Global environmental challenges
Obama tackling climate change music to Europe’s ears
It took Barack Obama a mere nine minutes into his first speech in Europe to tackle the issue of climate change — and end eight years of frustration about U.S. foot-dragging on global warming by the world’s number one emitter of greenhouse gases.
The U.S. presidential candidate got right to the point in Berlin when he said climate change is a threat to the future of the world. He said it was vital for nations to work together with a spirit of unity similar to the one that brought down the Berlin Wall 19 years ago.
It was all music to the ears of the 200,000 spectators in Berlin after hearing the years of doubts about global warming and then resistance to any meaningful agreement on cutting emissions from George W. Bush and his administration — and the cheers for his lines about fighting climate change in a country where angst about that topic runs high were among the loudest on the warm summer evening.
“The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope,” Obama said. “But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers — dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean.”
Obama, who has in the past gone out of his way to praise Germany’s pioneering laws that promote renewable energies, put global warming up there alongside stability in Afghanistan and nuclear proliferation as the “new peril” facing the world. His strong language won the hearts of the crowd in Berlin:
“As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya. This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands.”
Obama also praised Germany for its leadership on reducing carbon dixoide emissions, down nearly 20 percent since 1990. (The United States’ CO2 emissions have gone up 14 percent since 1990).
“Let us resolve that all nations — including my own — will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation, and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere,” said Obama, who wants to cut U.S. CO2 back to 1990 levels by 2020. “This is the moment to give our children back their future. This is the moment to stand as one.”
But if he’s elected in November, will Obama really be able to stand up against the powerful U.S. interests opposed to any deep emission cuts? Will he really be able to help the United States get off its “addiction” to oil? How will Americans react when the price of gas rises to $8 per gallon (like Europeans pay) when they already get so worked up over the $4 gallon?