Rachel Smolker: Laugh or Cry? Obama’s New Commitment on Climate Change


Rachel Smolker Co-director, Biofuelwatch Posted: 01/28/2013 3:54 pm

In his inaugural address, President Obama spoke eloquently about his intent to address climate change, saying: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” Following on, the right-wing deniers predictably flew into a frenzy of obnoxious blather, largely serving to clog up the media. Meanwhile the liberals, progressives and enviros cheered with glee, as if the mere mention of the word “climate” were a big happy victory, a frankly pathetic display that I can only imagine the right-wing deniers found amusing. The spectrum of responses is a clear reflection of the extreme dysfunction of, most especially, Washington D.C. Even as Sandy smashed NYC to smithereens and prolonged drought decimated crops across the Midwest, the leader of the country most responsible for this frightening mess is so cowed by his detractors as to feel it necessary to wait until after his reelection to even mention that seven-letter word? Oh yay.

For climate justice activists, the question is: Should we laugh or should we cry? It has certainly been disturbing to watch Obama, facing the greatest threat to life on Earth ever (yes, far greater even than the economic crisis) fail to even utter that word. But, we are also aware that when he has in fact stepped up to the plate on climate, it has not usually been pretty. For example, in 2009, when, at the eleventh hour he flew to the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen to push through, via the back rooms, a “made in the U.S.” deal that removed any teeth from the negotiated agreement that had been painstakingly hammered out in accordance with participatory UN protocols. That showing in the international climate debate followed on the heels of years of U.S. interference and obstructionism, remarkable given that the we are not even a signatory to the Kyoto protocol. Going back even further into history prior to Copenhagen, there was the U.S. role in demanding (against the will of many other countries at the time) that the main approach to reducing greenhouse gases be a market-based approach: carbon trade, which has subsequently and predictably, entirely failed. A headline of the Financial Times reads:”EU Carbon Prices Crash to Record Low.” ….(more).

Global Climate Change http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre130
Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

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