The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2

He let die our best chance to preserve a livable climate and restore US leadership in clean energy — without a serious fight

The country can only contemplate serious environmental legislation when we have the unique constellation of a Democratic president and [large] Democratic majorities in both houses, an occurrence far rarer than a total eclipse of the sun.

That’s from “One brief shining moment for clean energy,” my piece on the passage of the House climate bill last June.

Obama hasn’t merely failed to get a climate bill.  Given the self-described (and self-inflicted) “shellacking” the president received Tuesday, he has made it all but impossible for a return to such an alignment of the stars this decade.

Indeed, he has, arguably, poisoned the well for the next president, not merely because of the “shellacking,” but also by his failure to use his bully pulpit to be an unabashed defender of climate and clean energy action.  Team Obama helped create the broad-based misperception that those issues are political losers, in spite of every poll to the contrary, in spite of the fact that in the one place where a broad coalition combined with political leaders who were genuine climate hawks, Californians won the clean energy and climate trifecta, including a stunning 20-point win preserving their landmark cap-and-trade climate bill.

And so the chances have dropped sharply of averting multiple catastrophes post-2040 — widespread Dust-Bowlification; multi-feet sea level rise followed by SLR of 6 to 12+ inches a decade until the planet is ice free; massive species loss; the ocean turning into large, hot acidified dead zones; and ever-strengthening superstorms that bring devastation to country after country that equals or surpasses what happened to Moscow and Pakistan and Nashville and New Orleans.

And all this was happened without even a national debate on this most important of all issues (see “Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?“).

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper….

Future generations will judge us with unimaginable harshness and justifiably so.  Whom will they blame most?

As discussed in my June 30 post (“Republicans demagogue against market-oriented climate measures they once supported“), most of the blame should go to the anti-science, pro-pollution ideologues. They have spread disinformation and poisoned the debate so that is no longer even recognizable.  Who could have guessed just  a couple of years ago, that the GOP  champion of climate action would now trash  a bill considerably weaker than the one he tried to pass twice? (see Rolling Stone on “The Climate Killers: 17 polluters and deniers who are derailing efforts to curb the climate catastrophe.”)

Indeed, because their denial has been given a free political pass (with notable exceptions such as California and Colorado), the ideologues have actually embraced denial of basic science as a litmus test, along with opposition to even the most business-friendly, Republican-originated strategies for reducing emissions.

That is precisely why action is possible only once in a generation:  Modern conservative ideology has become 100% anti-conservation.  Indeed, this is why Tea-Party ‘conservatism’ may be the most radical political philosophy ever to achieve significant political power in this country, since it ultimately will destroy the American way of life as we have come to know it, leading to untold misery and far bigger government than this country has seen in the post-WWII era (see “Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery“).

As long as the Tea Party and Big Oil and the special interest polluters are driving the GOP, then serious domestic mitigation and a global climate deal is all but impossible, which means the government will inevitably get into the business of telling people where they can and can’t live (can’t let people keep rebuilding in the ever-spreading flood plains or the ever-enlarging areas threatened by sea level rise and DustBowlification) and how they can live (sharp water curtailment in the SW DustBowl, for instance) and possibly what they can eat.  Conservative action against climate action now will force big government in coming decades to triage our major coastal cities “” Key West and Galveston and probably New Orleans would be unsavable, but what about Miami and Houston?

The GOP tsunami in the House was so large, it is quite difficult to see how it gets undone until the mid-terms of the next Republican president.  Let me note that, for those who are thinking that the GOP nominates Sarah Palin in 2012, the last time a President had a landslide victory after a dreadful midterm loss, 1984 — a stunning 49 states carried, 59% of the popular vote, a victory by 17 million votes — here is what happened in Congress:

This victory also yielded gains for Reagan’s Republican Party in the House, where they picked up a net of sixteen seats from the Democratic Party. The Democrats nonetheless retained a commanding majority in the House and gained [two] seats in the Senate.

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention that the shellacking had another impact relevant to this analysis:  Because of GOP gains in state legislatures, “When the next round of redistricting — the decennial re-drawing of all 435 House districts — occurs next year, Republicans will have complete control over the process in four times as many House districts as Democrats do, districts that comprise nearly half of the entire House.”  Douglas Johnson, a redistricting expert at the Rose Institute at Claremont McKenna College, explained, “In 18 months, we’ve really seen a flip from what looked like the best Democratic redistricting year in modern history to the best Republican year since the one-person, one-vote rulings in the late 1960s.”

So even if the economy is recovering robustly and the Republicans nominate a Tea Party extremist like Palin and Barack ‘no narrative’ Obama suddenly figures out how to do serious messaging, the House is still unlikely to swing back to the pro-science, anti-pollution side (let alone convince themselves that this issue is not a political loser, which many in the media and right winger are desperate to push as the conventional wisdom).  I’d add that the anti-pollution side is also defending more Senate seats than the anti-science side in 2012 (see here) and stands a very good chance of losing the Senate entirely — if not in 2012, then almost certainly in 2014 when even more seats are up.

The possibility that the House flips again and there will be 60 votes in the Senate for serious climate action — or for significant funding for clean energy — this decade is just not terribly plausible.  We can certainly wait for the inevitable climate Pearl Harbors, but they would have to be a bunch of them this decade worse than these and they would have to be unambiguously linked to human-caused warming by the media.

Oh, I almost forgot, if you are keeping score at home in the blame game for U.S. inaction, the media is the second most culpable group thanks to their generally enabling coverage “” see “How the status quo media failed on climate change” and How the press bungles its coverage of climate economics “” “The media’s decision to play the stenographer role helped opponents of climate action stifle progress”).

So another pre-condition for serious action is that the media coverage not merely stop getting worse, as it has over the past couple of years, but actually starts to get considerably better.  But since the media has been letting go of its environment and science reporters and coverage of this issue is increasingly dominated by political reporters/editors who are most interested in the horse race aspect.  For them, the mere fact that this issue lost tells them many of them all they think they need to know about the science.

The anti-science crowd and their disinformation campaign and associated think tanks, pundits, and right-wing media deserve about 60% of the blame.  The media, perhaps 30%.

Let’s not forget the “Think Small” centrists and lukewarmers who also helped shrink the political space in the debate (see “Michael Lind of the New America Foundation misinforms on both climate science and clean energy” and “Brookings embraces American Enterprise Institute’s climate head fake along with right-wing energy myths“).  Let’s give them 5%.

So ‘only’ 5% of blame goes to Obama and his team (along with Senate Democrats, scientists, environmentalists, and progressives).

But of course, from a historical perspective — and, I suspect from the perspective of most progressives — there are two huge differences between Obama verssus the disinformers, media, and centrist/lukewarmers.  Obama is the President of the United States, a person who can single-handedly determine the agenda and the national debate.  Second, those other people don’t know any better.

The President has surrounded himself with people like John Holdren and Steven Chu and Jane Lubchenco who know perfectly well that the science is increasingly dire about what happens on the business as usual emissions path:

Heck, the Administration published this:  Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year “” and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual!

And, of course, the President and his teams knows — and future generations will certainly know — that ‘cost’ of action is tiny compared to the cost of inaction (” Introduction to climate economics: Why even strong climate action has such a low total cost — one tenth of a penny on the dollar and Scientists find “net present value of climate change impacts” of $1240 TRILLION on current emissions path, making mitigation to under 450 ppm a must).

Yes, we let all this happen because we weren’t willing to divert a few percent of our wealth from dirty, inefficient technology and infrastructure to clean, efficient technology and infrastructure — an investment that would have paid for itself many times over not just in avoided climate damage, but cleaner air and water, reduce dependence on oil (and avoided economic dislocation from peak oil) and myriad other benefits.

So don’t hold your breath waiting for someone to publish a book about us in the 2050s titled “The Greatest Generation.”  Quite the reverse, it’ll be titled “The Ponzi Scheme Generation.”

This is a blunder of historic proportions.


Here is what Obama had to say, post-shellacking, about the most important issue facing the nation and the planet, the one that will determine his place in history and the health and well-being of billions of people in this century and the next:

I think there are a lot of Republicans that ran against the energy bill that passed in the House last year. And so it’s doubtful that you could get the votes to pass that through the House this year or next year or the year after. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t agreement that we should have a better energy policy. And so let’s find those areas where we can agree.

We’ve got, I think, broad agreement that we’ve got terrific natural gas resources in this country. Are we doing everything we can to develop those? There’s a lot of agreement around the need to make sure that electric cars are developed here in the United States, that we don’t fall behind other countries. Are there things that we can do to encourage that? And there’s already been bipartisan interest on those issues.

There’s been discussion about how we can restart our nuclear industry as a means of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gases. Is that an area where we can move forward?

We were able, over the last two years, to increase for the first time in 30 years fuel-efficiency standards on cars and trucks. We didn’t even need legislation. We just needed the cooperation of automakers and autoworkers and investors and other shareholders. And that’s going to move us forward in a serious way.

So I think when it comes to something like energy, what we’re probably going to have to do is say here are some areas where there’s just too much disagreement between Democrats and Republicans, we can’t get this done right now, but let’s not wait. Let’s go ahead and start making some progress on the things that we do agree on, and we can continue to have a strong and healthy debate about those areas where we don’t….

With respect to the EPA, I think the smartest thing for us to do is to see if we can get Democrats and Republicans in a room who are serious about energy independence and are serious about keeping our air clean and our water clean and dealing with the issue of greenhouse gases — and seeing are there ways that we can make progress in the short term and invest in technologies in the long term that start giving us the tools to reduce greenhouse gases and solve this problem.

The EPA is under a court order that says greenhouse gases are a pollutant that fall under their jurisdiction. And I think one of the things that’s very important for me is not to have us ignore the science, but rather to find ways that we can solve these problems that don’t hurt the economy, that encourage the development of clean energy in this country, that, in fact, may give us opportunities to create entire new industries and create jobs that — and that put us in a competitive posture around the world.

So I think it’s too early to say whether or not we can make some progress on that front. I think we can. Cap and trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. It was a means, not an end. And I’m going to be looking for other means to address this problem.

And I think EPA wants help from the legislature on this. I don’t think that the desire is to somehow be protective of their powers here. I think what they want to do is make sure that the issue is being dealt with.

Not exactly a climate hawk anymore — not exactly someone who sounds like he is going to go to the mat on this issue in 2013 even if he were reelected in a landslide that flips the House.

No, he’s more like a climate woodpecker, banging his head against a tree over and over and over and over again, in the hopes of digging out a tiny morsel.

Let’s not actually talk about the science.   No, what’s important to Obama is to say that we’re not going to ignore the science, whatever it is, because, you know, the first rule of team Obama’s climate fight club is don’t talk about climate science.

And if Obama seriously thinks that his EPA wants “help from the legislature” on what to do about climate, well, I’m afraid that headbanging has resulted in permanent damage.  The only thing the next legislature is going to do concerning the EPA’s climate efforts is try to stop it and Obama from doing anything for the foreseeable future to regulate greenhouse gas emissions — especially with the likely return of Murkowski to the Senate (see “Clean air Lisa vs. dirty air Lisa“).

If you think Obama sounds like a guy who is going

I have written about Obama’s dreadful messaging many times:

Michael Tomasky expresses my view — and many others — in the NY Review of Books:

My own answer to the question of how things got this bad has less to do with whether Obama should have been more liberal or more centrist than with his and his party’s apparent inability, or perhaps refusal, to offer broad and convincing arguments about their central beliefs that counter those of the Republicans. This problem goes back to the Reagan years. It is a failure that many Democrats and liberals hoped Obama could change””something he seemed capable of changing during the campaign but has addressed rather poorly once in office.In American politics, Republicans routinely speak in broad themes and tend to blur the details, while Democrats typically ignore broad themes and focus on details. Republicans, for example, speak constantly of “liberty” and “freedom” and couch practically all their initiatives””tax cuts, deregulation, and so forth””within these large categories. Democrats, on the other hand, talk more about specific programs and policies and steer clear of big themes. There is a reason for this: Republican themes, like “liberty,” are popular, while Republican policies often are not; and Democratic themes (“community,” “compassion,” “justice”) are less popular, while many specific Democratic programs””Social Security, Medicare, even (in many polls) putting a price on carbon emissions””have majority support. This is why, when all else fails, Democrats try to scare people about the threat to Social Security if the GOP takes over, as indeed they are doing right now.

What Democrats have typically not done well since Reagan’s time is connect their policies to their larger beliefs. In fact they have usually tried to hide those beliefs, or change the conversation when the subject arose. The result has been that for many years Republicans have been able to present their philosophy as somehow truly “American,” while attacking the Democratic belief system as contrary to American values. “Putting us on the road to European-style socialism,” for example, is a rhetorical line of attack that long predates Obama’s ascendance””it was employed against the Clintons’ health care plan as well.

But now consider the specific problems facing Obama, a mixed-race (but visibly black) man with an exotic name and a highly atypical biography for a president. Add in also the greatest economic crisis in eight decades, and governmental responses to the crisis that, to an energized and organized right wing, seem to smack of socialism. One result is that we have a new faction, the well-financed Tea Party movement that has been able to arrogate to itself practically every symbol of Americanism and to paint the President, his ideas and policies, and his supporters as not merely un-American but actively anti-American. In a Newsweek poll released in late August, nearly a third of Americans actually agreed that it was “definitely” or “probably” true that Obama “sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world.”2

In the face of all this, it seems not to have occurred to a single prominent Democrat, from Obama on down, to say something like: We love our country every bit as much as they do, and we believe patriotism means expanding access to health care, protecting the environment, and imposing effective new rules on Wall Street. Democrats have thus crippled themselves by adapting comparatively limited ideas of legitimate political action, and by ceding to Republicans the strong claim of love of one’s country.

This is not the sort of thing that is measured by polls, but I believe the Democrats’ hesitance to tie their programs to larger beliefs has been demoralizing to liberals and confusing or off-putting to independents. The impression is left with voters that Republicans are fighting for the country, while Democrats are fighting for their special interests. The pre-presidential Obama powerfully made this kind of broad, patriotic appeal, both at his 2004 convention keynote address and in his stirring Jefferson-Jackson Day speech in Iowa in November 2007. But any sense that the Democrats are now making a coherent argument about what kind of country they want has vaporized. Underneath all the Democrats’ bickering about such issues as health care and the performance of Tim Geithner, that is their real problem.

The Congress that convenes next January, even if it remains in Democratic hands, will be markedly different from the one that met as Obama first took office. The party’s margins in both bodies””now seventy-seven in the House and eighteen in the Senate, counting the two independent senators who caucus as Democrats””will be significantly lower. Given the number of centrist and conservative Democrats who will remain but who will likely go along with the GOP, chances of passing any progressive legislation will be close to nil.

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper….

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118 Responses to The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2

  1. We could have had a mature and savvy stateswoman, instead chose a community organizer.

  2. Anonymous says:

    An old friend named Dr. Gene Barasch remembers his parents’ speaking of Roosevelt’s weekly radio fireside chats. That’s why the people loved him. Truman also once advised a young politician to “trust the people”.

    Obama needs to come up with a way to do this on television, and not with the kids and dogs sitting around the Oval Office, either. His speeches during the campaign were stage managed with props, and he still hasn’t adjusted to the fact that Americans now need a different way to be spoken to. I believe that our president is a brilliant and caring man, but he needs to connect to the American people directly.

    It can’t be phony- as with Nixon being photographed walking on the beach (still wearing a blue suit!), or Bush pretending to be a rancher while he leaned over the fence in Crawford.

    Obama was good on The Daily Show, but we don’t need Hollywood in the room either. It’s really just Barack Obama now- Congress is full of the scummiest politicians since the slave state caucus of the 1850’s, and the Supreme Court majority thinks corporations are people.

    How about a weekly talk from a little den in the White House, with a few books and a computer laying around, and even a little TV set and snack plate? The president could look into the camera from a comfortable chair, and speak to us with the respect and concern that we deserve, and have missed so desperately, for so long.

  3. Green Caboose says:

    And so let’s find those areas where we can agree

    Poor Obama. He has to be the stupidest smart person I know.

    The only thing that everyone in the GOP agrees on, and the only goal they are united behind, is getting Obama out of office in 2012. That’s what drove their obstructionism the last two years and, if anything, they are even more resolved now.

    They are well aware that Clinton got the reputation of working with the GOP congress in 1995-6 and won re-election because of that. You don’t need to search far to find statements from the GOP leadership that they aren’t going to make that mistake again.

    The best thing Obama could do, for the good of the nation and the people, is to use his executive power with the EPA to push as much climate regulation as possible (even if it means some of it getting overturned by the SCOTUS — remember FDR had to fight with his SCOTUS, too, and he just kept coming back). Ditto with his Treasury department regarding HAMP and the use of the remaining TARP funds.

    But somehow I suspect that he’s just going to keep trying to get his sworn enemy to like him.

  4. Michael says:

    Opportunities do not come often like the one that has and is being squandered. I am an old man. I wanted more than this for my children and grandchildren. It is not about how many houses, car or heirlooms we leave to our descendants. It is about the quality of life we leave to them and they, in turn, leave to their children and grandchildren. I and my family, my children being 22, 20, and 18 years of age, no longer think or speak of descendants any further than them. We are not gloom and doom. All three of my children are in college. It is more something that we all sense.

  5. Jonah says:

    Personally I think you’re being too harsh with Obama. He had the right idea, and he had the right bill. But he needed 60 votes, and that was not going to happen. No matter what he did, you wouldn’t find the GOP votes to overcome the filibuster.

    And, to answer your question of who will my (as yet nonexistent) children blame: I sure hope they blame the Republicans. I’ll certainly know forever who took a livable world away from them.

  6. Wit's End says:

    Obama lost support because he didn’t fix the economy. That’s not his failing. The economy is unfixable. It is based upon endless growth, and debt. We have simply hit the wall.

  7. toby says:

    “What’s wrong with Obama” is the flavour of the month with a million different opinions.

    Loath as I am to say it, Sarah Palin (the name sticks in my craw) came close when she said “We don’t need a Professor at the podium” because “the Professor at the podium” seems so well to sum up Obama’s style. Good at lecturing to a captive audience, but very poor at communicating and connecting to the masses. Too mannered and rational, not enough street fighter and brawler (something which Clinton, Truman and Johnson had in spades, and even the aristocratic Roosevelt could administer a good whacking).

    No-drama Obama has been a liability. He should have picked his dramatic moments – like the global warming bill. Instead, timidity and hesitancy dominated, as if he hoped “moderate” Republicans would come to his rescue.

    Funnily enough, we once saw him as Lincolnesque and an excellent communicator. But his messaging has been abysmal, and instead of a communicator he turns out to be a rhetoritician and orator only. Lincoln was all three. Rhetoric and oratory are means to an end only.

    Poor Obama seems to be the one who brought a toothpick to a fight with opponents who brought baseball bats and knuckledusters. He’s in a worse brawl now, against opposents wielding pool cues.

    And yet, he has done just about ok so far. “Must try harder” is what the teacher would write on the report card.

    I cannot forgive him his derilection on climate change. Watch this video to see what could have been possible:

  8. Mike Roddy says:

    That’s me (“anonymous”) on comment #2- please correct. Sorry, I’m on a different server today.

  9. The Wonderer says:

    Just because Obama blurted out an “I’m sorry” speech, doesn’t mean he’s gullible enough to think all he has to do is reach out to the other side. I’m sure he has plenty of fight left in him for the last 2 years and enough wherewithal to know what changes need to be made. I remain hopeful, and am willing to reserve judgment until after he leaves office.

    Joe, you forgot to assign a percentage of the blame to those of us who feel passionately about the issue of climate change. It is our job to prepare the base for a political solution. We have clearly been failing over the last 2 years and sorely need a longer term plan. Nothing personal, I appreciate all you do, but our resources are inadequate, and our tactics and messaging suck.

    [JR: Well, the people who were trying to do the right thing but failed always certainly deserve far less lame than either the people who were trying to do the wrong thing or the media who mis- or under-reported the story or the people who turned a deaf ear to the warnings from credible sources. But you can squeeze yourself into the final 5% if you feel you didn’t do enough.]

  10. texas dem says:

    FDR had a tough economy but held the people by communicating with them. Reagan, to a much lesser extent, did the same.

    Obama is treating the White House like an ivory tower. I understand that he is doing it out of respect for the office, but he needs to get over that. There are much more cardinal moral issues at stake than the dignity of the presidency. He needs to get out of the White House, get on TV, and start communicating with the electorate again, directly, like he did when Jeremiah Wright almost blew him up. The American people are highly persuadable. If he leaves the field to Fox News, however, this is what he’s going to get.

  11. bioblogger says:

    I think the renewable energy paradigm shift was dealt a major setback the second Obama decided to put his political capital behind a very divisive health care campaign before addressing what could have been a bipartisan supported clean energy program for rebuilding the economy of the nation – by getting us off our addiction to oil. It’s deja vu – Clinton made the same mistake backing health care in 1992 which led to the Newt Gingrich mid-term election debacle of 1994. And for what? Republicans can now say the healthcare program is an economic catastrophe in the making and repeal it. Meanwhile, we get sucked back into the oil addiction which has trashed this country’s economy with the longest war and biggest transfer of wealth in the country’s history. At least health care profits stay in the country. We need biofuels not only to end our oil addiction and give us choices at the pump, but also to rebuild the economies of our rural communities – the backbone of American independence. Two years, that’s all any President has to get it right.

  12. The Wonderer says:

    I accept 5% and will do better. One of the places I can improve is my interation with the people who I interact with on a personal level. That’s about as grass-roots as it gets.

  13. Fred Teal Jr. says:

    I am afraid Obama’s problem is that he fights with his head instead of his heart. He believes that facts and constant good will eventually carry the day.

    I think many of us are also like that. I know I am. When I feel the enormity of the changes ahead of me, I know if I don’t respond passionately, I will retreat into endless rumination and recrimination. I think I see a lot of that right here. Thank God Joe always seems to find the passion. It is like a drink of fresh water from a well in the desert.

  14. Scrooge says:

    I don’t have much hope for the next two years. And the republicans are sitting in a good position for 2012. Since they only have the house they may not have time to self destruct but we will see. If I remember correctly it took Clinton a couple years to get seasoned. I agree with most of this post. Republicans are incapable of solving complex problems with simplistic ideas and that is why they have to demonize the educated of this country. Thinking of a post from the other day I want a bumper sticker that says vote democrat its OK to be smart.

  15. Anonymous says:

    @ Anonymous #2

    Actually Obama already does almost exactly what you suggest. He just puts the videos on the Internet, not on the TV. They haven’t caught on (as evidenced by your post) and I don’t think the Internet distribution is the problem. During the campaign millions of people, maybe tens of millions, watched online Obama videos every week.

    No, I hate to say but I agree with Joe, the problem is not the medium it’s the message. We need a fighter and for whatever reason this President has been unwilling to be one, at least on this issue and at least since winning office. We are in a war, a full scale world war between the future of humanity and the short term profits of the richest industry the world has ever seen. The public desperately needs the issue to be framed in exactly those terms in order to understand the stakes and be motivated to fight and sacrifice for the right side. And the President and frankly, way too many of his advisors– and I say this as one of them, although a very junior one, I am a White House intern– treat this like it’s a country club debate where we have all the time in the world. It’s a very scary situation, this lack of strong moral leadership from those who most need to show it. For the president and his top few, like you I can only speculate (and I do so below) why they hold back. For the outer circles of policy advisors, there is a comfortable, complacent careerist attitude that pervades these people that is truly sickening. Nobody wants to rock the boat, nobody wants to give advice that is not what is perceived as what the higher echelons want to hear, even though we all know the stakes and we know that those above us — as Joe says, this is well evident from picks like Chu, as well as the President’s own too-occasional hints — know them as well.

    So why do the President and his inner circle hold back? The answer, I think, is simple timidity. They know the problem is Big Oil and Big Coal but they think they can’t win by leading the fight against them from the top. And there is a certain logic to this timidity. Obama “the movement” appeared to be fresh, powerful, potentially strong or effective during the campaign. But Obama the man, Obama the administration was not the campaign. You were the campaign. The American people were the campaign. You made it happen. Even in terms of communication, you made it happen. Everyone says Obama was a great communicator during the campaign and now he’s not, well in terms of setting a message there is some truth there, but in terms of medium it misses the boat. The communicator during the campaign was the greatest grassroots networked messaging machine that this country has ever seen, it was millions on millions of people tuning in and paying attention for the first time or for the first time in a long time, and talking politics – and progressive politics – every day on Facebook, in the workplace and with neighbors, and ultimately from the campaign offices and the home phone banks. The President did 1/10000000000th of the communicating during that campaign that the people did. He set the message (and even that perhaps less often than people think) but he did not deliver it. You did, we did, all of us did.

    So on the campaign Obama took his strength from the fact that you were fighting for him, for yourselves, he said this every single day of the campaign and if you listen he still says it. He, and we in the Administration, cannot do it alone. That much I actually agree with him. In my opinion he could do much more in setting a message, in issuing the call to arms, but he cannot win the battle alone. Nobody could.

    So I don’t know the answer but keep fighting, everyone. Fight in the courts and the city councils, with the clipboards and the press releases and viral videos and fight by lying in roads and on railroad tracks if you can afford to do so. There are those of us in the Administration who hear and share every word of the frustration on this blog, who note the brave Appalachian fighters in front of the White House getting arrested by the hundreds and wish we could join you in the police bus or at least fucking go out and thank you in person but know that on the clock we must be neutral, studious, anonymous. Who are crying as we write this and wish we could say these things in the office, or for attribution, but we can’t, and we are more glad you are out there than you can know. We need you out there and we thank you and we ask just a little patience, stay focused on the enemy and not the circular firing squad, and we will get this done.

  16. Theodore says:

    I agree with the comment #2 about fireside chats. For the vast majority of people I have talked to about climate change, it isn’t even an issue. They barely know what it is and certainly wouldn’t consider it an important reason to vote for one candidate or another. It needs to be made into an issue. Public exposure to the concept is the key to getting out the vote. Perhaps the president could act as a kind of talk show host, bringing in experts to discuss various issues – including climate change and renewable energy.

  17. climate undergrad says:

    I think Jon Stewart has it all wrong on this front; we can keep our sanity, but we need to get really angry. This post was either the most depressing or infuriating thing I’ve ever read. is a phenomenal effort, but it is so nice and optimistic that the media and general public just doesn’t give a shit. “Hippies being hippies.”

    I’m not a hippie. Unfortunately I’m more of a yuppie. But I will go lie in front of the proverbial tank if you tell me to Joe. I hate to use Republican tactics (though they are clearly good at this) but we need a goddamn war on something right about now.

    Obama and J Stew don’t seem to be up for the task of General. How bout you Joe? Roddy? Anyone?

  18. Prokaryotes says:

    Binding climate change deal is impossible after Barack Obama’s election defeat, says John Prescott
    Barack Obama’s setback in the US mid-term elections has killed of any hope of securing a legally binding global climate change deal, John Prescott has said.

  19. Peter M says:

    Obama has yet to really frame any major issue with dedicated conviction- that is his problem. Today I am sure most Democrats realize they made a huge mistake 2.5 years ago in supporting his candidacy.

    I frankly do not feel we will have any change in him- I wish he would announce next year he ‘does not choose to run’- a great wave of relief will sweep over many of us here.

  20. Theodore says:

    to #15 Anonymous:

    There are many people who vote and watch TV, but don’t use the internet. I must admit that I have never watched an Obama video on the internet myself. I can’t imagine that such a video would be particularly interesting, since anything he might say would be pretty much limited to what presidents are allowed to say by reason of official inhibition. (boring…)

  21. Prokaryotes says:

    SCENARIOS-Republican election impact on climate change

    Even with tough opposition though, Obama still has the power to shape climate change policy. And Republican bills that stray too far from Obama’s energy and environment goals will surely be vetoed.

    Here are some possible moves to look out for if Republicans do well in the elections.


    Senator John Rockefeller, a Democrat representing West Virginia, is pushing for a vote during the “lame duck” session of Congress planned for mid-November that would suspend Environmental Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gases, including those emitted from burning coal, for two years. Rockefeller says a two-year pause is needed to give the coal industry time to perfect clean technologies.

    Rockefeller is wrong!

  22. WVhybrid says:

    I guess what bugs me is that this issue has become strictly and solely partisan. Wasn’t the climate change science originally shared by members of both parties. But now it has become a Red vs. Blue issue. Where did the bi-partisan support of ideas like the passage of the Clean Air Act go? I don’t believe that only Democrats understand radiation heat transfer, and I don’t believe Republicans are unable to read thermometers. For some insane reason our country has collectively decided to put politics above the future of our children.

  23. Prokaryotes says:

    The President said yesterday he accepted the results of mid-term US elections had killed off any prospect of support in congress for a bill to restrict carbon emissions and introduce a cap-and-trade scheme for industry.

  24. Jeff Huggins says:

    Ummm, Wow, Where to (Re)-Begin?

    First of all, I’m not giving up. No way. I’m just going to try ten times — no, a hundred times! — harder!

    Second of all, I’m not an expert on Washington politics, and what I’m about to say is “preliminary”, but it seems to me that this approach not only makes sense, but is necessary: The large portions of the Democratic party that are deeply sincere about the climate, the environment, and energy, should put a Huge and Immovable Stake in the Ground, thus: We and they should basically say to the President, to the Administration, to to Party leadership, and to other parts of the Party, that unless the President and Party put an all-out no-holds-barred “to the mat” effort into addressing the climate and energy issues, in all ways possible and creative, then the climate-focused portions of the Party WILL JUMP SHIP and form another party. In other words, the stakes need to be these: GET the (damn) climate and energy jobs DONE — that is, so we are ON a right track — or else lose your roles and half the party the next time around. Indeed, the most enabling and debilitating thing that we’ve done is to say or imply that “we’ll stick with you” even if efforts are half-hearted and ineffective. If we don’t put a stake in the ground, TO the Administration, and insist on a full-court-press, then we only have ourselves to blame, period.

    That’s thing one.

    Thing two is that we need to do everything possible to get the young generation much more engaged and energized. Where are they? It’s their futures. Are they playing video games or something? I mean, really. If you ask me, it’s action time.

    Also, the Jon Stewarts of the world. As much as I like and applaud Jon, it seems to me that it’s time to fish or cut bait. He could have a much, much, much greater impact, if he’d move out of his own comfort zone and actually take some risks.

    Also, referring to the Tomasky quote, we need to make use of things like the Milton Friedman quote I’ve listed several times (and have received not a single response about). When extreme (or even centrist) right-wingers claim that the government shouldn’t be involved, or needn’t be involved, in addressing climate change, we need to pull out that quote, and others like it, to directly confront their nonsense with clear words from their own intellectual icons. If we don’t, we deserve to lose. I’m sorry, but we need to get smart (about ten times smarter than we seem to have been), and reading about all this just makes me, well, be “sad”!

    Also, frankly, the scientific community just needs to find guts, guts, and more guts. So far, perhaps 0.2 percent of scientists have spoken out. That won’t cut it. Repeat: That won’t cut it. If you understand climate science, speak out! If you are a life scientist and love life and other species, speak out! If you took high school chemistry and got at least a C, speak out. If you don’t fall into any of these categories, speak out!

    I could go on — and I WILL in other posts.

    Too, I am in the Bay Area. California will need to be a center of activity. Not one person, not one mainstream climate organization, (with the exception of one great guy from one of the organizations), has gotten in touch with me, expressed interest in my ideas, agreed to meet with me (I’ve offered to drive anywhere in the Bay Area), or done anything other than ask for donations and send automated messages to ask me to send e-mail to politicians. If the organizations can’t do better than that, then that’s another reason why we deserve to lose. I am open, I am here in California, and I am interested — and I am frustrated. If someone wants to meet, I’ll even offer to bring cookies and Pepsi! OK, 350, OK, other organizations, who is open to meet?

    Sigh (dammit),


  25. darth says:

    IMHO Obama needs to lead more, not just let congress handle it. Putting health care reform ahead of energy/climate was a huge strategic error. Also the stimulus bill could have had even more clean energy projects and less make-work stuff.

  26. Jeff Huggins says:

    And Another Thing …

    Another thing is that, in my view, we need to change some of our own attitudes and postures, along these lines…

    Some people (including me) suggest a focused and huge boycott, for example of ExxonMobil. The response of many: “Boycotts never work. It’ll never work. It’s not fair. We’d have to boycott all the oil companies or it won’t be fair. I’m busy having my dog groomed that day.” Blah, blah, blah.

    Then some people (including me) suggest a big initiative to offer seminars by the leading scientific organizations, in a no-excuse sort of way, to all Reps and Sens. The response by some: “Education never works.” (a response that misses the point almost entirely)

    Indeed, nearly every single idea I’ve ever offered on climate activism strategy and tactics — and there have been a number of excellent and do-able ones, along with some not-so-good ones — is either met with silence (zero feedback on the bottomless web) or with one or two or three excited “yeas” and a dribble of “it’ll never work”, “it’s not fair”, and so forth.

    We (in the movements, or at least online) have a way of killing or deadening good ideas. I used to work at Disney, in a number of creative and strategic functions, and if the early Walt Disney Company had worked like this, in the beginning days with Walt, then in the place where the Castle and Matterhorn currently stand, there would be only a Denny’s. Something tells me that we need to work differently. We need to be creative, we need to make creativity fun, and we need to rediscover what it means to actually be EFFECTIVE.

    Sorry, but this is probably pent-up honesty from the disaster Tuesday night.


  27. dp says:

    we won’t get to know what any of these politicians, red or blue, would be like if their campaigns were publicly funded and campaign season was a few months instead of nearly constant, for fundraising. a person ought to be accountable at the polls, not at the $50K-a-plate banquet table.

    there’s just something about chasing that kind of money that makes people follow the wrong principles in general.

  28. 350 or we die says:

    The Republican Party is flat out evil. How can they be otherwise – trading power for the future of the planet and willing to let millions die to curry favor with their equally evil corporate sponsors. The only actions that make sense to me now are aggressive local and state action where possible, and calling out the evil ones everywhere and all the time.

    Repetition of simple words like “evil” might help also.

  29. Lewis C says:

    Joe – I’m not sure about the climate woodpecker analogy – as I’ve not seen Obama doing anything so active as banging his head on a tree to get a small grub of climate action. ‘Climate Pussy’ seems a more appropriate title, given that he spends so much time asking for strokes from those who wish him ill.

    Far from striving for climate action, first he failed to have bills prepared for the congress and senate from week one of his presidency (as the urgency plainly demanded)
    then he adopted Bush’s policy of brinkmanship with its illegitimate 2005 baseline,
    then he collapsed any serious deal at Copenhagen with a massive public bulley-pulpit snub to China, followed by the absurd burden-sharing offer,
    then he got some PR cover by helping get the congress bill passed before scuttling the senate bill via a series of disabling attacks on its negotiators,
    during all of which he has avoided mentioning climate even once per month, has failed to expose the brazen disgraceful corruption funding climate denial, and has studiously refrained from even token efforts at the seminal public education on the climate jeopardy.

    And now his latest statement is to disown cap and trade. – (Maybe it needs saying that without a legal cap on US emissions, there can be no global treaty, as America has now reneged on its given word on the issue three times in the last 15 years, and international respect for US integrity on the issue is notable by its absence).

    Obama actually behaves as if he is really scared of Americans awakening to the severity of the threat and demanding his constructive negotiation of a global deal, before China et al have been reduced by climate impacts, PO, etc, to a supposedly more malleable condition.

    One critical aspect missing from discussions post the mid-terms is that Obama’s prospects are not those of a Reagan or a Clinton, and not simply because he lacks their talents as a communicator. He also lacks their prospects of an economic resurgence to empower his re-election. On the contrary, his own DoE’s release of the PO graph showed a loss of the oil market cushion between supply and demand in 2012, just while he’s trying to campaign. The entirely predictable result is another unaffordable price spike, and a further round of economic collapse.

    For this reason, (along with the recognition that loyalty is to the democratic office of president, not to the man), I’d suggest that an alternative Democrat candidate will have a far better chance of being elected in 2012 – not least because BHO will have had 4 years of shellacking by the corporate media, and with bad economic prospects has little serious chance of re-election.

    Your astute observation – that where climate has been the focus of political debate in the recent voting its promoters have won public support – seems a very clear indication of the necessary lead-issue for that alternative candidate to promote. Not least because climate is the basic justification for the massive job-creating industrial renewal that is now pre-requisite for public wellbeing.

    So who is there that might be a suitably staunch and well-experienced character to take on this role, that could make both the imperative moral case for global climate action and speak from personal political experience of the economic benefits of the new technologies’ deployment ?



  30. Cliff says:

    100% of the blame goes to the voters that voted Republican. They are too dumb and too lazy to educate themselves or simply care only about themselves. Obama didn’t fail because his message was bad. He never had a true progressive mandate. This country is largely conservative and has been for several decades, out of ignorance and selfishness.

  31. Roger says:

    This post is too long and so wrong. Don’t blame Obama; climate change was doomed from the start. Read the writing on the wall. Not a single republican Senate candidate signed on to climate change for good reason; the American public doesn’t want it. Democrats and Independents and Republicans and Tea Partiers don’t want it. Period! No party is to blame for our stupidity; only we are.

    Serious climate change mitigation will require severe contraction of all major world economies, requiring us to give up life as we know it—houses, cars, food, luxuries, incomes. We would much prefer to lay the blame on Obama and continue down our comfortable paths.

    [JR: I think blame has been apportioned appropriately — but Obama never seriously tried, and that is tragic.]

  32. Roger says:

    This is a fantastic thread–maybe the best ever on CP. We’ll have more to say later. Bravo, Jeff and Anonymous!
    Warm regards,
    Roger and Mossy

  33. Mike Roddy says:

    Anonymous, #15, thanks. It is just overwhelming to hear from someone in the White House speaking from the heart, who has actually been paying attention to people who kind of know what’s up these days. Many of us here and elsewhere feel like we’ve been banging on the White House door and being handed a press release.

    Damn right we need the president to show some fight. Roosevelt went head to head with the bankers, and the people were on his side all the way. It’s tougher now- in the 1930’s, bankers had thrown millions from their homes and farms, but the oil companies today provide the fuel for our precious cars and trucks. And oil companies are stronger and more vicious than Wall Street or Rockefeller and Standard Oil ever were. Five of the top seven corporations in the world are oil companies. In the 30’s, oil and coal companies hired Pinkertons to murder strikers. Now, they are executing global genocide, and it’s already begun. “Evil” is a puny word to describe them.

    I don’t know if their stranglehold on Congress and the media is keeping Obama from listening to us, but many of us were discombobulated when he kept repeating the 5,000 barrel a day leak story, and asked ourselves- are those rotten bastards from the oil and coal companies in charge of every branch of government now? Nice to learn from you that not yet, anyway.

    A lot of us still believe that Tea Party inspired deniers and oil companies paying people to call him a Muslim immigrant will eventually get the president’s blood up. If that happens, let him tell it to the people, and straight, like people do here, including Joe. We can take it. And if he goes down, following 24 hour attacks on Fox- something that may happen anyway- it will be in the cause of awakening the American people to who their real enemies are. Young people like yourself will then have to pick up the flag and fight. It’s great to discover that you’re out there. And, again, thanks. I hope my son grows up to be like you.

  34. Theodore says:

    Concepts to consider in combination: (1) animal rights, (2) crimes of genocide against non-human species and (3) international court.

  35. Leif says:

    Thank you for the inside insights, @15. While I can agree with you for the most part, I feel that the President has dropped the dime by not putting himself on the line and giving the people roll model to emulate. The administration had the banking industry on the ropes, then gives CPR but fails to demand respect for the roll of the taxpayer in the banking’ resuscitation. The rich, responsible for the rip off, turn right around and sucker punch not only the President and the economy but the workers as well.
    Hard to cheer for a winner when you lost the round.

    A year later the president is pitched another floater in the almost simultaneous coal mine disaster and the BP oil disaster and instead of hitting it out of the park, taking those guys to the locker room and requiring respect for science, safety and humanity, he bunts to first base. Hard to get it up for that kind of action. Again the adversary regroups and throw hundreds of millions of dollars into a campaign to rub his face in sh**. Now brown from head to toe you ask us to keep getting excited. I have said this before but it obviously needs repeating to you. For the most part the Democrats bow to the same whip that the GOP bow to; Capitalism, Corporate Power and ever increasing GDP. This makes you wimps in the knife fight you find yourselves in. Not only is the national and world economy at peak oil but also peak food, water, air, dirt, fish and forests. The paradigm is toast and the Tea Party is oblivious. You folks on the inside think that the election was about Donkeys and Elephants! Well in MHO you ain’t got a clue. For your information the fight was and will continue to be about the future survival of humanity or capitalistic corporate greed. Plan and simple.
    Who’s side are you on? #15
    How do we know it?
    Prove it!

  36. James Newberry says:

    President Obama:
    “There’s been discussion about how we can restart our nuclear industry”

    By the same jackasses that you chose as advisers who gave us financial deregulation and resulting credit default swaps and liar loans? Even corrupt Wall Street hasn’t touched this disaster for thirty years. Yes, Mr. President, let’s restart that atomic financial buzz-saw. Let me tell you how all private costs have been socialized onto the public for this weapon-of-mass-destruction derived technocracy.

    “We’ve got, I think, broad agreement that we’ve got terrific natural gas resources”

    Who the hell are you talking to? Ground water contaminators, Halliburton and off-shore disaster drillers?

    “find ways that we can solve these problems that don’t hurt the economy”

    You mean the economy you preside over that is throwing millions of Americans out of their homes based on fraud by your investor-banker campaign supporters? You mean the one that would not be “hurt” by innovation and growth of a clean energy economy, but is being stifled by these same financial racketeers, fossil fraudsters and atomic financial fascists?

    You speak in delusion while seeming to operate in collusion. Mr. President, you are destroying the country’s future because you have chosen as advisers some of the most self-serving, biased and plutocratic people available.

    Why do you betray the people with your idiotic lies and non-commitment to good governance?

    I voted for you.

    James Newberry
    Sustainable Energy Consultant

  37. Sailesh Rao says:

    The deepest root of the problem of climate change may not be material, social or educational, but cultural and mythological. Even if the world’s entire energy supply was converted over to solar and wind overnight, species extinction and climate change will continue as long as pollution and deforestation continues and the ocean gets strip mined of Life. Recently, I stumbled upon the Citigroup Plutonomy memos that Michael Moore highlighted in his documentary, “Capitalism: A Love Story.” In these memos, Citigroup analysts explain how the US, UK, Canada and Australia have all become “Plutonomies,” where the wealthy power the economy at the expense of the “average consumer,” and where the inequity between the haves and the have-nots keep increasing into the foreseeable future. These memos were leaked and are now all over the web despite Citigroup’s attempts to curtail them. For example, please see

    Any reasonable person reading these memos would be repelled by their discussion of the “Cost of Living Extremely Well (CLEW),” which includes the price of a Four Seasons Hotel room, Beluga Caviar and other luxuries, their dispassionate discussion of the irrelevance of the average American’s economic outlook on the performance of US equities, etc. In a Plutonomy, the wealthy are increasingly isolated from others until, of course, the commoners reach breaking point, form Tea parties, etc., and ugliness ensues. Plutonomies are fundamentally unstable as Marie Antoinette found out, since the disconnection is truly a mirage in reality. Even today, think about those who clean the Four Seasons hotel rooms, serve the wealthy dinner on their yachts and those who go fishing for the endangered sturgeon to extract Beluga caviar from its gut.

    Perhaps, an appropriate way to describe the culture of industrial civilization is as a “Plutology,” which is a similar variation on the word, “Ecology” as “Plutonomy” is to “Economy”. In a Plutology, one species gains ascendance over all other life forms, willfully dominates the planet’s ecosystems, and takes what it wants with a reckless disregard for the well-being of the others. This species becomes increasingly isolated from the others until, of course, the commoners reach breaking point, die off and ugliness ensues. Plutologies are fundamentally unstable as the Easter Islanders found out, since the disconnection is truly a mirage in reality. Even today, think about the insects that pollinate our crops, the plants that filter our polluted waters and the cows that dutifully produce milk in gulags called factory farms, even as their children get carted away to veal factories.

    Perhaps, we should be looking in the mirror, disavowing the plutological basis of our culture and starting afresh. This requires developing compassion for all Life and indeed, all Creation, and we can do this without waiting for President Obama to take the lead.

  38. gecko says:

    Don’t despair. We are really starting to wear them down.

  39. David B. Benson says:

    James Newberry — I think you will find many of the threads on
    of interest regarding the sustainablity of nuclear power.

  40. Deborah Stark says:

    Re: Wit’s End | Post #6

    …..Obama lost support because he didn’t fix the economy. That’s not his failing. The economy is unfixable. It is based upon endless growth, and debt. We have simply hit the wall…..

    “We have simply hit the wall.”


    What in my opinion needs, ideally, to happen is that we humans “power down”, with reverence, so that our Earth may begin the process of healing itself.

    We are now dumping more waste into our life-support systems than they are capable of processing.

    We must find a better way to live here. There IS a better way.

  41. #15 says:

    @ Mike Roddy, Leif–

    Keep in mind I happen to volunteer in WH, have relatively little “access,” and write only for myself as an individual. Nevertheless, Leif (a) I agree with you about everything except maybe your being insulted at the idea I should ask you to keep fighting (of course you should as should we all); (b) I wrote what I wrote, as Mike Roddy noted, from my heart, as an individual, at some possible risk to my “job,” and (again) mostly agree with you… What more could I do to “prove” “whose side I am on?” I ain’t the Prez, I haven’t even met him, I write memos for his advisors’ advisors and I try to write them as honestly as I wrote here. There are many “sides” within WH and obviously not all are always listened to with same attention. My only point is that since some around Prez (including himself) are apparently more comfortable following rather than leading, at least when it comes to war analogies and demonizing the worlds most powerful and evil people, that is what it is & makes me thankful for all outside who lead on this issue and make what space they can, and I feel probably efforts will mostly be most rewarding channeling sharpened blame toward Joe’s “other 95%” rather than Obama! For instance, all in CA did an absolutely bang up job demonizing the real demons this election, keep at it, sharpen the tone and the actions and know there are at least some of us inside trying to do what we can from there, and admiring and grateful for your efforts. That’s all!

  42. Prokaryotes says:

    Everything shrinks irrelevant when it comes to cataclysmic climate change – extinction event. To bad the average human can not grasp this threat, is to ignorant and has no respect for natures lion we unleash.

    The human species might go extinct because we do not act in time.

  43. Ben Lieberman says:

    I’m not trying to send anonymous posts, but was having some problems with a new laptop,.

    Anyway, much of the anger on this thread is misplaced and misdirected. Reading many (not all) of the comments one could almost overlook the core of the problem: the fact that virtually all Republicans in Congress either outright deny the reality of human-caused global warming or refuse to act.

    It’s also hard to escape the feeling that some felt that this battle would be easy. Well, it’s not, but that does not excuse the defeatism on display. This whole thread could serve as an example to illustrate how frustrated and angered activists respond to a blow by setting up a circular firing range. As for Obama–yes he’s made some mistakes, but do you really think this kind of attack is in any way going to advance your cause? There is a big difference between constructive criticism and demolition.

    Climate hawks need to get back to the drawing board because whatever we are doing now is plainly not enough. It’s time to also start being a lot more direct and honest about what is at stake. We’ve been told again and again to frame this issue in economic terms, and economics matter, but climate change is not, at its heart, primarily an economic issue. It’s a moral issue, and we have yet to tell deniers and their enabler that their stand is immeasurably immoral. We have yet to ask the American people of this time whether they want to be remembered as the group most responsible for sending the world hurtling down the path toward climate destruction. We’ve got to make the stakes a lot clearer.

    The Andy Revkins of the world suggest that people’s minds cannot be changed-it’s funny how that did not work with slavery or Apartheid. It’s a different cause but we cannot take the moral dimension off the table.

    We also need to go back to basics on climate education. The news media seems to eschew the story on the grounds that it’s already been told. Well we need a new inconvenient truth, and we need one that will shake the nation. If Al Gore has been too maligned to take this on, someone will have to take his place.

  44. Dean says:

    You may well be right, Joe; your case is very strong. The next two years will certainly be tough. But they may also be an opportunity; if the Republicans do what we expect, and try to double down on dirty energy, and if Obama resists them–that’s a fight we can win, and if we do, the dirty energy side will be discredited. So I’m not convinced the climate fight is over at the federal level for a decade, nor am I yet convinced this presidency is a failure. I always suspected that changing American energy policy would be a messy, confusing business, just like ending slavery in America was a messy, confusing process, or setting up the social safety net in the 1930s was a messy, confusing process (we often forget just how messy and confusing those epochs were for those who lived through them). So I refuse to give up hope yet, or even to give up on Obama.

  45. Andy says:

    I listened to Obama’s press conference. All I can say is WTF? He’s hopeless. God I wish I voted for Clinton.

    And what the hell is holding back the democrats who have safe seats from absolutely going ape, standing up and yelling “What the hell are you guys doing here? You’re going to destroy the world, not just for the next 10 or 20 years but for the rest humanity’s history! You’re a bunch of greedy, ignorant scum!”

  46. gecko says:

    40. Deborah Stark, Yep. It seems that Obama was aware of this at the beginning of his presidency stressing during a speech in China that it could no longer depend on American consumerism to fuel its economy.

    Runaway consumerism is fueling runaway climate change where automobiles are the premiere consumer item.

  47. Sailesh Rao says:

    #35 Leif: Here’s an excerpt from a column that Marshall Ganz wrote in the LA Times at,0,486277.story

    “Abandoning the “transformational” model of his presidential campaign, Obama has tried to govern as a “transactional” leader. These terms were coined by political scientist James MacGregor Burns 30 years ago. “Transformational” leadership engages followers in the risky and often exhilarating work of changing the world, work that often changes the activists themselves. Its sources are shared values that become wellsprings of the courage, creativity and hope needed to open new pathways to success. “Transactional” leadership, on the other hand, is about horse-trading, operating within the routine, and it is practiced to maintain, rather than change, the status quo.

    The nation was ready for transformation, but the president gave us transaction. And, as is the case with leadership failures, much of the public’s anger, disappointment and frustration has been turned on a leader who failed to lead.”

    The kids have been especially turned off by his transactional leadership. It takes guts to be a transformational leader. It is hard. It requires walking the walk. It’s much easier to go along with the first Pres. Bush that “the American way of life is non-negotiable” and act accordingly. How else to explain the Tar Sands agreement with Canada, for instance?

    Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t negotiate. She just acts.

  48. Leif says:

    Patty Murray beats Rossi in Washington. Democrats win in Oregon. The West now has a couple of years to show how it is done to the Nation.

  49. Colorado Bob says:

    About the EPA –

    One of the Obama administration’s most aggressive officials on global warming regulations is stepping down from her post at the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Lisa Heinzerling, the head of EPA’s policy office, will return to her position as a Georgetown University law professor at the end of the year, said EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan.

    Read more:

  50. Sasparilla says:

    Well written article Joe, thank you. I’m right with you (regrettably) in the analysis of where things stand – we’ve essentially blown it for this decade at a national level (which means the world has too) and we don’t have the time to wait for the planets to realign for democrat supermajorities in both houses and the same party president again, the feedbacks won’t wait to take control of this geo-engineering experiment from our hands…

    My guess is that during the next decade, as its obvious the permafrost is melting significantly (since all the summer ice will be gone in the Northern hemisphere for the most part), we’ll resort to some desperate extreme (additional – besides massive atmospheric CO2 injections) geo-engineering measures that will be tried to save modern civilization while we try to get our CO2 emissions down (that’ll be if we’re lucky I suppose, if the permafrost was melting massively right now it doesn’t seem we could even get to such a place to consider such last ditch risky worldwide things, its an open question whether we’d get to CO2 emissions reductions).

    One thought really sticks out, the US will become the villain the world can point to for letting this calamity happen to modern civilization in the coming decades / centuries if things continue to unfold as we have set them up to – its almost unfathomable.

    I don’t think its much of a question that the republicans with plenty of dems will come up with some legislation to nueter the EPA’s authority (and as you pointed out we may not even have to wait for the Republicans to take over the House, the Dems may do it before the year is out) – and I have no faith, at all, that the President would veto it (based on his words, especially those above, and deeds), sounds like he’s ready to sign it already.

    At this point we’re in the worst recession since the 30’s and oil is at $85 a barrel – and nobody is talking about what this means – but when our economy finally starts to recover (and significantly pushes demand up and prices)…we should be seriously scared and talking about it – since its price is bound to go up significantly and vacuum away a tremendous amount of disposable income needed for our economy to recover. This has severe political implications for the races in 2012 and 2016 – and definitely in 2012 it would seem to play (not slightly) to the Republicans advantage. This also plays to dirty energy’s advantages (coal and tar sands) as well. A perfect storm in the wrong way, if you will.

    God, if you’re out there – we need some serious miracles in this decade, earlier would be better…really.

  51. Ken Johnson says:

    And so the chances have dropped sharply of averting multiple catastrophes post-2040 — widespread Dust-Bowlification; multi-feet sea level rise followed by SLR of 6 to 12+ inches a decade until the planet is ice free; massive species loss; the ocean turning into large, hot acidified dead zones; and ever-strengthening superstorms …

    What would the chances have been for averting these catastrophes if the House climate bill had become law? Joe’s estimate in May 2009 was “10% to 20%“. Maybe the silver lining on this situation is that we won’t be stampeded into a cumbersome, inefficient and ill-conceived regulatory regime for no other reason than that it is “the only game in town”.

    The political pendulum will swing as the realities of climate change and resource depletion become all too apparent. When it does, then maybe we will see some real political leadership on climate policy, but I don’t think it will come from either the Democrats or the Republicans — it will come from the Europeans and Chinese.

  52. Sasparilla says:

    #18 Prokaryotes – I looked at the John Prescott article you linked to (thank you) and thought it was a good analysis of where things stand and probably a good solution for the time being (extend Kyoto by 5 years and go for voluntary verifiable emissions targets so some sort of an agreement can be completed) since hard targets of impossible because of the US at this point.

    He said no agreement with the end of Kyoto would be a disaster at this point (which is where we are headed) and I tend to agree.

    The thing that quite shocked me was the comments below it – truly hard to read them.

  53. gecko says:

    Did Democrats lose because of their stand on climate change?…

  54. Fredo says:

    My God people… Less worrying please. Both politics and climate are unpredictable enough at the year to year level it’s pretty foolish to be engaging in nightmare scenarios about either on a sub-decade level. We know who to blame (the fossil criminals) and we know who we need to talk to about it (everyone who doesn’t read this blog). In the end we all die either way, while we are around we can do what’s right and that’s all we can do.

    The other day I saw a whole area on the street with (full) bike racks installed where there had been car parking a month before… Had never seen that before in USA, it was beautiful. Many friends of mine who do not primarily work on climate are biking, turning down thermostats, eating less meat and investing in efficiency upgrades more than ever. Like gecko says, don’t despair we are wearing them down. Night darkest before the dawn and all that.

  55. Richard Miller says:

    #15 Thanks for your post. That gives us some insight as we try to figure out how the White House could be so timid when you have advisors like Chu and Holdren that know how serious the issue is.

    It would be much appreciated if you could keep us updated on White House thinking or mood on climate and energy issues as we go forward.

  56. Chris ODell says:

    @2, 15

    For the curious, here are all of Obama’s weekly web addresses for the last 21 months:

    That said, this post has really depressed me. Where do we go from here? Joe, you posted something a while back about (can’t remember where) how if we peak out right now in worldwide emissions, we need to cut by like 3%/yr to keep warming under 2C, but if we wait five yrs before we peak, required emissions reductions would be ~9%/yr. I cannot see us conceivably peaking in worldwide emissions in five years. So I say again, where do we go from here??

  57. Roger says:

    It grows late and I have an early morning, so let me make just a few “quick” points–to be expanded upon later, as time and other circumstances allow or dictate.

    First, many great comments above: I especially appreciated the all-too-rare #15 Anonymous #2 type of comment—giving us a glimpse of some of the thinking inside the WH. It was actually just as I’d imagined, giving me no comfort. (I’ve been in corporate boardrooms with similar feelings.) In fact, groups of us have traveled to Washington several times this year to rally with other climate-concerned citizens outside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, trying to encourage President Obama to deliver a “State of the Climate” address to the American people, among other things. (By the way, we’re pleased that solar panels will be added to the White House, come spring!) But I sense the fear of delivering an address, and possibly saying the wrong thing, making matters worse in the short term—leading to the conclusion: “Why should we take the risk?” “ We may not do any good, and we might do a lot of harm!” “Better to keep the seriousness of this quiet, at least for now!”

    Second, I like what Jeff, Lewis and others have said about our situation. It is time for those of us who know and care to do more. We have to work smarter. I believe our biggest impact can come from somehow encouraging the president to push the limits of his presidential power, forgetting a second term, should that be necessary. (Considering what is at stake, the choice should be a ‘no brainer:’ 1) 2nd term for a US president, or 2) End of civilization as we know it.)

    Third, no offense, but I think Joe, much as we love him, must accept some of the responsibility for no more having been accomplished in the past year. It may not be the mission of Climate Progress to preserve a livable climate, yet, given the stakes, why the hell not? Will we tell the kids, “There was this really great climate blogger who had nearly every intelligent, informed ear on the planet, and he could have mustered a huge response if he’d directed his attention to organizing one…but that wasn’t his mission?”

    I can hear it now: “Oh, OK, Grandpa, I understand…I think…!” “But couldn’t he have CHANGED the mission, if he really loved children, and wanted to be an even greater hero, and everything?” (Sorry, Joe. You can edit this out if you want, of course!)

    Fourth, related to the above, I believe there IS a way that we climate cognoscenti CAN have a much greater impact than we’ve had so far—a way to raise awareness of climate change among the fossil fuel-misinformed public, and a way to catalyze more aggressive action on the part of the president. He just needs to be given a reason or two to act that we’ve not yet given him.

    This plan isn’t quite yet ready for prime time, so let me just leave it at that for now…

    With warm regards, and thanks for everyones’great thoughts above,


  58. Alec Johnson says:

    Minor typo: “And all this was happened without”

  59. Where do we go from here? We apparently can’t count on the U.S. government, at least in the traditional sense, to take the lead. It will have to come from the local and regional levels. For example, here’s the agenda for the Governors Climate Coalition Summit 3 to be held at UC Davis in a couple of weeks:

    Some people just won’t give up.

  60. Alec Johnson says:

    I am a bona fide in the trenches Climate Hawk/Climate Warrior. I couldn’t have worked harder and the organization I worked for did the very best it could, as did virtually all of this Nation’s green groups, both big and small. We were massively outspent and outgunned.

    Joe’s percentages are on the mark, more or less. The re-thug-licans are beneath my contempt and are effectively traitors who ought to be locked up, not elected. The media enablers make we want to tear what little hair I have left out. Still, it won’t be any of the thugs or members of the media whose name will define this “Age of Stupid.” It will be Obama’s and he’ll deserve it. Given the myriad opportunities he had to lead on this issue, to be a truly historic figure, to literally save human civilization, and yet months would go by and he wouldn’t even utter the word “Climate.” I accomplished more fighting for our future while I was sleeping than Obama did awake in the Oval Office.

    While I think Joe’s assessment of the political prospects may well be accurate, I do have to point out that we are living in very unpredictable times. Of course we have no other information base but the past to work with and I understand how Joe arrived at his assessment. He may very well be right, but we are soaring along steep exponential curves and likely to hit as yet unperceived inflection points along the way that can throw everything up in the air. Sadly, that’s about the only source of hope I can point to.

    Personally, I think it is wise to shift massively toward a local focus. I think fomenting the Transition Town movement is a vital first step and most of my energy will now be focused on trying to build resilient communities ( We’re certainly going to need them.

    One final note, I think the Tom Toles cartoon you have pretty much says it all.

  61. Bill R says:

    Comments #6 from Wit’s End and #31 from Roger come closest to the truth. I think our rational selves get carried away with the technologies that are going to “save” us from the climate crisis. Obama can’t solve this thing because we have a broader cultural illness that he is not willing to address. We view our selves separate from nature, and believe that “progress” will deliver us eventually to some techo-heaven. The more we demand “growth” as a solution to unemployment and poverty and the more we think another layer of complexity in automation, industrialization, beurocracy, genetic manipulation, etc. will save our bacon the farther we get from our original nature… another animal that depends on a healthy biosphere for our sustenance. I doubt we will find the answers in sophisticated science. Rather, we will go thru collapse and will have an opportunity, with luck, once we have hit rock bottom, to restablish a more honest relationship with nature.

  62. Bill R says:

    And mind you… I would RATHER that we could save ourselves with science and balance sophisticated science with a healthy biosphere. It just doesn’t seem like we can juggle all that…. the evidence is in our performance. I’ll keep on working on it, but just sayin’….

  63. Dan B says:


    I’ve noted your quotes from Milton Friedman and Adam Smith, and commented on them. I’m a late poster so you may have missed them.

    As other commenters have stated the issue goes beyond “the environment”. Economics that chooses to exclude basic systems that support life is not economics, it’s madness. There is an economics that enriches all life.

    First it has to incorporate “life” all life, not just things that can be measured by 19th Century mathematics and economics.

    Before that will happen we have to call them out until we’re blue in the face, far beyond. For human civilization to survive we must harness the brilliance of the outliers.

    And by the way, have you invited all the young people you know to dinner at a cool place with the caveat that you’ll ask them uncomfortable questions? I believe that most of these young Americans believe they can solve global warming when they’re in power. They’re focused on whether or not they get to have sex before marriage or marry they one(s) they love, or….. Not on survival.

  64. Sailesh Rao says:

    Bill R #52: In his book, “Domination of Nature,” William Leiss traces the destructive impact of modern civilization to pervasive attitudes originating with Sir Francis Bacon in the 17th century. Countering the defeatism in 17th century society towards natural disasters in the form of the bubonic plague, childhood diseases, etc., Bacon proposed that the mechanical inventions of the industrial revolution be employed to “conquer and subdue Nature, to shake her to her foundations.” Thus, Bacon inspired humanity’s mission to dominate Nature, an absurdity considering human impotence as earthquakes shake, volcanoes erupt, hurricanes blow and floods deluge even today. It is only the defenseless trees, animals, birds and fishes that we bully, dominate and erase off the face of the earth, not Nature.

    It was perhaps understandable for 17th century Europeans to embark on such a stupid mission as this was the age of superstitions, leach doctors and witch trials in Western society. Nowadays, participating in this Bacon inspired mission makes as much sense as sawing off the tree limb that we are sitting on.

    Surely, an intelligent species that is conducting such a long running, continuous assault on Nature in the only known planet that supports Life, is being truly unconscious? Perhaps, it’s time to snap out of it and awaken!

    If anything, the role of sophisticated science should be to help the biosphere recover from the assault that we have been conducting for 250 years, so thoughtlessly. For instance, we’re looking for a stored energy solar cook stove for rural India so that villagers don’t have to chop up tree branches and burn them for cooking. Here’s the web site detailing the challenge:
    We’d love for you to work on it! Thanks!!

  65. toby says:

    Anonymous, #15,

    You nailed it & confirm my own previous post #7.

    The fact is that if Obama stays timidly in his comfort zone, as he has done up to now, then he is dead meat. Now he has no Nancy Pelosi (the most effective Democratic leader of them all, losing her is a real tragedy) to save matters and rally the Congressional caucus.

    Ironically, the “blue dogs” have been devastated and the House Democrats are probably now more progressive than the President. As progressives owe Obama nothing – they got him elected, he delivered a tepid Healthcare Bill – I hope they send him a message!

    Roger #31 is wrong about the American public. The electorate can be rallied behind anti-global-warming measures. California proved that.

  66. Richard Brenne says:

    Here’s what Obama would need to say to get us on the right track:

    “We’ve reached the Limits to Growth. We’ve blown up the balloon of growth as far as possible.

    The paradigm of relentless growth is over. The next paradigm is one of contraction. Either we intelligently contract, or nature will sure as hell do it for us in countless ways we cannot yet imagine.

    Instead of relentless growth, it is time to think about how we survive as a species.

    We’ve each wanted to live like Kings. The Earth simply can’t sustain first hundreds of millions and then billions doing that.

    Climate change, ocean acidification, ozone killing all plants and resource depletion including that of fresh water, oil, topsoil, trees, minerals and virtually everything else will make our survival doubtful in some relatively small number of decades.

    The only way to survive this is to address it right here, right now and every moment of every day from now until the end of time.

    We have behaved like the worst of the most abusive, even murderous alcoholics. We will never get anywhere until we see what we’ve done and are doing at an ever-accelerating rate, stop that behavior, take full responsibility for it, and make amends to everyone of our own and every other species on Earth.

    There are no simple solutions to any of this. It is not like one or all technologies can solve these problems. Our very souls have become hideously corrupted with every kind of oozing greed and avarice.

    I’m going to do everything in my power to begin leading us up out of this abyss. If I’m not re-elected, if my party loses power, at least from this moment forward I can look my daughters and everyone else in the eyes and say I did my best.

    I ask each of you to join me in this effort. I’m not promising anything but unimaginable challenges and hardships. Everyone who opposes us, we want to win you over to our side. But as long as you oppose us, we will do everything in our power to defeat you, not because we hate you, but because we love you and all people, and know that your destruction and those of all your loved ones and descendents is as certain as our own.”

  67. _Flin_ says:

    “The GOP plans to hold high profile hearings examining the alleged “scientific fraud” behind global warming, a sleeper issue in this election that motivated the base quite a bit.”

  68. Conway says:

    Jeff Huggins #26

    Jeff, as a former Disney man you’re well placed to give me some advice.
    I’m a devotee of Mouse-based entertainment, but am increasingly aware that I need to be sure my purveyor is environmentally sound with regard to GHG.

    How does it look for Disney, or should I prefer another source ? I am ready to boycott any bad guys

  69. toby says:

    Re: my post #54

    Somehow I got the false impression Nancy Pelosi lost her seat in the House. I am delighted to find she did not, but of course her days as Speaker (and she was a better Speaker than Obama was a President) are numbered.

    However, she is considering standing for Minority Leader, but Blue Dog Democrats are blaming her for the defeat. Specifically they are blaming climate legislation.

    Pelosi has been the most successful Democratic leader for a long time, and I hopes the party keep her as its House leader.

  70. #54 “I ask each of you to join me in this effort. I’m not promising anything but unimaginable challenges and hardships.”
    Yeah, that’s a winning political speech, NOT! The last President who tried that was Jimmy Carter and even though he spoke truth, it is a loser politically :(

    Seriously, if you are saying we need to reduce our use of the earth’s resources to a sustainable level, I am with you. But if you are saying that economic development is tied inextricably to the over-consumption of resources, I have to cry foul. Just look at the largest market cap companies on Wall Street:
    Yes, the first is ExxonMobil. The rest of the top ten are heavily weighted to technology (Apple, Microsoft, Google, IBM, GE). Google is the fastest growing of all and its main “product” is information. Its main revenues are from advertising. Wal-Mart, P&G, J&J, and GE all have major initiatives towards sustainability. Wal-Mart has the highest revenues of any company and it is spearheading an effort to measure carbon footprint as part of its Sustainability Index effort:

    The whole point of sustainability is to reduce impact on the earth’s resources to a sustainable level, while using ecosystem services in a closed loop approach to survive and thrive. Ecosystems have always behaved this way. Humans have disrupted this balance by the use of extracted energy. Economic value can be based on information as in the case of Google, or it can be based on the careful use of ecosystem services as contemplated by the Sustainability Index. There is a saying in management: You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The Sustainability Index is a first step in sustainably managing better.

  71. John Mason says:

    Sasparilla #47,

    Don’t let the comments beneath that piece give you the wrong impression about the UK – yes there are some people like that here, but also, as with the Guardian and the BBC among others, comments come in from all over the world – including Astroturfland!

    Gail (#6) says: “The economy is unfixable. It is based upon endless growth, and debt. We have simply hit the wall.” This is quite true – at least in terms of the economy as it is. Others have already pointed out the next act of the play: we come out of recession, demand goes up, oil price goes up, the economy tanks again. This will remain the case as we move across the bumpy plateau that marks the peaking of regular crude oil. It is the period in which we have the opportunity to move to a steady-state, slower pace of life means of being – opportunity, because once we start on the downslope from the plateau then external forcings come into play.

    You cannot have infinite economic growth – fundamentally supported by non-renewable natural resources – on a finite planet. Via that particular ill-conceived system, it all has to come to and end at some point. This is so obvious that it beggars belief that we are all, to varying degrees, still living this lie, and it is criminal that people of power continue to promote it to the masses.

    Cheers – John

  72. One problem I see with this extreme pessimism about the political climate is that the non-Presidential election years attract a different population of voters than the Presidential election years:
    The approximate turnout this year was 90,504,100 of 235,809,266 (38.4%) voting age people in the U.S. So, we went from 56.8% turnout to 38.4% turnout; there was 18.4% more turnout in 2008 than in 2010. The younger and ethnic minority voters disproportionately stay away from voting in the off years.

    In addition, the Blue Dog Dems lost 62% of their caucus: blogs/ blogs/ weigel/ archive/ 2010/ 11/ 04/ 62-percent-of-the-democrats-who-opposed-health-care-are-gone.aspx
    This means that the remaining Dems have more cohesiveness and are less likely to be Deniers.

    In fact, I would argue that now is the time to strike in the Senate and pass the Climate Bill in the Lame Duck session. It is our last chance for the next 2 years and this may be the last time to persuade defeated Blue Dog Senators like Sen. Lincoln to do the right thing. What would “they” do to her? Fire her? -Oh wait – The opportunity for the Dem Party to come back in 2012 is strong as illustrated by the demographics of Presidential elections. President Obama is much more likely to succeed in 2012 if he takes the transformational tack, as indicated above. Let’s call on our leaders to lead NOW! There is an opportunity to act before January.

    We will fight them in the trenches, etc. Let us take the attitude of Churchill after Dunkirk. Then Climate Change will win in 2012. This issue can save the Democratic Party and the Democratic Party can save Climate Change efforts.

    If Climate Change were to carry the 2012 elections, just watch how many Republicans would suddenly discover the conservationist roots of their party. It could be a Win, Win, Win for everyone except the Tea Party extremists (The American Taliban who refuse to negotiate and threaten violence if they do not get their way). See the demographics of who the predominant Republican voters were: 2010/ 11/ 04/ green-tide-the-more-money-you-make-the-more-likely-you-voted-republican-25991/
    We can change this “Green Tide” of monied interests into a Green Tide of environmental interests in a coalition with the youth vote and minority communities that are most affected by pollution. The next Presidential election is just such an opportunity if we can generate tranformational leadership as indicated in #15 and #42.

    Joe has presented data from polls that indicate 75%+ of the U.S. public favor climate action and renewable energy. Now is the best time ever to leverage this fact.

  73. Peter M says:

    After reading all these excellent posts- I can gather the following.

    1. Americans have become exceeding selfish & Intellectually dumb The past 30 years, many blindly aspiring to the ‘Atlas Shrugged’ philosophy of the now largely discredited writer Ayn Rand.

    2. Obama is not the leader we needed to fight big oil, the corporations and the daily ‘1984ish’ nightmare of ‘Big Brother’ in this case the conservative Propaganda ministry daily ‘hate’ from Fox News, Limbaugh penetrating the airwaves like those in the Orwellian nightmare novel ‘1984’.

    3.The fact remains now is that the economy is headed toward the abyss again- since the ultra right republican ‘Tea Party’ has no solutions to solve the issues we face today-)including Climate change) but instead regresses back- either to 1980 or the 1920’s for inspiration and guidance in seeking ‘real America’.

    4. The hope for a limit in CO2 peaking in 2020 is now gone. Perhaps 2030 is a goal we can begin to have faith in- however that still means CO at 450ppmv in 2030- and a rise of 3 degrees C – We are still on a rise of C02 at a ‘high emission scenario’ which means the doomsday outcomes at mid and late century remain on track.

    5. Finally, for Obama- his failure on this issue is disappointing- but the US remains a largely conservative country – and it has about ‘swung’ as far to the right as it can go- 30 years after the ‘Age of Reagan’- that pendulum will shift again back to the left- and can rather sharply as it did in 1932.

    6. A shift to a very progressive policy in social issues and the environment could happen fast- all we need is an event or group of events that changes the public’s apathy and indifference- and this will change us from a selfish indulgent materialist bourgeois- to something entirely different. Its happened before.

  74. Allen Robinson says:

    I am disheartened by the fact that Fox News, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, et. al. are winning the hearts and minds of enough folks in the US to produce the mid-term election result we just witnessed.

    I was utterly dismayed to learn the results of a Bloomberg National Poll conducted Oct. 24-26 that found, by an astounding two-to-one margin, that likely voters in the Nov. 2 midterm elections thought that during the Obama administration taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk in the last five quarters, and the billions lent to banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) won’t be recovered, when in fact none of this is true.

    By 52 percent to 19 percent, likely voters said federal income taxes have gone up for the middle class in the past two years. Even many Democrats, 43 percent, hold this misperception.

    Please read the whole article to see what we are up against:

    Democrats and the Obama administration are failing to counter Right-wing disinformation!

  75. Climate Warrior says:

    “Obama hasn’t merely failed to get a climate bill. Given the self-described (and self-inflicted) “shellacking” the president received Tuesday, he has made it all but impossible for a return to such an alignment of the stars this decade.”

    No action for ten years? Do we really think that the scientists, the businesses, the American citizens that understand the peril we are facing are going to sleep, are going to surrender for the next decade? I do not accept that analysis. I have engaged in local politics for a long time in a conservative area, and I believe we can align the stars again.

    Take heart! If my community is any example, just one citizen can turn the tide of conversation and action on sustainability and climate change.

    I try to ignore the people that would derail me. They know not what they do. I do my best to forgive them and move on, even when they leave me crying in the privacy of my home. I find joking around with them helps. And if it gets ugly, I say, “Isn’t it wonderful that you can think what you think, and I can think what I think in this country. God bless America!” They don’t know what to say to that, and it gives me a graceful way out of the interaction.

    I do not believe that the most well-funded, devious propaganda from the fossil fuel industry will win the day. There are too many people that believe deep down that we are on a dangerous path of self-destruction and that we must change.

    Joe, thank you for your blog. It keeps me informed and engaged in the science, as I fight the good fight in the political arena. It sustains me in the fight I refuse to give up. Yes we can.

  76. Tony Noerpel says:

    A lot of good stuff here. I know Bill McKibben and Mike Tidwell have discussed, maybe not seriously, forming a third party and I see it mentioned here in some posts. I told Mike that that would take money. The Tea Party was well financed by David Koch and FOX. It would be tough to compete. But maybe that’s what we have to do.

  77. Roger Wehage says:

    Serious climate change (and peak oil) mitigation will demand drastic cutbacks (80-90% by many estimates) in material resource and energy consumption and unprecedented sacrifices and shrinkage of world economies. Such cutbacks will impact our lifestyles, including housing, transportation, food, luxuries, and incomes. We can’t expect that wind and solar will fill the fossil fuel void in the coming decades; it’s not there yet. See Pat Murphy’s Plan C for a glance into the future. Those who blame the government for inaction should look directly into their mirrors and ask exactly what they are prepared to sacrifice for future generations. The answers will surprise and disappoint most of us. Yes we can talk the talk, but we won’t walk the walk.

    Californians want climate change, but they will rebel at changing their lifestyles when the cards are dealt. Here is California’s Energy Plan and Energy Roadmap. The Plan and Roadmap are much too vague and don’t go nearly far enough. The plan makers dare not spell out the true sacrifices Californians will face, or they will flush it into the cesspool along with all other failed plans.

  78. Raul M. says:

    In Florida public school portable
    classrooms could use a radiant
    barrier paint on the roofs.

  79. Greg Gorman says:

    Which elections were you watching? All the exit polls indicate that jobs and the economy were the top issues with climate change issues on the back burner. Both parties will soon be convinced, as Scientific America reported the day after the election , “A clean tech boom on the stock markets is being predicted by one of Europe’s leading sustainability investment funds, and the boom will be fuelled by Chinese companies.” We should be encouraging the President and our legislatures to do the “peoples’ business” and point the US toward a Clean Energy Economy.

    Check out these polling results:

    Susan Kramer posts “Of the 211 Democrats who voted for the Waxman-Markey cap and trade climate bill, 170 have been re-elected so far – as of close counts through today.
    Climate hawks got 80% approval. Climate zombies? Just 37% approval.” She later updated her post that the WONKROOM tally is 81% approval. Clearly if the youth vote, who strongly supports climate action, had participated in the election, maybe things would have been different.

    “There is no mandate for GOP climate positions in this election. Quite the contrary: a series of recent polls shows that a commanding majority of the public continues to support clean energy and climate legislation. A full 62 percent of independents, for instance, see global warming as a problem that justifies national leadership, according to a survey commissioned by the nonprofit Civil Society Institute. Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported that 87 percent of Americans favor legislation that would require utilities to generate more electricity from renewable sources, such as solar and wind. And 78 percent favor tougher energy efficiency standards. Numbers like these constitute a mandate. That is why NRDC will continue to push lawmakers to pass the clean energy and climate policies that create American jobs, grow our economy, and cut dangerous pollution. And we will also keep up the fight to prevent the clock from being turned back on the existing environmental protections we all enjoy.

    “CHARLOTTE, NC, November 1, 2010 – Building officials from across the nation voted to support historic gains in the energy efficiency of building energy codes at the Final Action Hearings for the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). As a result, the energy efficiency of America’s 2012 model energy code for new homes
    and commercial buildings will likely achieve the 30 percent boost sought by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of State Energy Officials, Congress and the broad-based Energy Efficient Codes Coalition (EECC). “

  80. Roger Wehage says:

    Climate Warrior @75

    Please tell us exactly what you are doing or are proposing to do to mitigate climate change. But keep in mind that climate scientists warn us that serious CO2 reduction must start now or at least no later than 2012 if we are ever to achieve the 350 ppmv level they consider to be safe.

  81. Ben Lieberman says:

    What will not work:

    Endless cycle of hand-wringing and defeatism

    Repeated and excessive attacks on President Obama–he’s the only President your going to get for some time who even believes that global warming is real.

    Forming an easily ignored and marginalized third party–now a political climate movement would be a different thing

    Thinking that local action will be sufficient: yes, try to provide and example and do what you can but your efforts by themselves cannot counteract collective addiction to fossil fuels. This needs to be made abundantly clear: it might feel good to work on the local level but unless those local efforts are focused on bringing about massive change at the national and global levels, they will have little to no effect

    There were a few rounds of posts at the time of the collapse of cap-and-trade on the way forward and the results were not very heartening–mainly more advice to do the same things–as for my own views, I’ve already posted them above (post 43)

  82. Wit's End says:

    #43, Ben Lieberman said:

    “Climate hawks need to get back to the drawing board because whatever we are doing now is plainly not enough. It’s time to also start being a lot more direct and honest about what is at stake…Well we need a new inconvenient truth, and we need one that will shake the nation.”

    Haha! Just by coincidence, yesterday I started a draft for a flier that I plan to hand out (while dressed as a tree) at the upcoming Pricing Carbon Conference ( – still time to register!)

    Another, even MORE
    Inconvenient Truth

    “The U.S. soybean crop is suffering nearly $2 billion in damage a year due to rising surface ozone concentrations harming plants and reducing the crop’s yield potential, a NASA-led study has concluded.”

    For decades, scientists have reported that ozone is toxic to vegetation. As it is currently causing billions of dollars of losses in annual crops, what do you suppose it is doing to long-lived species – trees and shrubs – that suffer from cumulative exposure, year after year?

    Answer: it’s killing them. Trees are dying everywhere on earth, at a rapidly accelerating rate, from the inexorably rising level of global background tropospheric ozone.

    What are the implications of a world without trees? Much the same as the parallel acidification of the ocean, destroying coral reefs – a collapse of the entire ecosystem. All of the species that depend upon trees for habitat, shelter, and food – including humans – will go extinct. Without the carbon sink of photosynthesis, climate change will become even worse than the worst predictions.

    Absolutely, there should be a very high price on carbon. But this is a failed strategy. It’s not working! It’s time to scare the wits out of people and tell them that what is most urgently at risk is dinner on the table – not just polar bears in the arctic and butterflies in Madagascar. It’s time not just to tax dirty fuel, but to ration it.

    The causality is proven. The only reticence preventing scientists and activists from stating the obvious is denial.

  83. Lewis C says:

    Unless the DoE graph of PO is wrong to show that there are no known oil supplies to avoid scarcity starting in 2012 (14 months hence) and shortfalls in global supply rising to >4%/yr thereafter, Obama is simply not a viable candidate for re-election.

    How could he possibly win, from his present polls, with two more years of MSM smears, and stasis and more smears from the legislatures, and then a new oil-price spike and economic collapse occuring just as he tries to fire up the activists for his campaign ? $5 gas is a lethally potent argument in GOP hands.

    I’ve not heard any coherent refutation of the DoE finding, but perhaps I’ve missed something relevant ? If so, I wish Joe would do a post on it, for un-affordable oil supply is a critical issue for any climate strategy from here onwards.

    Assuming the DoE finding is correct, and that Obama thus has no serious prospect of re-election, there are three main choices:
    1/. – cling to Obama and see the collapse of significant change for 6 to 10 years;
    2/. – advance the discussion of a third party and, at best, detract votes from Obama in 2012, thus again achieving the outcome of option 1/.;
    3/. – assemble sufficient focus to present a viable candidate to replace Obama in 2012.

    Option 3/. offers no guarantee of success of course, but it does offer far greater chance of success than either 1/. or 2/., in that the candidate could use the climate issue as a (70%) rallying point justifying the essential industrial renewal, could oppose the corrupt denialism head on, and, with the right candidate, could speak from experience of the economic and ecological benefits of that renewal in contrast to the default do-nothing fossil-based GOP state policies.

    Moreover, even in losing either the selection to Obama, or, like Obama, losing the election to the GOP, that candidate would have achieved a major shift in US politics by making the climate jeopardy case at a national level, where the MSM and pundits would automatically give it coverage.

    Thus in winning, option 3/. is ideal, while in losing it would be hugely preferable to either options 1/. or 2/. Given the circumstances, I suggest that we have nothing to lose by going flat out to find, recruit and promote that viable candidate.



  84. Kota says:

    It should not come as a ‘comfort’ to any one that Obamas base is still out here! WE didn’t abandon his campaign promises – He did! As early as when he said “Make me do it.” Since when do the masses that elected him need to force him to give voice to and act on the very matters that got him elected? Time and time and time again, instead of standing up on the issues we fought for because he said he backed them, he did nothing or actually did the opposite.

    We are still here. Millions of us. We are still for the public option, we are still for clean energy, we are still for civil liberties, we are still for etc. etc. etc.

    We are still passionate. Where did the damn leader go?

    We’ve got two years … and I would definitely vote a progressive/green party ticket all the way down to dog catcher and I think millions of others would too. I think we could make that happen if every fraction – all the environmental groups, all the progressive groups, all the wildlife groups, civil liberty groups would come together and create one party with leaders that would actually walk the talk. You don’t need corporate donations if you can get the votes without them. Obama had the people because he talked the talk, and he lost the people because he stopped talking and walked in the opposite direction.

    We are still shocked at the magnitude of this deception. We are NOT defeated if we can just pull it together again, with 350, with Obamas current climate group, with Greenwald and WWF, and Greenpeace and and AND!! It could happen and frankly there is no other game in town.

  85. Raul M. says:

    It’s not only human life at risk.
    A squirmy inclination.

  86. Joan Savage says:

    Obama couldn’t fix the economy enough in two years to make the unemployed and the small businesses happy. The lumpy “shovel-ready” stimulus to state and local governments was well-intentioned, but it didn’t reach the people who needed it most.

    To break the recession we need new market niches that merit hiring labor. Small businesses are a big part of the flex in hiring capacity. Let’s push to fix the economy via low-cost capital loans to small businesses that expand clean energy capacity and conserve fuel use. That could be creative or just plain solid: build or fix sidewalks, extend bike paths, improve insulation on commercial and residential buildings, electric minibuses for short commuter routes, electric vans for local produce distribution. All include labor intensive and local components, jobs that can’t be outsourced offshore. Enabling the businesses means the labor capacity develops. In contrast, one-time contracts from government agencies do not stabilize employment long term, and tend to funnel dollars through fewer employers.

    The health care reform for small businesses was a really good thing and ought to be praised along the way.

  87. Wit's End says:

    I should add that another virtue of emphasizing the effects of ozone on the biosphere is that it will deter the insane reliance on geoengineering to cool the planet instead of cutting emissions, as described by Clive Hamilton here:

  88. gecko says:

    The president has consistently kept his conversation at a very high level.

    HuffPostPol HuffPost Politics
    Obama analyzes election thrashing in sit-down interview.

  89. Jeff Huggins says:

    Quick Responses (just a few)

    Roger (Comment 57), I look forward to seeing your ideas!

    Dan B (Comment 63), assuming I understand you correctly, I agree with your points here. Economics should (and must) consider, account for, reflect, and respect “basic systems that support life”. And I agree that we should push for that until we’re blue in the face.

    Conway (68), I’d be happy to address your question regarding Disney via e-mail if you’ll send me an e-mail. My e-mail address is jeff AT thewindingriver DOT org . In a nutshell, although I think that Disney — as a corporation — can and should be doing much, much more to help society face and address global warming, I always remain optimistic and idealistic and fond of Disney, and efforts regarding Disney should try to prompt them to become more involved, and speak out on behalf of the climate and environment, rather than beat them with a club (figuratively speaking) by boycotting them. Boycotts are for ExxonMobil. Pleas and prompts are for Disney. That said, they ARE part of the media, and they do have news media (ABC news), and they certainly have to get their act together there. In any case, Be Well.



  90. We’re frog soup in my opinion. And here is why:

    BTW I read every comment. Man I love this blog.

  91. John McCormick says:

    RE # 35


    your sarcastic criticism hurled at anonymous #15 was way off base and particularly how you wrapped up your screed.

    That person was being honest and frustrated as yo are and shared it with us. Would you have he/she self immolate on the White House lawn to prove disgust for the insiders.

    I am with you on your anger but be a bit more discerning to whom and how you vent it.

    John McCormick

  92. Leif says:

    Now the battle is BLACK & WHITE, not all those shades of gray.

  93. Leif says:

    I apologize if I offended you #15, with my frustration. (As pointed out by John above) That was not my intention as I just got absorbed with the flow. I plead a history of Aspergers syndrome and dubious social development.

  94. Lewis C says:

    Kota –

    yours at #85 was posted while mine at #84 was in moderation.

    I concur entirely with your observation of the massive ongoing potential support for progressive politics, and also of the need for an end to defunct conformist strategies – not least because of Obama’s squandering of the critical youth vote which, having been pissed on, is now very unlikely to be inspired to strive for his re-election in the summer of 2012.

    Yet the practical prospects of success of the new party you propose seem remote to me. Consider the sea-change in voting we’d need to achieve, taking both the majority of democrat votes – and a lot of independent votes – and some GOP votes – from a standing start in less than 24 months. And we’d have to achieve that, without corporate funding, despite the concerted cross-fire of both the Democrat & GOP party machines, and of the fossil corporations, and of the fossil/saudi-owned MSM.

    This is not to belittle the voting potential of progressives, but to observe the impracticality of either the green party or a new organization winning the presidency in 2012.

    And if progressives’ votes are not successful in getting an actually progressive president in 2012, then, with Obama’s predictable dismissal, we’ll face a ‘denialist’ GOP presidency with a miopic covert policy of global climate genocide as a means of upholding US hegemony and fossil interests’ dominance.

    Therefore I’d commend the option described in #84 of finding a viable, progressive, climate-focussed candidate to replace Obama in the 2012 election. That we could achieve, given sufficient effort, and, with the right candidate, we could not only enliven and activate the youth vote, we could also take advantage of the rising curve of all the climate impacts on the electorate during the next two years. In addition, we should benefit from some of the coalition of interests that helped defend California’s AB32, many of whom know that a GOP president in 2012 would crunch their businesses’ growth and endanger society in general.

    This is a potentially viable strategy into which to pour our passion and commitment – and I’d appreciate your thoughts on it.



  95. Roger Wehage says:

    Jeff @90: “I always remain optimistic and idealistic and fond of Disney…”

    Ah, yes, Disney, purveyor of the plasticized America.

    James Howard Kunstler said, in reference to …[his] visit to interview the husband-and-wife “star” architects (starchitects, we now say) Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown, “I was in the early information-gathering stage of the book and was unsure which authorities in this-our-nation-under-God might help me understand why America had become such a nightmarish panorama of highway strips and cartoon housing subdivisions. I really wanted to know.”

  96. John McCormick says:

    RE # 94


    thank you for that note to # 15. I think of him/her as a victim also and one with a great heart, courage and focus.

    John McCormick

  97. David Smith says:

    Right now the environmental forces are fractured. The number of this persuasion that would consider AGW as the primary concern to be addressed before all others is small. We have companies trying to place solar collectors in the southwestern US and environmental groups opposing such development in protection of local natural habitat. To assume that all environmentalists will unit under this cause is premature. Much work needs to be done in this area to accomplish directed unity.

    Progressive politics focused on healthcare reform and abandoned clean energy.

  98. Peter Cook says:

    Joe, Obama bears only 5% of the responsibility for not passing climate legislation? I’m afraid that only shows how low your expectations are for a president. I would give him 75%. The right wing, anti-science crowd has been around since Independence and we all knew they would not go quietly. But we did not expect is that Obama would not lead from the front and state what he believes and why. I am severely disappointed in him and not because I am over on the far left. I am in the center but want an adult as president and adults in the Democratic Party – and adults state reality and do not delay pain. They could say, We believe in using market economics and price signals to solve problems like climate change and energy dependence on foreign countries. When Reps said, “it’s a tax”, the Dems should have said, “Darn right it is – so you’ll use less. But here’s a break on social security taxes.” I agree with Tomasky’s excellent piece. Obama needs to damn the torpedoes and lead with a political philosophy people can hang their hat on.

    [JR: Well, 60 votes in the Senate — and a incredibly well funded disinformation campaign and status quo media — are brutal hurdles. Still, he never took a serious shot so we’ll never know.]

  99. peter whitehead says:

    Don’t worry, Joe. There won’t be very many generations to blame us.

    [JR: Harsh! But seriously, humans are too adaptable to face extinction anytime soon. In the worst case, yes, many, many billions of people suffer severe deprivation — and rich countries are suffering so much they are in little position to offer much help. But there will still be plenty of people around for a long time to curse our greed and myopia.]

  100. Roger Wehage says:

    Obama’s biggest failure may have been that he didn’t use the 2010 census data to round up and intern the opposition before election day. ☺

  101. paulm says:

    Healthcare. Good bill, wrong timing. Totally got that one wrong.

    It wont be long before everyone is aware what climate warming means. 2012 is likely going to be the hottest year on record by some way. This will be crippling even for the US.

    I cant see global civilization surviving much past a 1C warming.
    The ice sure wont if they are already melting exponentially. SLR acceleration 2mm/yr, 4mm/yr and now 9mm/yr.!/note.php?note_id=162758007090297

  102. DRT says:

    So what would it take now to get Obama’s attention now? Clearly the little election kerfuffle got his attention. It shows that the Exxon/Koch/Rove… money machine can buy lots of votes. But anyway what can we do now? I want to hear him say everyday, “It’s the climate, stupid”. So what can we do? Don’t pay your taxes? Hmmmm…..I don’t know if I have the necessary intestinal fortitude to do that. Go chain myself to the White House fence. Even thousands of people chained to the White House fence would barely get a blip on the national consciousness. So here is a simple idea. I’ll call it ‘No Power Hour’. Ever Sat. at noon (eastern) shut everything off, hit all the circuit breakers, don’t get in the car, go for a walk. come back in at 1:00 and power back up. If enough folks did this for long enough would anyone pay attention?

  103. Richard Brenne says:

    I noticed one comment reply to my comment at #66 (originally #54), and that the utterly predictable Jimmy Carter comment. The reason is that we’re all spending most of our time lying to ourselves that the paradigm of relentless growth that we’ve known can continue indefinitely. It cannot and will not.

    That said, the comments and commenters here at CP are better than those anywhere else that I know of. But we’re still having the greatest difficulty getting deep enough to the real root of the problem.

    The problem is that there are simply too many of us consuming (and thus polluting) way too much, and most of the design of the global, national and even local economies is to enrich the few at the expense of the many.

    In my comment at #66 I use “survival” as a kind of shorthand for all the problems we face. When you and essentially all your loved ones die of starvation/violence/disease it doesn’t matter so much to you about our species extinction, because as far as you’re concerned it’s already happened.

    The big picture view shows us we are all (except for many commenting here) lying to ourselves that the civilization we’ve built can continue as is, and Obama, Disney and everyone else we mention is basically lying to us as a result.

    In human history the very few who tell the truth are the ones that change the world more than all the liars put together, and include Buddha, the Bible prophets and their followers, St. Francis of Assisi, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Eugene Debs, often Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, John Muir, Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

    They are known to us in about the proportion that they told us difficult truths that many if not most people didn’t want to hear.

    Now we need to hear the ultimate truth about what we’ve done and are doing at a rapidly accelerating rate to end our civilization if not our species.

    So yes, imagining Obama saying what I said is absurd. ( It isn’t a practical suggestion, it’s a dream.) And yes, it would make no sense politically. And yes, he’d have to have the immense courage of everyone on that list. And yes, he’s in a terrible predicament that nothing can
    solve. . .except honesty.

    I for one am absolutely sick to death of being lied to by virtually everyone virtually all the time.

    We will continue to go nowhere but down with more lies, even politically correct and politically expedient ones. The very few (many of them right here at CP) who can face the full truth and who choose to tell the full truth are our only hope.

    We can’t predict rosy outcomes, but the power of the truth is really the only power there is, and it is transformative.

  104. Leif says:

    Reply John @ 97: I was thinking of “Anonymous @15” as an ear to the President and an opportunity to give my insights/opinions to the inner circle. I Voted for President Obama and would do so again today. The President is a Lawyer and a President and can surely take much more than I can dish. There was nothing personal to “Anonymous” intended. I am proud of the fact that “Anonymous” has seen fit to comment on CP and it is testimony to the quality, honesty, and effort of Joe and all the contributers that make this sight valuable and at times even inspirational.
    Hopefully reading Climate Progress is on someone’s, (perhaps even “Anonymous’) job description and not just an accidental encounter.

  105. Lorien says:

    Theodore #34 and Sailesh #37 are right. Environmentalists need to stop thinking in anthropocentric/economic terms and instead figure out how humans can live with the rest of the species, plant and animal, on this earth. Animal rightists get looked on askance by environmentalists for suggesting that other species should have rights, or personhood, but defining “good” solely in terms of what is good for human economic growth is the wrong way to go about protecting the environment. Without “rights” or standing to redress injury in court, the economy will trump nature every time. Many animal rights people (myself included), argue that animals should have standing in court on their own terms, not as property. Relatedly, law professor Christopher Stone has argued that natural environments should have standing in court, and that injuries to them be evaluated as injuries to them, not as economic injuries to the humans who live near them or want to visit them or whatever. Radical? In the psychological sense only (the fear of no more animal slaves and no more Ikea furniture), it’s not terribly radical in the legal sense. Corporations have standing, so why not animals and environments? It is a change that needs to happen. Anthropocentrism has lead us pretty much to the brink of climate disaster and is, as a mode of living on this earth, completely unsustainable. See “The Earth Has Its Own Set of Rules”

    “Our anthropocentric economic model needs to be reconceived, incorporating Earth’s rules, to become an Earth-centered, “terracentric” model. Stewardship needs to progress from a condescending view of humans tending their “garden” to an effort to become part of Earth without disrupting its vital functions. Ecosystem services need to advance from recognition of services to humans to recognition of services to our planet. We need to find ways to avoid changing Earth in irreversible directions. We need to soberly evaluate anthropocentric economics’ sacred cow, growth, in light of sustainability. And we need to think beyond our own brief lifetimes. Most important, in the new terracentric model, we need to acknowledge that there is nothing more important than preserving the viability of planet Earth. Nothing.”

    How to do that is the question. I would have said that part of the answer lies in the courts, as the guardians of non-majority rights, however in the US at least, the Supreme Court seems to have abdicated that function (and a less animal or nature friendly court I cannot even imagine by the way…). Theodore suggests International courts and trials for species genocide. We need some brave lawyers.

  106. Kota says:

    Lewis #95

    Unfortunately Obamas other failure was to finally nail that the Democratic Party cannot be trusted to hold forth on the issues they campaign on. I doubt anyone that identifies as a Dem or Rep are ever going to get the kind of support Obama had. They cannot know ever again that they are not being lied to. There is an even larger % of potential support for a different party. There are people that use to identify as Republican until it went insane. There are a % of Republicans that have watched McCain flip and flop in Arizona. They do not know how he could have been elected in Arizona. The rotten has invaded both parties. Association with any of them needs to be wiped clean. There are progressive republicans with no where to go as well as progressive dems with nowhere to go. They don’t trust each other and they don’t trust themselves. Even the word ‘progressive’ has a democratic association and should be dropped along with teaparty. I’m talking a new government of mature individuals that won’t treat the country as if it’s a football game between two teams and the people be damned. If we can’t get the finest minds in the USA to drop the stupid football idea of red vs blue, those that understand the dire need for a change NOW and get them together to try to bring some sanity to this situation then it’s over.
    Nevermind an international agreement – can we get a caucus in the USA to agree on a new direction? A REAL one?
    The first step is a summit. Here in the USA. They know each other. They know the names they need at it. Is there the will to do it? I’ve the will to support it.

  107. Lewis C says:

    Richard – my compliments on your posts at 66 & 104. Truth-telling is the single essential component of effective reform on which all else rests. In this regard the gap between ending denial and acknowledging the real urgency, and thus the requisite policies, is just as great as that between denial and acknowledging AGW.

    With regard to Obama’s plain-spoken honesty being a dream, I think you are probably right in light of his self-censorship to date, and particularly his cat-skinning remarks after the mid-terms debacle. But, with his failure, “Cometh the hour, cometh the man . . .” (or perhaps at best, for racially-aware gender-sensitive US tastes, “Cometh the Latino woman”).

    Churchill’s rise to power was a case in point – not until appeasement had blatantly failed and allied forces had been harried off the beaches of France did the establishment and the British people choose to listen to him. In a seminal radio address he then chose to tell them that he “Had nothing to offer them but blood, sweat and tears, and, eventually, victory over the nazis’ tyranny.”

    Hell of a thing to say to a nation that believed it was about to be invaded by irresistible enemy forces – but saying anything less honest would not have stiffened the national resolve to fight on, un-aided and regardless of losses, to the goal of eventual victory.

    We now have two years before the election that would, in all probability, see Obama dismissed, in which candidates for Churchill’s US equivalent can prepare the ground with accurate speeches on our jeopardy, just as Churchill did throughout the ’30s. (Notably, without that preparation, he’d not have been given power at the critical moment).

    One of the huge advantages that such candidates hold is that they’re not constrained by the protocols of government – they can speak candidly of the unmentionable threat of climate destabilization and the hobbling impact of looming peak oil. At the point where these become nationally obvious damages, those candidates are proven correct and are shown to be capable of strategically effective leadership, while the appeasers and deniers are utterly discredited.

    At issue is just what platform such candidates should be aiming for, and when – (in my view the presidency in 2012 seems both necessary and potentially achievable) – and just where those people of sufficient calibre, experience and standing may be found.

    I’ve a few ideas of possible candidates but I know little of the spread of US politicians’ cv.s. So, if the idea of helping to get ‘plain speakers’ into positions of national prominence appeals to you, I’d be interested to read your thoughts on who you’d see as the best potential candidates.



  108. Dean says:

    Unlike so many of you, I’m not really that disappointed in the Obama administration, mainly because I had low expectations. I had low expectations not because of any particular opinion about him, but because I believe this country’s problems are systemic, and no president, no matter how visionary, is the solution.

    I also think it’s naive to think that had he been more forceful or had different priorities, that it would have turned out much different. I suppose that if you’re gonna go down politically, it’s better to do so fighting. But that’s not going to matter much once hell and high water arrives.

    Every tactic he used now comes in for criticism. But this reminds of how the pundits always say that losing candidates had a terrible campaign and the winners had a great one. It’s all hindsight and none of it guarantees that a different tactic would have had a different result.

    It’s impossible to know what will happen in 2012. The Rs have a strong circular firing squad tendency, so I think he has a good chance for reelection. But that isn’t going to make passing the kind of climate bill that we actually need particularly easy or likely. And even if we did, that doesn’t guarantee that China and India will, though it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

    So this isn’t a failed presidency, it is a failed democracy.

  109. Lewis C says:

    Kota – what you propose is appealing as a vision, but in practical terms within the time frame imposed by the demands of climate it is surely a non-starter.

    Even the leadership talents of Ghandi and King (which are not currently available) took many many years to show results,
    and those campaigns were for far less transformative goals than we now seek,
    and each was advanced under the relatively favourable circumstances of an essentially supportive press and also the controlling governments’ knowledge of a looming need for mass recruitment to the military.

    By contrast, the campaign you propose for rapidly winning power for a new party would face the delay, if not eradication, by intense and supremely well-funded suppression from the entire establishment machine, as a matter of self-defence.

    From this perspective I feel I should ask whether you subscribe to the theory that American democracy has to be reformed into a working multi-party system before serious action on climate can be given priority ?

    My problem with the theory is that climate destabilization simply won’t wait that long before accelerating the feedback loops beyond any prospect of our control. Thus it is imperative that we adopt the shortest possible route to putting an honest effective leader into power – and that for me is about replacing Obama with a viable candidate for 2012.



  110. Jeff Huggins says:

    A Bit Bothered By “Anonymous 15”

    Dare I say it, although I appreciate the interesting and well-written inside insights — if they are credible inside insights — from Anonymous 15, I’m a bit (or perhaps a lot?) discomforted and confused by an important part of the take-away. So, perhaps I’ll ask Anonymous 15 for a clarification or explanation of where I’m going wrong, if I’m going wrong:

    Probably the scariest thing (although not a surprising one) that Anonymous 15 points out is the complacent inside careerism and “yes person” attitude (don’t rock the boat) that apparently exists among a great many of the folks that are only one or two levels removed from the President and his senior-most advisers. And Anonymous 15 herself (or himself) admits that as being one of the scariest things.

    Yet, then, why doesn’t Anonymous 15 speak up and (in a civil fashion, but in no unclear terms) rock the boat and state the stakes? Why doesn’t Anonymous 15 and two friends, or better yet three, make a statement to the WH leaders and quit if it’s not taken seriously? Indeed, if that were to happen, then Anonymous 15’s statement would either get through to the top folks, or if he/she were fired, Anonymous 15 could go to the press and explain what it’s like inside the White House in the same way she/he has done here.

    The reason I ask this question is that there are many, many, many people who complain about the careerist “don’t rock the boat” complacency, and then they turn around a practice it to perfection themselves. Everyone has an excuse. Ask Andy Revkin, for example, why he didn’t march upstairs to the top floor and insist that The New York Times improve its coverage of global warming long ago (when he was with them), or else quit and make a “big statement” if they didn’t. He’ll have reasons and excuses. Ask Rex Tillerson why he’s steering ExxonMobil the way he’s doing it. He’ll have reasons and excuses. Ask the ExxonMobil Board members why they are steering EM that way — for example, one of them is a Prof at Harvard B-School, in organizational behavior and leadership, and has even written books having to do with values and leadership with integrity. He’ll have reasons and excuses. So, after hearing about the careerist complacency and don’t-rock-the-boat attitude in the White House, I’d like to ask Anonymous 15 what her or his reasons and excuses are?

    I’m sorry to ask the question in such “blunt” terms. I do appreciate the inside insight, if it’s credible. But, given that one of the largest problems certainly IS the sort of complacency that Anonymous 15 mentions, does Anonymous 15 see that even junior-level people play a role in that and, indeed, can begin to bring an end to that? Indeed, even at Anonymous 15’s level, perhaps the greatest thing that he/she could possibly do — and indeed it would get quite a bit of coverage, if done right — would be to quit and tell it like it is. But I know — their must be some sort of reason not to.

    In any case, I’m open and eager to hear where I’ve gone wrong? All I know is that, in my discussions with all sorts of people in many disciplines, it is (quite frequently) the “can’t do that” or “don’t rock the boat” aspect of things that blocks progresses. Everybody wants the OTHER discipline to rock the boat, or to change, or the OTHER organization, or the OTHER people, but 99.98 percent of us don’t want to do even so much as to ask the boss a tough question. So what’s the plan?



  111. Jeff Huggins says:

    Sorry for the typos and misspellings in my just-previous message. Oops.


  112. Tom Gibbons says:

    There was never enough of a Democratic majority to pass a climate bill. Given the number of Democrats from coal and oil regions or otherwise hostile to a climate bill, it would have taken at least 68 or 70 Democrats in the Senate to muster 60 votes to close debate. There will never be a climate bill unless some Republicans are brought around to supporting it. That could not have happened before the election because of the party discipline imposed to attempt to deprive Obama of any legislative victories. That is true in spite of several Republicans who know climate action is necessary. McCain, for example, must know that even though he was forced into a tea-party mode for the election. Now there will be splits in the Republican ranks as the new tea people try to impose their will on older Republicans. Instead of exploiting differences with Obama to rip at the Democratic seams, I suggest exploiting the tea-party stress in the Republican ranks to peel off some Republican support for climate action.

  113. Richard Brenne says:

    Lewis C (#108) – Right back at ya. Your comment at 108 is actually a complete and powerful essay. I’m hoping that someday Joe can have a staff who finds all-star comments like yours that become postings themselves, or are put in some sort of hall of fame category.

    Comments like Dean’s (#109) just after yours is also amazing, as are really every comment in this thread.

    There are some old Dems who’ve really impressed me with their candor, including former Colorado Senators Tim Wirth (PhD from Stanford) and Gary Hart (PhD from Oxford – where are the Republican PhDs?), and of course Al Gore. They are each in positions where they can be candid, which is very difficult for those campaigning or in office.

    And honesty alone is not enough. One can find a way to tell no lies (unless that one is a current Republican) without telling any meaningful truths. Candor is the telling of truths that need to be told.

    Of course I’m a big fan of Van Jones here at American Progress, but my favorite truth-tellers include Joe Romm, Jim Hansen, Bill McKibben and commenters like you, Dean, Mike Roddy, Leif Knutsen, Colorado Bob, Richard Pauli, Jeff Huggins and Gail Zawacki (Wit’s End).

    I’d like to see each of these people and others like them grow their audiences (also John Cook at Skeptical Science and Peter Sinclair at “Climate Denial Crock of the Week) more and more all the time.

    Seeking a Winston Churchhill, Franklin Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln is tough. They don’t appear to come along very often. Interestingly Churchhill and Roosevelt were contemporaries, as were Hitler, Stalin and a little later Mao.

    Extraordinary times create extraordinary leaders, for good or evil. But WWII was an infinitely simpler sell. Every Brit agreed their nation was bombarded by the Germans, just as every American agreed the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. If you put the Republicans of today back in time they’d say “What bombs?” in London while they were exploding all around them.

    You are very wise to tell us to sew, water and nurture all the seeds we can now, waiting for the inevitable “fire next time” or actually many fires. My own feeling is that while climate change is the uppercut that can knock us out, Peak Oil is already the jab that’s broken our nose. Five of the last six recessions were preceeded by dramatic oil shocks such as the spike to $147 a barrel on July 11, 2008. While part of that was a speculative bubble, there was some underlying geology as well.

    So I’d be prepared for any amount of chaos and economic collapse for myriad reasons. Climate change is a huge and ultimately the largest factor, but it won’t be the earliest or easiest to discern.

    I don’t know all the steps we must take, but I do know the first and most important: We all need to tell the truth, loudly, all the time, and in every medium. Climate Progress is at the hub of this wheel of truth, and you, my friend, and all my other friends here are a huge part of the overall equation.

    I do feel we need to ride the Obama horse as effectively as possible for as long as possible. Unless he’d also appointed Hansen, we couldn’t do much better than Chu, Holdren and Lubchenco as key advisors. And Obama is an extremely bright, likeable and caring guy who can get it as much as anyone. We’ve seen the James Buchanan in him, now we need to see the Abraham Lincoln.

  114. Lewis C says:

    Tom – where is the evidence that Obama, having gone to extraordinary discreditable lengths to ensure that the senate climate bill was not presented for debate, now has or ever has had any commitment to getting such a bill passed ?

    Given the track record of his inaction and obstruction (that I’ve listed at #29),
    why should we have any faith in his will to address climate destabilization ? His recent cat-skinning remarks show only a will for yet further appeasement.

    Given both his performance and the insuperable obstacles to his re-election – including the disillusioned youth activists, progressives, environmentalists, the lack of economic recovery with oil at $85 and rising, and the predictable oil-price spike and economic crash, why would you want to stick with this character as the candidate for 2012 ?



  115. Ron Gremban says:

    How about Nancy Pelosi as a viable 2012 presidential candidate? Though her age could be a liability, she is a fighter and managed, against long odds, to get a Cap and Trade bill passed by her House. And she has not given up, running (no doubt successfully) for minority leader while saying “No one can take away my power.”

    However, in spite of everything talked about here, it would no doubt be a huge hurtle for anyone other than Obama to win the 2012 primaries, and it will no doubt require hugely improved Democratic messaging, in the face of Supreme-court-approved disinformation funding the likes of which we have never seen before, to lead disillusioned voters of all strips toward intelligent rather than reactive voting.

  116. Windsong says:

    Beautifully said, #104 (Richard Brenne). And I know of no one who is as Truthful and Blunt as the author, Derrick Jensen– especially in his book “What We Leave Behind”. We need people like him in the public eye!

  117. Tom Gibbons says:

    I didn’t mean to discuss Obama in #113 but rather just tried to point out that progress on a major climate bill is not possible without some Republican support, and there is probably some of that out there if a few of them can be cut from the herd.

    However, since we are dumping on the president so much, let me say that I think he has mainly been opportunistic in what he has supported. There were (and are) people shouting (at least metaphorically) in his ear to address all sorts of problems that have been neglected for too long. Pretty much all of them have a good case for action. He has responded by picking out bills to support for which there is enough Democratic support along with a smattering of Republican support to make passage likely. Those issues that do have the support still require an exhausting amount of effort, but climate has just not had that kind of support.

    I think the reason for this is that, while many politicians have come to understand that action is necessary, they still think of it as a long-term problem for which there is enough time to wait for enough support to come around. I also think that is true of the public. They know there is a problem and support solutions, but they are not persuaded that it is an immediate emergency that must be addressed before of immigration, deficit reduction, and so forth. What we need to do is persuade people that it needs action now rather than just that it needs action.

    By the way, I have found out that it is hard to tell a legislator to ignore someone else who is clamoring loudly for attention. I have been a physics and astronomy teacher in a community college (now retired), and I am also active in our county Democratic central committee (treasurer at the moment). I can talk to legislators about community college support, and they know what I am talking about. But if I start to tell them to take something away from universities, K-12, social services, etc and give the spoils to community colleges, then they will turn off. Instead of demonizing Obama, we need to understand how strongly he is being pulled in all directions by persuasive, sincere people with real problems. We need to understand how difficult it is to tell him to ignore some of those others for our problems, especially in light of the impression that he probably has about this problem being of a long-term nature.

    I am afraid I am posting this too late in this thread, which is probably becoming stale. So I may try to post it again, higher up in some other thread.