Skip to content

The President Steps Up

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when Mr. Obama gave action on climate change a prominent place in his inaugural address. He said:

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.  The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise.  That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snow-capped peaks.  That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.  That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

It is up to us to provide the encouragement and support he will need during the battles which are sure to come with a recalcitrant, backwards congress. Please communicate with him frequently about these issues and emphasis the need for good planning and a vigorous policy framework.

It looks like he will have to use executive orders until 2014 when we can replace the congressional deniers and laggards. We must however pressure congress relentlessly and force them to give ground where ever possible. On the right hand side of this page you will find links to contact the President, your Senators and House Representatives. Use them early in the fight, use them often and use them until we win.



MIT encourages the President to Implement Strategic Climate Change Planning and Policy

In an open letter to President Obama the Massachusetts Institute of Technology strongly advises implementation of a climate change strategy.

“Amid the crises and battles, both predictable and unforeseeable, that you will face over the next four years, one problem will stand out both for the economic and social dangers it poses and for the difficulty and cost of solving it. Whether you can develop a practical and sustainable strategy to address climate change—specifically, to begin lowering carbon dioxide emissions—will define the success of your new term as president.”  The editors of MIT Technology Review

It is becoming clear that we have failed to plan our campaign against global warming. Our lack of planning and failure to carry out a policy framework have led to the dire warnings we are now seeing on nearly a daily basis.

“You have the power and the opportunity to lay the groundwork for a new clean-energy policy that will help us avoid the worst consequences of climate change. It is quite possible that if this is not done over the next four years, it will be too late.The editors of MIT Technology Review

Please read the entire letter. It is a cogent and timely encouragement. It clearly spells out the challenges. We are big enough and fully capable of meeting them once we know where we are going and how we plan to get there. It is important to write the President and support his efforts.





Senator Barbara Boxer Adds Climate Change Counsel To Environment Committee Staff

Senator Boxer’s appointment of environmental attorney Joe Mendelson provides a legal voice for climate change within the Committee on Environment and Public Works (Committee).  It is critical to pressure the Democrats and Republicans alike to focus on strategic climate change planning and policy. Please consider encouraging the members of the Committee to form a Subcommittee on Climate Change. The members of the Committee are listed below. Please contact all of them and let them know how important strategic planning and policy is to you.

If you only contact one person please contact Senator Boxer thanking her for creating this position and encouraging her to focus on overarching planning and policy efforts with President Obama.

The following link announces the creation of this new position.

Members of the Committee



Encouraging News

This article from the Guardian indicates that the President is considering a high level strategy initiative similar to what we have been discussing here. Thank you Mr.President.

>Barack Obama ‘seriously considering’ hosting climate summit

Campaign groups say US president could use bipartisan summit to launch a national climate strategy

Wednesday 9 January 2013 12.44 GMT

President Barack Obama arrives at announcement in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House

Barack Obama listed climate change among the top three priorities of his second term. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Barack Obama may intervene directly on climate change by hosting a summit at the White House early in his second term, environmental groups say.

They say the White House has given encouraging signals to a proposal for Obama to use the broad-based and bipartisan summit to launch a national climate action strategy.

“What we talked about with the White House is using it as catalyst not just for the development of a national strategy but for mobilising people all over the country at every level,” said Bob Doppelt, executive director of the Resource Innovation Group, the Oregon-based thinktank that has been pushing for the high-level meeting. He said it would not be a one-off event.

“What I think has excited the White House is that it does put the president in a leadership role, but it is not aimed at what Congress can do, or what he can do per se, so much as it is aimed at apprising the American public about how they can act.”

Campaign groups and major donors have been pushing Obama to outline a strategy on climate change, in the wake of his re-election and superstorm Sandy.

Jeremy Symons, senior vice-president for conservation and education at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), said Obama needed to give a clear indication early on of what he intended to do on climate change – ideally before the State of the Union address when presidents typically outline their agenda.

“The clock is ticking. The threat is urgent, and we would like to see a commitment in time for the president to address it in the State of the Union address,” Symons said. “That would be the window I see. We can’t wait forever.”

The proposed summit, as envisaged by Doppelt, would be centred on Washington but would be linked up with similar events occurring in communities across the country on the same day. It would take place within the first few months of Obama’s second term.

Doppelt said he has had a number of exchanges with White House staff about the summit, and he believed the proposal was under “very serious consideration”. The White House would not respond to requests for comment.

Obama listed climate change among the top three priorities of his second term. He gave private assurances to donors at a White House event in early December the issue remains on his agenda.

But there is growing concern among campaign groups and fellow Democrats that Obama has yet to come up with a clear plan for deploying government agencies to protect against future events like Sandy, or for rallying the public behind a strategy to cut emissions.

The political opportunity created by Sandy could be slipping away, said Betsy Taylor, an environmental consultant in Washington DC. “We are disappointed that he hasn’t talked or used his bully pulpit. When he went to New York after Sandy he said almost nothing about climate change,” she said. “In the very short-term there was an opportunity post-Sandy but I don’t think it has been seized.”

Unlike Obama’s first term, when the larger campaign groups in particular seemed reluctant to force the climate issue, environmental leaders say they intend to keep up the pressure on the White House.

Democrats in Congress are also moving more forcefully to keep climate change on the public radar. Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Senate environment and public works committee, said this month she was reviving efforts to pass climate change legislation, focused on strengthening coastal communities against future superstorms.

“People are coming up to me. They really want to get into this. I think Sandy changed a lot of minds,” Boxer told reporters, announcing the launch of a climate change caucus to push for legislation. “I think you’re going to see a lot of bills on climate change,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, committed to delivering weekly speeches on climate change from the Senate floor. The senator said in a statement he wanted to counteract “a concerted rearguard action to manufacture doubt about scientific concepts that happen to be economically inconvenient to the biggest polluting industries”.

But environmental groups say Obama still needs to come up with a plan. “What NWF members are asking for is a clear commitment and a plan from the president to make tackling climate change a priority in his second term, with concrete steps forward. A summit can be an important part of bringing that together, but it’s not the end goal,” said Symons. “First and foremost President Obama needs a plan.”

California’s Senator Boxer is Forming a Climate Change Caucus

Please take a look at this article from The Hill’s E2 Wire. “Sen. Boxer announces plans to form ‘climate change caucus”.   This is the kind of support we need in the Senate.  I sent Senator Boxer a note thanking her for taking this action. It is reproduced below. Please write to let her know how important a good planning and policy framework is to effectively addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation. She can be reached here.

Senator Boxer:

Thank you for your effort to form a climate change caucus. I support you 100% and am hoping this will be a watershed activity.

My primary concern is that the US does not have a planning and policy framework to address climate change mitigation and adaptation. I hope you will address this ASAP.

Why? Because we currently are making policy decisions without a well formed plan. Basically we are running around like the proverbial chickens with our heads cut off. Try this, try that. The rejection of the cap-and-trade mechanism was a mistake in my view. If conservatives succeed in killing the carbon tax we will be forced into using regulation as the only means to control carbon emissions.

That would be a big mistake. It would prevent us from taking advantage of the private sectors creativity and would probably fail in the long run due to the long standing framing of regulation as an undesirable activity. Please work to attain a more rational approach.

I will be republishing this om the Climate Change Planning and Policy NOW blog and sending you a trackback.

Thank you for your time in reading this and your efforts on our behalf. I, my children and grandchildren thank you for taking this problem seriously.

On Reaching Out to Conservatives

This entry is to point out a very good article addressing how we can motivate conservatives to work with us on climate change issues. Thanks to Kate Sheppard in Mother Jones.

>In a new paper published this week in Psychological Science, researchers from the University of California—Berkeley and Stanford found that most environmental messaging uses frames that liberals tend to find more engaging. Like previous studies, “The Moral Roots of Environmental Attitudes” found that liberals respond more to messaging about caring for other people or ensuring they are treated fairly. The study found that people who identify as politically conservatives respond better to messages that are about “preserving purity and sacredness.”<

Here is the abstract from the paper mentioned.

>Americans’ attitudes about the environment are highly polarized, but it is unclear why this is the case. We conducted five studies to examine this issue. Studies 1a and 1b demonstrated that liberals, but not conservatives, view the environment in moral terms and that this tendency partially explains the relation between political ideology and environmental attitudes. Content analyses of newspaper op-eds (Study 2a) and public-service announcements (Study 2b) found that contemporary environmental discourse is based largely on moral concerns related to harm and care, which are more deeply held by liberals than by conservatives. However, we found that reframing proenvironmental rhetoric in terms of purity, a moral value resonating primarily among conservatives, largely eliminated the difference between liberals’ and conservatives’ environmental attitudes (Study 3). These results establish the importance of moralization as a cause of polarization on environmental attitudes and suggest that reframing environmental discourse in different moral terms can reduce the gap between liberals and conservatives in environmental concern.<


Hurricane Sandy Appropriations Bill Addresses Adaptation

This addresses adaptation on a limited geographic scale which is good, but would be better if set in the context of a national policy to assure adequate adaption nation wide.

>From the bill text (available here) released Wednesday:

In carrying out activities funded by this title that involve repairing, rebuilding, or restoring infrastructure and restoring land, project sponsors shall consider, where appropriate, the increased risks and vulnerabilities associated with future extreme weather events, sea level rise and coastal flooding.

It similarly says that federal agencies, in partnership with state and local governments, should inform recovery and rebuilding plans to reduce vulnerabilities from and build long-term resiliency to future extreme weather events, sea level rise, and coastal flooding.<

The Hills Overnight Energy Newsletter 12/12/12