President Obama moved climate change to front and center of his second inauguration speech on Monday. Obama said more about the issue than at any time during his reelection campaign, and for most of his first term, and he said it powerfully.
Obama asserted that it was both a patriotic and religious duty to deal with the challenge of climate change, stating, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” Obama acknowledged that “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.”
In the speech, Obama also did something that he has not done much of in quite some time: he linked the need for the development of clean energy to climate change. He called on the United States to lead the international transition to renewable energy, rather than resisting it. He strongly asserted that “We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise.” In doing so, he linked the development of renewable energy and clean technology with future “economic vitality” of the U.S.
It still remains to be seen how the Obama Administration will go about addressing climate change in its second term. As you’d expect in an overarching inauguration speech, it lacked detail. However, right now the Obama Administration is certainly talking the talk about America taking significant steps toward addressing climate change in the near future.
Obama’s first test may arrive in the coming months, with a decision to approve or reject the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would carry carbon-intensive tar sands from Canada into the United States. Prominent and respected climatologist James Hansen has warned that if projects like this go forward, it will basically mean “game over” for our climate. No doubt the Obama Administration is fully aware warnings such as this.
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