This is not all that different from what I myself wrote in response to Barack Obama’s Tuesday night speech, but I want to commend Brad Plumer’s own words on the subject:
If the president can’t make that case in a major prime-time address in the midst of the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history, then who can? A speech, in itself, can’t force the Senate to act, but Obama can at the very least lay out the situation plainly.
Exactly. I’m a “major address” skeptic, but if you’re going to open your mouth and talk you ought to say something that makes sense. Won’t it be weird if historians look back on the Obama administration and have to write that starting during his second year in office he only ever alluded vaguely to climate change in his public remarks? Doubly weird if during that time he specifically did take the time to make remarks about the need to overhaul energy policy? As Ryan Avent says, given that the climate catastrophe is going to keep unfolding and given that Obama is going to continue to be a proponent of clean energy, doesn’t it at least make sense to lay down a framework (“climate change is happening, it’s caused by burning fossil fuels, and it’s a big problem”) in which future events can be explained?
The big villains in the climate story are in the United States Senate. I hold particular scorn for the Republicans from low-emission states and also for the Democrats who signed a letter ensuring that no reconciliation instructions for cap and trade would be issued. Between them, they’ve made serious carbon pricing policy impossible and put the President into a very difficult situation. But now that he’s found himself in that situation, he may as well at least speak cogently about what the situation is.