The New Yorker examines the President’s latest budget and find it “represents a major dodge on climate change.” Hence columnist Ryan Lizza poses the headline question, “Has Obama already given up on climate change?”
But the budget released this week makes it clear that Obama’s surprising appeal to Congress was an empty piece of rhetoric. The phrase “climate change” appears twenty-nine times in the new budget, but there is no new plan for Congress to take up in Obama’s otherwise ambitious legislative blueprint. There are some worthy energy initiatives that could achieve modest reductions in emissions, but the budget is silent on what Obama will do to aggressively reduce carbon pollution by the biggest emitters, like power plants and automobiles.
If rhetoric cut emissions, we’d be carbon free already. But only action does.
Still, it is not as if Obama has the power to act:
It is not as if Obama doesn’t have the power to act. On many issues the President is at the mercy of Congress. He can’t reform gun laws or the immigration system, or rewrite the tax code, without coöperation from the House and Senate. Climate change is different. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, backed by the force of a Supreme Court ruling, has the authority to reduce carbon pollution through regulation. In 2010, when White House negotiators were trying to pass cap and trade, they presented reluctant senators with a promise (some called it a threat): pass a comprehensive bill to deal with the problem or the E.P.A. would move forward on its own. Three years later, the Administration has still not acted on that ultimatum. And, ominously for those who care about tackling climate change, Obama’s new budget proposes to reduce funding for the E.P.A. by 3.5 per cent compared to the current year.
Oh, well, it’s not as if team Obama is delaying action:
The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that it would delay issuance of a new rule limiting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from new power plants after the electric power industry objected on legal and technical grounds…
“We are continuing to work on the rule,” said Alisha Johnson, the E.P.A. press secretary. “No timetable has been set.”
No worries. It’s not like we’re in a hurry or anything (see Study: We’re Headed To 11°F Warming And Even 7°F Requires ‘Nearly Quadrupling The Current Rate Of Decarbonisation’). It’s not like inaction is incredibly costly (see IEA warns, “The world will have to spend an extra $500 billion to cut carbon emissions for each year it delays implementing a major assault on global warming”).
It’s not like delaying the rule for limiting emissions from new power plants delays the far more important rule for limiting emissions for existing power plants. Okay, well, it is like that, but it isn’t like Obama told the nation in February “If Congress Won’t Act Soon To Protect Future Generations, I Will.” The New Yorker also cites that remark and concludes:
Nothing in his new budget follows through on that promise. And if that doesn’t, what will?