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Thursday, January 31, 2013

What Can Obama Actually Do About Climate Change?

President Barack Obama highlighted climate change during his second inaugural address on Jan. 21, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

President Barack Obama highlighted climate change during his second inaugural address on Jan. 21, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

President Barack Obama didn’t talk much about climate change during his first term, but he’s been getting more vocal about it lately.

He talked about it when he accepted his party’s nomination for a second time:

“Climate change is not a hoax. more droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. they are a threat to our children’s future. and in this election you can do something about it.”

He answered a question about it at his first news conference after his November win:

“I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.”

And he highlighted it in his second inaugural address:

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

Washington Post environmental reporter Juliet Eilperin writes that in the president’s inaugural address, he framed climate change more as a moral issue than an economic or national security one.

But with a stagnant economy and a divided Congress, what – if anything – can Obama actually do about it?

Guest:


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  • Ted

    Start telling the public about all the weather modification programs that the government, NASA and others are running.
    One only need to look to the skies and watch all the chemtrails being laid.
    Sometimes I wonder if most of the people in this country are confined inside a building all day long or have their heads buried in some hand held device texting. Atmospheric Aerosol Properties and Climate Impactshttp://downloads.climatescience.gov/sap/sap2-3/sap2-3-final-report-all.pdfWhat in the World Are They Spraying? (Full Length)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jf0khstYDLAhttp://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21873-geoengineering-would-turn-blue-skies-whiter.html

  • burroak

    What political discussions are there regarding China’s current insaitable appetite for wood and their rapid consumption of Cambodia’s forests?

  • JPS

    Seems a bit comical that we and other major powers are still posturing about carbon emissions when in all likelihood we past the threshold for real prevention years ago.

    • Rmb02149

      Seems a bit comical that you feel the need to comment when you have nothing to contribute. 

      • JPS

        Back at ya.

      • Zane Nobbs

        Arrogant little snit.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

         I would say pointing out important facts not discussed in the story is a very large contribution.

  • Rmb02149

    As others have pointed out already,  China currently consumes more coal than the rest of the world.  How do we hope to control climate change when the largest nation on Earth is also the largest polluter?  A country that doesn’t care about the health of its own people – have you seen the pictures – certainly could care less about the rest of the world. 

    I’ll get  behind Obama when he first has that discussion with China.

  • AlanR

    I use to think something could be done, but as I’ve gotten older, and understand how human beings think, I realize we’re our own worst enemy. Whenever it comes to our needs and wants, we don’t care about the consequences. We just blindly go about our business with no concerns about what we’re doing to the planet. We figure we’ll worry about it when it happens. And, if it’s going to affect us monetarily, we’ll always vote in favor of our pocketbooks. It’s very short-sighted, but that’s what humans do. We’re very incompetent when it comes to long-range planning.

    It’s always interesting to hear politicians talk about “our children’s future”, never considering what kind of world they’ll live in.

    The GOP, especially, that have denied all this for years, are finally coming around, but now they’re saying, it’s okay, we’ll adapt. I suppose we will have to. I think it’s going to be a strange world in a few generations from now.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4CWQM3DQZOEIPSYQOP2UV2VJPI Understandit.ml1.net

      It is discouraging, but not quite enough to give up. As the effects become clearer in temperate regions (and they will, as Arctic sea ice continues it’s decline, and that influences mid-latitude weather etc.), maybe people will push for accelerated action. We could possibly avoid the worst, depending on feedback dynamics and exactly how much thermal inertia there is in Earth’s climate. But for now, many people want to shift responsibility to some external force (like China, or the government supposedly playing with the weather). They don’t want to see that this is something we’re all collectively mired in, and that we all have to do what we can.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4CWQM3DQZOEIPSYQOP2UV2VJPI Understandit.ml1.net

    Considering how long we’ve delayed taking methodical, transitional action, pushing for international cap & trade or a revenue-neutral carbon tax may be the most effective approach (as politically unrealistic as it may be, until Americans demand it). Along with addressing shorter-lived pollutants. The degree of success for the new fuel economy standards remains to be seen (given potential loopholes), and one of the biggest parts of this problem are emissions from Asia as they crank out cheap stuff for the Western world. They’re still lower in ‘per capita’ fossil carbon output, but there isn’t a complete solution to the growing risk of holocene climate destabilization without them. At the very least, we’d have to put fossil carbon tariffs on merchandise that doesn’t comply with decarbonization efforts. How well will ‘that’ go over without a truly cooperative agreement?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

       The kind of changes necessary to solve the problem would instigate World War III.   And it may be too late, anyway.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4CWQM3DQZOEIPSYQOP2UV2VJPI Understandit.ml1.net

        Too late for what? The point is, it can still get worse (both in terms of climate and carbonic ocean acidification), and ultimately the pressure on politicians will rise.  We can still ‘try’ instead of giving in to fatalism. Success or failure is a secondary concern at this point.

  • EM

    you have the wrong audio on this story

    • Rachel Rohr, Here & Now

      Should be fixed now. Thanks!

  • Mtoffgrid

    Not a damn thing and since he now seems more beholden to special interests, under the guise of protecting our jobs, we know that nothing of consequence will be done and it is way too late anyway…anybody notice the weather? Tipping point was supposed to be in 2014, but just wait till this year (2013) delivers what it inevitably holds and see if we can keep together the completely non-sustainable society we have created. Too little, too late. For example, if all the server farms keep expanding just so a few techno-boobs can store their data and have wi-fi, then since they current consume the power made by 100 nuclear power plants, where will that power come from…how about the 1200 new coal fire plants that have been built with no clean-coal technology being used.  All talk.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

    What Can Obama Actually Do About Climate Change?  About the same as anyone else — nothing.
     

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4CWQM3DQZOEIPSYQOP2UV2VJPI Understandit.ml1.net

      Maybe not, but we could possibly do something about further ‘accelerated’ climate change, if we put our minds to it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

         “if we put our minds to it.”

        There’s the rub…. 

        There may be a possible technical solution, but there is not a sociological nor an economic solution.

        • JPS

          Agreed. And the technological solutions of the future are likely to take the form of gas masks and controlled-atmosphere habitats.

  • http://eligerzon.com/blog Eli Gerzon

    What a complete lack of hope by so many commenters. We can develop nuclear bombs and energy, land on the moon, and we can now easily buy computers that fit in our pocket and are more powerful than computers that were once the size of a small house? But we can’t transition to clean energy? We’re already trending that way with most of our energy growth coming from clean energy here in the U.S. In Germany they’ve already reached 50% electricity from clean energy sources like solar. Many people there didn’t think they could accomplish it either but they’ve exceeded their previous goals in the end. To be honest, I used to have a similar attitude that we probably just won’t be able to do anything to avoid complete catastrophe. Much of the damage has been done. But what can Obama do? He personally can STOP the Keystone XL pipeline. If we burn all the tar sands oil in Canada it’s “game over for the climate” as James Hansen of NASA said. If we don’t we have a better chance. We need to put a gradually increasing fee on carbon so we can wean ourselves off of all fossil fuels and come to reply completely on clean energy. Also, there are natural ways to improve our top AND reverse global warming: take carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it deep into the soil. Properly managed by humans or natural predators grazers actually improve grasslands. Google “Allan Savory” it really is amazing what he’s been working on for decades and just realized also reverses global warming. Point being, it’s a huge challenge. But there is hope. And what other choice do we have: give up and accept this the end of  everything we hold dear from art, science, movies, and plentiful delicious food? I’d rather fight like crazy. I got hope from 350 Massachusetts 350MA dot org, a grassroots coalition inspired by 350 dot org. Find local environmental groups in your area, get active. You’ll be inspired.

  • mememine

    Get up to date:

    *Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of
    demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets ruled by
    corporations and trustworthy politicians

    *Canada killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change
    denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists
    warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).

    *Obama has not mentioned the crisis in the last two State of
    the Unions addresses.

    *In all of the debates Obama hadn’t planned to mention
    climate change once.

    Meanwhile, the entire world of SCIENCE, lazy copy and paste
    news editors and obedient journalists, had condemned our kids to the greenhouse
    gas ovens of an exaggerated “crisis” and had allowed bank-funded and
    corporate-run “CARBON TRADING STOCK MARKETS” to trump 3rd world fresh water
    relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for just over 26 years of
    insane attempts at climate CONTROL.

    A climate crisis needs certainty and clarity not another 27
    years of a crisis only “might” happening. Science has never said it “will”
    happen. Not one IPCC warning is without “maybes”, not one! Science didn’t lie,
    media and politicians did.  

    You can’t have a “little tiny catastrophic” climate crisis
    so how close to the point of no return from complete unstoppable warming will
    science take us before they start saying the climate change will be imminent or
    impending or inevitable or certain or unavoidable or assured or guaranteed or
    even just “will happen” instead of their “might” and “could” happen.

    “Help my house could be on fire maybe.” isn’t good enough to
    condemn our children and real planet lovers welcome the good news of “crisis”
    exaggeration.

    A climate crisis needs certainty and clarity not another 27
    years of a crisis only “might” happening. Science has never said it “will”
    happen. Not one IPCC warning is without “maybes”, not one! Science didn’t lie,
    media and politicians did.  

    You can’t have a “little tiny catastrophic” climate crisis
    so how close to the point of no return from complete unstoppable warming will
    science take us before they start saying the climate change will be imminent or
    impending or inevitable or certain or unavoidable or assured or guaranteed or
    even just “will happen” instead of their “might” and “could” happen.

    “Help my house could be on fire maybe.” isn’t good enough to
    condemn our children and real planet lovers welcome the good news of “crisis”
    exaggeration.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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