Obama: Climate Pessimism More Dangerous Than Climate Deniers

In a speech much anticipated by those tracking the D.C.
environmental debate, President Obama today took on opponents of
congressional action on climate change, decrying "naysayers" who "make
cynical claims" that ignore scientific evidence of the harm caused by
emissions.

innovation_obama.jpg(Photo: BusinessWeek)

But
"far more dangerous" than the rhetoric of climate deniers or skeptics,
Obama added, is the tendency towards cynicism about America’s chances
of ending its dependence on fossil fuels.

Speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Obama described a perspective that "we’re all somewhat complicit in":

It’s the pessimistic notion that our politics are too broken and
our people too unwilling to make hard choices for us to actually deal
with this energy issue that we’re facing. And implicit in this argument
is the sense that somehow we’ve lost something important, that fighting
American spirit, that willingness to tackle hard challenges, that
determination to see those challenges to the end, that we can solve
problems, that we can act collectively, that somehow that is something
of the past.

I reject that argument.

Obama’s speech, which focused on building confidence in U.S. scientific
innovation and lawmakers’ efforts to find "consensus" on climate
change, sounded broader political notes that proved effective during
his campaign last year.

Still, while the president offered no shortage of hopefulness, he made few direct references to the Senate climate bill that will take
its first major step towards passage next week with a series of
environment committee hearings. Obama praised Sen. Lindsey Graham
(R-SC) for partnering this month with the Senate climate bill’s chief
sponsor, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), on an op-ed that outlined a potential compromise approach on emissions limits.

But
the question of where the White House would stand on some of the most
contentious issues in the climate debate, including how much revenue to
set aside for clean transportation, remains unanswered. Transportation
Secretary Ray LaHood suggested during the summer that the administration may not weigh in on the transport issue until climate talks reach their final stages.

  • DJB

    It’s true that despair can kill people’s motivation to act constructively on a problem. It’s also true that the Republicans and even the Democrats have given the American people a cornucopia of reasons to be skeptical of their willingness to take action on climate change.

    The most flagrant example is the bipartisan failure to ratify the Kyoto protocol during the 1990s. Also disappointing is the degree to which money from big oil, big coal, and big nuke have penetrated the campaign coffers of our two dominant parties.

    Will they bite the hand that feeds? I hope so. But don’t expect any premature adulation from me. Show up at Copenhagen with something solid, or it’s all just talk and a few token investments in the ARRA.

  • What is not to despair about when this president is doubling down on the mid-20th century “American Dream” with bailouts, suburban home loan guarantees, cash for cars, cash for more cars, highway subsidies that only require 20% of the funds to come from the locals, a farm bill that deeply subsidizes food that is making us sick and is despoiling our arable land … I mean, if that is not a precondition to despair, what the hell is?

    The only thing I’m hopeful about is our ability pick up where our grandparents left off, and start growing and creating more of what we need locally. Washington D.C. seems further and further away by the month.

  • Despair is the operative word. “Green” is just a marketing concept used to sell cars and the efforts of utility companies, and the SB 375 style solutions coming out of Sacramento are just payoffs to the development and realor lobbies. The notion that you can cut greenhouse gas emissions by vastly increasing urban density is science fiction at best.

    There is nothing our government is doing that will alleviate these problems. Its roots are not in stopping global warming but rather lobby generated money. That is what’s driving the vast tidal wave of greenwash.

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