The SOTU and Climate

January 26, 2012

For those that missed it, the money quotes, 4 minutes worth on energy and a very quick-oh-so-quick blip of acknowledgment of the greatest threat to civilization in history – which is about all you get on the floor of congress these days. Not enough, but no use crying – we have work to do.

Greg Laden:

Obama probably did the right thing in sidestepping climate change, and admitting that we need to side step it for the time being in order to get other things done. Those of us who do not subscribe to that view would have preferred, perhaps, a fire and brimstone demand to step up our national efforts to address Global Warming and the other issues related to the high rate of release of fossil Carbon into the atmosphere. We might have liked to have seen some of the victims of aridification, tornado swarms, regional drought, parasite-affected forestry and agricultural failures in the US and elsewhere, in the gallery seats where real people sit as emotional sidebars in every State of the Union Address. But, President Obama chose to not do that, and it is easy to see why he made this choice.

There is a way to fix this. The current election cycle in the US involves not only the office of President, but also, every single member of the House of Representatives and a bunch of Senators and other officials. Candidates are being chosen now, and party platforms are being written. In the next State of the Union Address, we need the President (who will be, hopefully, the same guy as gave the address last night!) to be able to make a strong statement about addressing climate change. The way this can happen is if more members of congress are on board with this, either because they drop the facade of pretending we can put this off for any longer, or because they are actually engaged in implementing real science-informed policy.

Find out who is running for nomination to Congressional office in your area. Find out which candidates, if any, support science-based policy. Tell them that you like this about their candidacy, volunteer to work for their campaign, and send them 25 bucks. If there are no candidates like this in your area, contact the campaigns of those that are running and tell them you want them to engage in science-based policy. Don’t send them that 25 bucks unless they show promise, and seem sincere. If you live in a district or state with an anti-science Representative or Senator, work against them and do so with the explicit overt intention of working against the anti-science representatives we have now in Congress.

Obama is faced with a difficult problem, and he’s gambling on how best to solve it.  He won’t make any progress going head on. That way is closed.

He knows that a renewable revolution is happening in this country even as we speak. Wind energy has been one of the biggest sources of new electrical capacity in the US and worldwide for the last 4 years.  Solar is coming on very strong – already competitive with gas in the southwest. We are now in a de-facto moratorium on coal fired power plants in the US.

Even Exxon says the US has peaked in gasoline use – the very oil prices that make Tar Sands extraction economically viable, are also driving an accelerating exodus from the internal combustion engine – and automobiles in general. Obama knows what James Hansen is telling us – that its not the gas and oil that are the most dire threat – its the coal and exotic oil – the tar sands and oil shales – that will cook the planet. Throwing out a bone to the offshore drillers – he knows that coastal and ocean activists, as well as post BP-spill ordinary citizens, are going to have something to say about that drilling.

Even though the Fox-addled national GOP hates renewables, hates electric cars, hates wind, hates solar, Obama knows that locally, GOP governors are clamoring for an extension to the Production Tax credit, for that new solar manufacturing facility in their state, and for the ramped up production of high efficiency autos in their cities and towns.

The majority of states have Renewable Energy programs or standards. Will we get a national one? Let’s hope so, but in the meantime, we all have to work in our local area to push the envelope and show the renewable industry they have a future, in this region, in that state, in this city.

This thing won’t work if we don’t. We have to understand the urgency and dig in now harder than ever before. Fortunately, help is coming.

After bottoming out in the last 2 years, awareness of climate change is rising again. Tony Leiserowitz, Director of the Yale Project on Climate Communication, presented the following graph at the University of Michigan last week.

The current crop of GOP presidential candidates has placed themselves far outside of where the mainstream is, and where its going. Climate can be a defining issue in the coming election, and Obama is positioning himself to be strong on that front, as well as less vulnerable to the “drill baby drill” crowd. One very wild card will be the impact of potential extreme weather events as we move into the storm season with a double dip la-nina still in effect. It should not rationally be an issue, but it is.

I discussed this and other issues on wednesday with Betsy Rosenberg on her GreenFront radio program – a 5 minute excerpt of which is below. For the full program, access her archive here.

The game for now is still at the state and local level, and, as Greg Laden mentions above, very much at the political organizing level.  If you are a Democrat, you’d like this President to have the tools to do what he needs to do legislatively. If you are a Republican that cares about the planet, and I know they’re out there – you’d like to push back against the tide of utter BS that’s drowning the credibility of a party that once actually had a grand old tradition.

I’ll be meeting this week with local leaders interested in taking the next steps in my area of the country.

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16 Responses to “The SOTU and Climate”


  1. [...] Continue reading here: Climate Crocks The SOTU and Climate [...]

  2. sailrick Says:

    I would like to nominate Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island for President in 2016.
    Anyone who hasn’t heard or read his speech on climate change really should do so. It’s the best I’ve heard from any politician.

    http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/10/19/347768/senator-whitehouses-climate-speech/

  3. Martin Lack Says:

    What I saw of it from across the pond, I liked. Especially the bits that the Republican (chair of the house?) seated behind and to the right did not like; namely about tax reforms.

    However, I am not surprised to hear that Obama did not make more than a passing reference to climate change. Unfortunately, the same appeal to populism that made his comments about taxation permissible also allowed him to sanction the audacious Navy Seals incursion into Somalia.

    With regard to the latter, it may well have worked but, it could so easily have been Black Hawk Down v.2.0. Furthermore, although I do not agree with paying ransoms because it encourages hostage-taking, I do not think it wise to kill 8 hostage-takers while extricating 2 hostages because, this will encourage hostage-killing.

    We would all do well to remember that violence begets violence; and try and act accordingly.

  4. Jean Mcmahon Says:

    The media is the problem..no way to have an informed citizenry,,unless they stumble upon Climate Crock of the Week

  5. ozonator Says:

    To be fair and balanced, extremist media outlets have failed to notice the SOTU while they “Occupy” Esso-Kochs’ pilodinal cyst with a short trip. For example, a show of hands beats science any day you are only able to predict a free lunch. “Jan 26, 2012 … Presentation by global warming skeptics draws big crowd in Portland … More than 400 people jammed into a Portland hotel ballroom Wednesday night to hear a panel of global warming skeptics assert that manmade increases in greenhouse gases are not driving climate change. … Chapter President Steve Pierce asked for a show of hands beforehand, then estimated that 90 percent of the crowd favored the statement that human activities are not the main cause of global warming. … particularly given … sun cycles“ (Editorial and reality abuse by Joseph ‘EIB coli cocktail wiener’ D’Aleo, CCM, IUD, IED, BMF, STD, H1N1, HPV, SIDs, failed state free lunch predictor, laundering t-GOP via paypal, HIV, and ExxonKoch approved TV weather presenter aka another pseudo-scientist, denier, and corporate whore; new web crimes against humanity, nature, and big oil & small snake wrestling with assistant coach Joe Bastardi since March 11, 2011; icecap.us).

    • prokaryotes Says:

      Maybe humans are too stupid to prevent dangerous climate change. Every single day we are busy polluting, and we should know better. Why are deniers still allowed to spin the science?

      • ozonator Says:

        They are not spinning science. The Esso-Kochs have merely scaled up their filling station restrooms to encompass the whole world with which to dump (for free) their AGW. They have naturally scaled up those who left their phone numbers on the bathroom walls to create a number of denier outlets that magically happen to repeat the same corporate slogans. In other words, they aren’t competing on the same level nor generally in the same arena to “prove” their point in a tertiary venue.

  6. prokaryotes Says:

    btw. found this clip here yesterday..

    Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the discovery of Climate Change and the Greenhouse Effect http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IsTM5qRER8


  7. Obama is a politician. If you want him to do something, you must make your voice heard. Look what Bill McKibben did with Keystone. Its not enough to vote any particular person or party. It takes constant vigilance and pressure on those you elect to keep them doing your bidding. That’s how it works.

    Obama is a politician from Illinois, a place where coal and nuclear rule. He is influenced by them. If you want him to be more green, push harder, and let him know.

    As Sheldon Whitehouse and others have said, the natural world does not care what Washington thinks. In the end, we will find out what is going to happen. Right now, we are having one of the most unusual winters in North America. Throughout the globe the signs are already clear that nature has spoken.

    On the bright side, renewable energy is making huge inroads. If you had told anyone in 2000 that two states and several countries would generate 20% of their electricity from wind, you would have received doubtful stares. Don’t look now, its already happened. More progress in this direction is on the way. Why? We have devoured our non renewable resources with rapid growth. So their cost has increased. That has chilled demand. And it has made renewables valuable because their fuel cost does not rise.

    Meanwhile oil costs do not fall, even with diminishing demand. When demand equals supply and demand diminishes, supply has peaked. That’s how you get expensive energy and reduced demand.

    Be stout of heart. Changes are happening. Big Carbon won’t go down easily. Still, it has already started to fade. The truth is, the era of limits is already here. Don’t listen to the noise machine. Their voices intend to distract. Ignore them and pay attention to the job ahead. Those with their heads in the sand will not prevail against nature. No one can.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      well said

    • Martin Lack Says:

      Christopher, I am with you and Sen. Whitehouse 100%. Furthermore, having only just discovered him, I think Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed is drastically under-rated. I think we had a choice but we blew it: I don’t see much sign or prospect of people chosing to leave fossil fuels in the ground; and I think Carbon Capture and Storage is as much a myth as you and Bluerock say Fast Neutron Reactors are. (Burrying CO2 would certainly be even more dangerous than burrying nuclear waste.) Artificial trees may work, but they too will just be an excuse for failing to stop burning fossil fuels. Therefore, net result = 4 to 6 Celsius increase in global average temperatures,
      a.k.a. catastrophic irreversible climate change.

      However, on a brighter note, fresh from your success of proving the viability of wind power, perhaps you would like to turn your attention to stopping the USA and Canada from subsiding farmers and selling below-cost grain to poorer countries (i.e. perpetuating a dependency culture). I am doing my bit to highlight the insidious nature of this practice in the EU.

      • prokaryotes Says:

        One way to bury Co2 (literally) is to create biochar ( it seems that this is one of the few options the human race has left, when planning to do something about it ) We need to suck carbon dioxide back out of the air and store it with biochar.

        You can read more about it here http://biochar.be

        • Martin Lack Says:

          Thanks for being gentle with me – I had just realised the illogicality of what I wrote (i.e. artificial trees are generally envisaged as being hooked-up to CCS schemes). However, Biochar sounds a promising way to go instead of trying to bury a gas… So, may be there is yet hope for us (although stopping burning the stuff would still be wiser).

          • prokaryotes Says:

            Artificial photosynthesis with cars or home powering and such..

            Nocera’s 2008 finding of the cobalt-based catalyst was a “major discovery,” and these latest findings “are equally as important, since now the water-splitting reaction is powered entirely by visible light using tightly coupled systems comparable with that used in natural photosynthesis. This is a major achievement, which is one more step toward developing cheap and robust technology to harvest solar energy as chemical fuel.”

            Barber cautions that “there will be much work required to optimize the system, particularly in relation to the basic problem of efficiently using protons generated from the water-splitting reaction for hydrogen production.”

            http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/artificial-leaf-0930.html

            Though still needs more research …


  8. [...] basis, but history shows ignorance has never ceded  ground without a fight. It won’t happen unless all of us are willing to let our voices be heard above the small, bigoted and backward minority. Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); [...]


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