not forget that this is hardly the first impressive speech Obama has given and then ignored. Most are followed by silence, inaction, contrary action, unnecessary ‘surrender’ to Republicans, backpedaling, distraction, lies, (as opposed to the lies contained in them) and let’s not forget that the speech already contained most of these evasions and negations; a prepackaged yes AND no that avoids all that later lying and explaining and clarifying (I take a wide stance; I did not have sexual relations with that woman; I am not a crook….) : an all-of-the-above energy strategy, which as Van Jones (also an relentless Oboosterama until like a week ago) says is like an all-you-can-eat-buffet weight loss diet; Obama said nothing about stopping the export of coal, oil, natural gas or tar sands (soon to be produced in the US southwest). He said the XL pipeline won’t go ahead unless it’s carbon neutral, but since astoundingly, his own State Dept. already said it is carbon neutral even though that’s a blatant, obvious lie, the question is far from settled. Which means he must want it that way. Why? He’s still talking about allegedly non-dirty coal as if it actually exists. Why?

  137. J4Zonian says:

    Part 2

    In short, even this supposedly remarkable, strong speech (God, how many times have we heard that kind of nonsense about this man’s lies now?) lays out a program almost guaranteed to lead us into awful destruction. For all my personal annoyance with Superman1, he’s not wrong, you know. Everything we’re doing, even the things wildly beyond the wildest imaginings of this insane world that we have very little hope of doing are totally inadequate. We have to go beyond beyond our wildest imaginings and then we’ll have a chance. There’s no physical or technical reason we can’t do that, but speeches like this, and people believing speeches like this, are not going to get us there. We have to do better. And we have to let Obama and both parties know it. We have to not be satisfied with the inadequate.

  138. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Humans are all ‘dead men walking’, but it appears that our civilization has been such as well for quite some time. What we need is a good, old-fashioned, resurrection.

  139. I’ve thought about this for some time and I don’t believe Obama’s earned the ‘full climate hawk’ mantle yet. He’s pushing things in the right direction and his drive to use the EPA to regulate and reduce carbon emissions from sources is a big, big deal. His drive to stop funding of foreign coal plants is a big, big deal. His drive to stop subsidizing oil and gas companies is a big, big deal.

    These are three centers of gravity that keep the US pushing carbon both at home and overseas.

    However, to earn full climate hawk in my book, Obama would have to stop cheer leading for fracking and turn decisively against Keystone XL. Pushing fracking technology overseas is rather detractive to his other goals and will result in erosion of carbon reductions that would, otherwise, be very aggressive.

    Finally, Obama’s goals to reduce US carbon emissions by another 3 gigatons cumulatively between now and 2030 is only a 3 percent net reduction. It results in the US contributing about 99 gigatons to the 530 or so gigatons left before scientists say we lock in 2 degrees for this century (but more than double that long-term). If the world followed our example and reduced carbon emissions by 3 percent over the same period we’d hit the 2 degree mark in 2031.

    So Obama does buy us time and he does do many of the right things. But he’s not aggressive enough for comfort. And that’s why, in my view, he’s not quite full climate hawk.

    Invest, divest. Tar sands… Now that was very encouraging.

  140. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    So we must do away with ‘consumer society’, starting with the ‘ships, tanks and planes’ of the apparatus of aggression. Or die.

  141. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I suppose that the POTUS is privy to the best information, so must be aware of the mounting evidence that the ‘fracking’ boom is a massive con-job, and the returns on money and energy invested are not producing positive returns. So the ‘fracking boom’ can only be seen, I believe, as a massive scam to delay and derail renewables for five or ten more years, to the benefit of the rest of the fossil fuel Moloch, that is happy to subsidise fracking for those purely tactical reasons. And the Hope King has bought it all, out of credulousness or complicity.

  142. Sparky says:

    Martin Weitzman makes a dollars and cents argument.

    Paul Solman: Or think of the “Black Swan” argument of Nassim Taleb: certain events, however unlikely you think they may be, could have such enormous consequences, you just can’t take the chance of letting them happen.

  143. jorma says:

    >There will be deep economic dislocations. That’s unavoidable. We have to spread the pain.

    There will indeed. It would certainly be nice of those who are not losing their jobs, government services etc. because of it to support those who are.

    >We can’t just tell Ohio and West Virginia, we’re done with coal, go figure something out.

    Well, seems to me you can. But I certainly see it creating an incentive for the people who are told to lose their jobs etc. to resist it.

  144. Leland Palmer says:

    It all depends on how we do it.

    Solar energy is very high grade energy. It’s possible to divert some of that energy, run your economy on it, and then have that energy turn into heat- as it would do anyway.

    If the average albedo of the earth does not change, we can do anything with the solar energy we receive we want. Run a hundred economies the size of ours, if we want to.

    What we need to do is quarantine our technology, and examine every interface between our technology and Nature’s technology (life). It’s possible to make our technology and society essentially disappear from Gaia’s sight.

    Right now, that would be very expensive. In the future, with work and thought, less so.

    One way to do that would be to start building arcologies- giant cities in one building. This would centralize humanity, and minimize the huge two dimensional interface we have with the surface of the earth. Each input and output from the arcology could be designed to minimize impact on the earth. In this way, with solar energy, chemical synthesis of foods, recycled materials and renewable resources, we could support a population many times larger than the current one- without destabilizing the climate.

    It’s the huge fossil fuel multiplier effect that is killing us, that 100,000 to 1 ratio between greenhouse side effects and useful energy that is killing the biosphere.

    Oh, and capitalism is paralyzing us. Some of this stuff would have to be done at some price above the lowest possible price, for the good of the planet.

  145. Leland Palmer says:

    Don’t see why not.

    Solar energy is very diffuse, but energy is energy. Physics tells us that energy is energy, whatever the source.

    Fortunately, we have an electrical grid, to centralized energy in specific locations.

    For steel making, biomass coke could be substituted for coke from coal or oil. Cars could run on electricity, at a little higher price, for a while.

    It’s a big job, but we only spend something like five percent of our incomes on energy. If we have to spend ten percent, for a while, to save the planet, that seems doable.

    Energy is energy. Aluminum can be extracted using electricity from hydropower or solar power towers as easily as using electricity from coal.

    It would just be a little more expensive, for a while.

  146. Leland Palmer says:

    Solar energy absorbed by the earth’s surface each year is 3,850,000 exajoules (EJ).

    Primary energy use by human society is about 550 EJ per year.

    Electricity used is about 65 EJ per year.

    Solar energy is simply diffuse, and hard to collect economically- but it is getting cheaper.

    But the resource is huge, and with that much energy we could do anything we want- including supporting a large population and saving the planet.

    It is possible to collect solar energy in an albedo neutral way, simply by covering an adjacent area with something light colored, like white gravel.

    So, part of the solar energy which would have ended up a heat anyway, can be diverted to run our society, and then end up as heat, with zero impact on global warming.

  147. Earth is not the only place we can get resources. There are hundreds of asteroids out there with huge locked in natural resources.

  148. Zan says:

    I was glad to see that Bill Maher did make a big deal of Obama’s Climate Change speech last Friday. Ok so it’s not TV….