Obama’s radical environmental strategy

January 6, 2009

John Kemp Great Debate— John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own —

Most successful elected leaders must disappoint their most ardent supporters at some point, as the bright hopes of an election campaign give way to the complex realities and constraints of governing, and need to occupy and retain the political center-ground to win re-election.

The trick of really successful leaders is to let supporters down gently to avoid turning disappointment into frustration and anger, retaining allegiance and support even when the maximum agenda goes unfulfilled and compromises must be made. Political supporters have to be given enough policy gains to be kept loyal, even as some cherished objectives fall by the wayside.

Despite the enormous outpouring of goodwill to the incoming president, or perhaps because of it, President-elect Barack Obama will be no exception to this iron rule.

The high hopes for the administration (cultural reconciliation between left and right, poverty alleviation, fairer distribution of economic rewards, renewed growth, financial reform, decisive action on climate change and “peace in our time”, to name but a few) have run far ahead of even the most successful president’s ability to deliver them in four or even eight years.

So the real question as the new administration prepares to take office is where will it dare and be able to be radical, and where will it be forced by circumstances to be more conservative.

Early indications suggest the administration may disappoint its progressive supporters with a cautious approach to foreign policy, the economy and finance, but its moves in climate change and energy efficiency could be far bolder.


Like any president, Obama will have to decide which battles to fight and which to avoid, where to spend his political capital, and where to conserve it by hewing closer to the status quo. Presidents respond to the agenda forced upon them as much as they shape it.

Despite the “change” rhetoric, the new administration may find its options severely limited. Financial crisis at home leaves little room in the budget for new spending mandates beyond short-term stimulus.

While blaming the banks for causing the financial crisis is attractive, the system is probably not strong enough to withstand wholesale reform at the moment, so the administration may have to settle for more piecemeal changes.

Abroad, the administration also faces the familiar Gordian knot of intractable disputes: how to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo, deal with Iran’s suspected nuclear ambitions, engage European governments and become involved in the Middle East process.

Moreover, Obama’s commanding lead in electoral college votes (365-173) masks a narrower margin in the popular vote (53 percent to 46 percent). For all the enthusiasm about “change”, almost half the nation voted for Obama’s rival Senator John McCain. The president faces re-election in four years and cannot afford to stray too far from the political center.

The new president has two options. Try to enact a raft of radical reforms quickly in the hope of changing the whole political game by the time the next election is fought — the kind of “transformative” presidency with which scholars have credited Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman and Reagan — though perhaps only in hindsight. Or pick a few carefully chosen battles and settle for competent administration and marginal improvements in other areas.

So far, Obama’s rhetoric implies the former, but his cabinet picks incline to the latter. His most enthusiastic supporters at home and abroad may be disappointed.

In many areas, circumstances may force the new president to be a gradualist rather than a great reformer, which risks disappointing core groups at home and foreign governments hoping for a more radical break with the past.

During the long campaign for the presidency, Obama showed himself to be one of the finest students of politics; despite the soaring oratory, he is well aware that politics remains the art of the possible.

The presidential transition has stressed bringing on board Washington insiders with previous governing and legislating experience (Clinton at State; Gates at Defense; Daschle at Health and Human Services; Blair and Panetta in intelligence; Geithner and Summers at the Treasury and on the White House National Economic Council) rather than innovative or iconoclastic visionaries from outside the Beltway.

Nevertheless, the administration needs to find at least some areas in which it can make a decisive break with the past and stress change rather than continuity, if only to maintain the enthusiasm of its core supporters among progressives and liberals.

Climate change and energy policy is shaping up to be the area where the incoming administration can make some bold gestures designed to reach out to domestic supporters and European governments while disappointing their hopes elsewhere.


Obama’s selection of Steven Chu to be secretary of energy last month was an indication of the importance he places on using science and technology, as well as a full range of fiscal incentives, to tackle climate change and reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels.

The Department of Energy (DOE)’s primary mission is stewardship of the nation’s nuclear stockpile, which absorbs more than half of the department’s $26 billion budget. DOE funds some research into alternative fuels. But until now the leading role on climate change and energy conservation programs has been taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, with DOE playing only a minor supporting role.

So picking Chu, who has been one of the most prominent and outspoken advocates of using tax increases to force reductions in energy use, and a strong supporter of technological solutions to climate change in his role as director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, sends a strong message about the incoming president’s priorities.

Combined with the selection of other strong climate change advocates to head the EPA and Council on Environmental Quality, Chu’s forthcoming nomination suggests the administration is preparing to be quite radical in this area.

Given the multiplying problems for the incoming administration’s climate and energy agenda, it may need to be.

For previous columns by John Kemp, click here.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Climate change is the perfect political scapegoat. It is easy to demonize, and easy to score big political points by doing anything, which is more than the nothing being done now. By choosing to attack this non-critical issue first, Obama has simply found the path of least resistance to the easiest payoff. He can do it quickly without much resistance. As such, I agree with the title “Great Student of Politics,” but what about the more important title of “Great Steward of our Nation?” That is yet to be earned.

Posted by Matthew L. | Report as abusive

I couldnt agree with you more Matthew. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama was elected on nothing more than mere promise of change, I still have not understood or have heard what the promise of change is however. Furthermore, it is dis-heartening to see the officials he has elected to stand behind his cabinet, I beleieve you are only as strong as the people you have watching your back, in this case he has left himself wide open. This country has gotten to the point that we need to bring it back from the brink of collapse, thanks to the prior politicians of the last 20 years. Our needs are many, I find it really sad that we are no longer self sufficient in so many ways. It appears Mr. Obama’s plan of least resistance will carry us closer to the brink of self destruction.

Posted by JHV | Report as abusive

“..this non-critical issue…”

What total lunacy. Climate change is only a “non-critical issue” in that its effects are not, in the old D.C. sense of “don’t do anything unless it’s a crisis,” a crisis situation right now.

But guess what? If “this non-critical issue” continues to be deferred (after eight years of complete denial) even further, then by the time it becomes a “real” crisis it will be too late.

The United States is not, in point of fact, “on the brink of collapse” at the moment. There are plenty of issues which need work, but nothing so pressing that it makes sense to say “climate change is a non-critical issue; let’s just skip that until it gets really bad.

Honestly, if your physician used that kind of reasoning, you would be out the door and running to report him to the board of health.

Posted by Matt K | Report as abusive

I do not agree with Mr.L.Mathew’s comment that climate change is a non-critical issue. Climate change is the most critical issue today which is being ignored by most mankind. Tackling climate change is critical to human survival and President Bush’s record on this account is poor. I hope President Obama proves to be a pleasnt change in this regard. The devastating effects of climate change are not very far off and the present day kids would experience them in their early adulthood (I think a better way to put it is that we would be seeing these devastating effects in our lifetime itself.). Should we not give our children an earth that is atleast as good as it was when we got it from our parents? Is this not our duty? Calling climate change a non-critical issue only reflects one’s shortsightedness.

Posted by Raghuram | Report as abusive

Speaking from a Canadian perspective and avid watcher of the follies of the Bush administration and Republican party in general; America elected Obama for a reason, you’re already being critical of his choices of cabinet before they even step into power.

Lets time pass and see what changes his team brings about. I’m 100% sure it’ll be more beneficial to the average American citizen than Bush’s policies. Look at the benefits the military industrialist elitists whom are racking it in government contracts at the expense of the poor.

Look at the bigger picture beyond your own small world.

Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

JHV, tell me the name of the last president that didn’t get elected on nothing but promises. Promises are what elections are all about. A chicken in every pot.
For my money, Obama has to be a large improvement on Bush and his “I’m the decider” policies that have wreaked havoc in so many ways that I’m afraid no man could undo the damage in eight years.
That said, humanity is in deep trouble and no man of any party or persuasion will be able to fix things to any extent. There are too many humans, not enough planet to satisfy the predatory instincts of mankind.

Posted by Ray | Report as abusive

The irony of the Obama choices is the appearance that the great hope for change is embracing the failed policies of previous administrations and using the survivors of these administrations to continue the status quo.
Because teams tend to change slowly if at all; when business leaders act to revive a faltering company usually the first step is to move the existing staff aside and bring in a loyal team that have a proven track record for success.
If Obama really was for change he would bring in people from outside of Washington that have a proven track record for the desired change he wants to bring about and push the Washington insiders aside. What I see is a receipt for continuing and compounding the very policies that led to our country’s current dangerous situation.

Posted by Craig Coal | Report as abusive

vPerhaps the policies at the end of the Obama administration, be it 4 or 8 years, is compared to the beginning of his administration there may be some change.

Let us hope its for the good, but I am not against the guy nor for him… look at the popular vote… 53-46 as stated above.

He has set the homosexual crowd ablaze already and he has not even been sworn in yet… but what are they less than 1% of the popular vote? But then again they tend to be a rather visible crowd so perhaps they would influence more?

But unless there is a distinct difference between when he starts in office and when he is ending his first term, I still believe that its going to be another close one. But if he does some good stuff, heck, the (R) has a chance next to nil in 2012.


Posted by P!NG | Report as abusive

We are in the era of morphing problems. Global warming becomes climate change and the subprime mortgage problem becomes widespread financial meltdown due to fraud and non-existent regulation. Unless the leadership recognizes the thread that ties it all together, then it will be difficult to get any sort of change that will be widely supported.

The fact is that these problems arise out of the unintended consequences of the industrial revolution which include the combustion based energy system, the rapid rise of chemistry-based products in everyday life and the clearly fraudulent economic system put into place by the robber barons and bankers of the 19th and 20th century. Unless we face up to these consequences, we will find ourselves on a continuous and accelerating downward slide. Unfortunately it seems as if true opposition to the status quo has been wrung out of the system. You sure don’t hear many original ideas these days.

Posted by Jonathan Cole | Report as abusive

What happened to the “Energy Crisis” and our dependency upon foreign oil? It has not gone away (except in the short term) and will be back in the forefront if efforts to stimulate the economy are successful.

The only realistic answer to our energy problem is nuclear power, which also works to slow climate change. A wisely implemented stimulus package should begin moving this nation towards a massive program of nuclear power construction.

A poorly conceived stimulus program (as presently seems to be under consideration) will aggravate climate change forces and increase foreign oil usage. Yes, we need to put people back to work and stabilize the monetary system, but we must look to the future as well, so that we can make enduring progress.

Posted by Roger Sparks | Report as abusive

Speculation, and a totally non-crit issue. He hasn’t even been near the White House yet and people are already judging him based on speculations and things he may or may not do…

Posted by AngryAmerican | Report as abusive

It is not that all politicians lie, I believe most are as crooked as a person can be, what I was refering to if you would have read the article before you assumed what you did is, most politicians, if they tout ideas, have a verbal plan that they make publicly. Whether or not they comply with that is a different story, and yes, I agree most are liars and want to let you hear what you want to hear but, he never had much of a plan other than the word “change”. Change..change change, cahnge is coming to Washington, if you heard differently, well maybe I didnt listen. If you say you heard differently, and really didnt, then you lie too.

Posted by JHV | Report as abusive

Thankfully, my physician makes recommendations based on sound medical science and not unproven theories. Most proponents of Government intervention in the global warming “threat” operate under two false convictions: One, that anthropogenic global warming has been proven, and two, that anything the government does will actually stop or even mitigate the “threat.” Nobody knows if we can actually stop global warming, but what we do know is that public policy aimed at capping emissions hits the poor and the taxpayer alike right square in the pocket. Why take the chance? Enacting public policy based on unproven science is not only irresponsible, but also naive and immoral.

Posted by Matthew L. | Report as abusive

Climate change, and all the ensuing regulation it entails is just another way to limit our freedom. Don’t like an industry? Easy, put them out of business by taxing and regulating them to death in the name of making them more green.

Nearly every aspect of our lives produces carbon. So by picking and choosing which of those activites are bad the government gains control over them.

Eating meat? That produces too much carbon, everyone has to be vegetarians eating all organic food now.

Driving a truck, SUV, or large car? Too much carbon, you need to spend 2 hours on public transportation to get to work now.

Producing power from anything but wind or solar? Too much carbon, say hello to skyrocketing electricity rates as states are forced to use renewable energy. Funny how hydroelectric isn’t counted as renewable though, then the renewable energy lobby wouldn’t have as large a market.

The list goes on and on. Trying to control the environment comes down to controlling the economy, and ultimately every one of us.

Posted by Michael | Report as abusive

All of you, settle down. Watch, listen and learn once he’s in office. This guy gets it.

Climate change is not a side issue. It is THE issue. (Sorry deniers, the jury is in. Unless you’d like to discount the consensus opinion of leading climate scientists painstakingly assembled over a 20-year period of study.) Our 4.5 billion year old home has had 5 mass extinctions before. We’re in the middle of the 6th. We’re already losing species at a rate 1000 times faster than what is normally observed over the millenia. We’re a species that took over 100,000 years to go from a population of 0 to 1 billion in 1804. Then we reached 2 billion in 1927 (123 years). Then we hit 3 billion in 1961 (34 years). Then we hit 4 in 1974. Then we hit 5 in 1987. The we hit 6 in 1999. We’re at 6.7B now. …and only 1B of us live outside of poverty.

What will planet earth look like if we stay on this course and hit 9.5B by 2050? Like hell. Everyone better get clear on this and get behind the first president we’ve ever had that understands just how unsustainable our path currently is.

Even the Chinese are beginning to feel the saliva dry up in the back of their throats as they reflect on the planet that awaits their grandchildren. The only thing the IPCC got wrong was the pace of polar melting. They UNDERestimated it in order to get the Americans to sign off on the statement.

Get educated. Let’s stop being the dumb country where 61% believe in the Noah’s ark story LITERALLY. (i.e. that a man, who lived to be 900 years old, built a boat at age 500 and persuaded every species of animal and insect to have sex on a boat.)

Posted by sdavis | Report as abusive

I study climatology, natural disasters and such and am always amused at the whole argumment that we should do nothing about climate change until the evidence is 100% sure. People who make decisions not based on science or common sense for that matter need to educate themselves on the science. You will always be led down the path of deception if you let others do the research and thinking for you. Your right anthropogenic warming has not been proven, but natural climate change has. Every model on this planet shows the current warming at the “rate” we are warming (this is the important point how fast it’s happening) is not possible without the anthropogenic influence. Models aren’t perfect and should not be the only tool used, but they are becoming increasingly more accurate. If you think the fact that we may not have caused today’s warming justifies doing nothing about it is a smart choice you should ask a dinosaur what he thinks about “naturally occurring climate change”. Oh wait you can’t because they are all DEAD! Does it really matter what caused your house to be inundated because of sea level change, or increased droughts or floods. Does it really make a difference when no one has food or clean drinking water? Science is nothing more than a bunch of theories that have yet to be disproved. Waiting to do something until there is undisputable evidence of us being at fault is like refusing to evacuate a sinking ship before authorities determine what is sinking your ship. Feel free to wait my friends but all you’re doing is guaranteeing your spot in the dark abyss that is Davy Jones Locker. I could be being a tad judgmental that many people don’t understand climate science or the issues that really face us, and only get their information from the talking heads of TV or faceless voices on talk radio, but unfortunately I don’t think I am so I offer this. If any of you “non-believers” can name the most important factor that determines our climate or explain why we wouldn’t be able to exist on this planet without greenhouse gases, without first searching the internet or library, I will eat my own words and apologize. Let’s face it if you don’t know what the greatest influences on our climate are then you can’t make an educated desicion about what to do about it. Join the conversation with information as your weapon, as your way to inform others. But don’t join it with propaganda designed by another. If you do then you are merely trying to sell your own propaganda and excuse me if I choose to ignore you while continuing to educate myself.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

I’m no expert, but the statement that only 1 of the 6.7 billion people in the world were above poverty seemed strange to me. According to Wikipedia’s poverty entry, in 2.7 billion were in poverty in 2001. Could you please provide a reference for 1/6.7?

Posted by paul | Report as abusive

Any carbon diet strategy would be dependent upon clean coal:

“The vast majority of new power stations in China and India will be coal-fired; not “may be coal-fired”; will be. So developing carbon capture and storage technology is not optional, it is literally of the essence.” –“Breaking the Climate Deadlock,” Tony Blair, June 26, 2008

But, Vaclav Smil, an energy expert at the University of Manitoba, has estimated that capturing and burying just 10 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted over a year from coal-fire plants at current rates would require moving volumes of compressed carbon dioxide greater than the total annual flow of oil worldwide — a massive undertaking requiring decades and trillions of dollars. “Beware of the scale,” he stressed.”

In other words, it is doubtful that even the unrealistic cuts President elect Obama committed to support in the campaign will significantly slow global warming.

“By the year 2050, the Census Bureau projects that our population will be around 420 million. This means per capita emissions will have to fall to about 2.5 tons in order to meet the goal of 80% reduction. It is likely that U.S. per capita emissions were never that low – even back in colonial days when the only fuel we burned was wood. ” –“The Real Cost of Tackling Climate Change,” WSJ

Posted by Brad Arnold | Report as abusive

It’s time to do a reality check.

All governments are on notice that the rationale for attempting to control climate change, by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, might substantially collapse in the near future, if the research results outlined in either of two recent reports prove to be valid. Both are based on observations, not models or theory. Both might well be valid.

Dr Roy Spencer, of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, who heads the science team that runs the instruments on one of NASA’s satellites, testified to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on 22 July. The full text can be found by searching “‘Roy Spencer’ testimony”. He said “regarding the popular theory that mankind is responsible for global warming, I am pleased to deliver good news from the front line of climate research”. In summary, he said that we now have new satellite evidence which strongly suggests that the climate system is much less sensitive to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels than is claimed by the IPCC, i.e. the real climate system appears to be dominated by “negative feedbacks” instead of the “positive feedbacks” which are displayed by all twenty computerised models utilised by the IPCC. He referred to other recently published research that also concludes that the real climate system does not exhibit nett positive feedback.

He went on to say that, if true, it would mean that we have little to worry about from manmade global warming, and that the warming experienced in the last 100 years is mostly natural, and is out of our control. He referred to the need for other researchers to explore and validate his claims.

Referring to a paper being prepared for publication, he said that a (named) IPCC lead author and a leading expert on the estimation of climate sensitivity admitted in his review of the paper that other climate modellers need to be made aware of the research results.

On 19/20 October, Spencer released a simplified version of the paper for policy makers, in which what he calls an “apples to apples” comparison between satellite-based and IPCC model-based feedbacks, the projected warming by 2100 from a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide would be a little over half a degree, adding that if the sensitivity of the climate system is as low as some of these observational results suggest, then the IPCC models are grossly in error. This report can also be easily found.

Given the implications, one would assume that governments and the IPCC would be urgently having his team’s research replicated to either confirm or rebut what he said.

Professor Don Easterbrook, of Western Washington University, released a report on 2 November, which can be found by searching “‘Don Easterbrook’ ‘2 November\'”. In summary, he says that his research shows that the earth’s temperature has been naturally steadily rising since the end of the Little Ice Age in about the 1700s, superimposed on which are alternating warming and cooling periods of about 30 years, driven by the the cyclic change in the Pacific Ocean from its warm to its cool mode (the “Pacific Decadal Oscillation”). Within each phase, sunspot activity influences the intensity of warming or cooling. He says that carbon dioxide concentrations have little to do with it.

Based on this cycle, in the 1990s, he predicted that the earth would start a cooling phase in the early 2000s, which all of the satellites monitoring the earth’s temperature observe that it has, since 2001/2. He also says that we are virtually assured of 30 years of cooling mode, then similar periods of warming and cooling, with a temperature rise of a fraction of a degree or so by 2100, depending on the intensity of cooling, profoundly different from the IPCC’s projections based on its models. Referring to the relatively quiet sunspot activity, he, and other scientists suggest that the current cooling period could be quite severe.

Whether he is probably right or is probably wrong will be determined by satellite observations of the earth’s temperature over the coming years, not by the numbers of critics or supporters, or anything governments do or do not do.

These scientists are by no means the only ones who put their names to research results challenging the IPCC’s projections, on bases similar to Dr Spencer and Professor Easterbrook. The temperatures forecast, incidentally, are lower than those in the Mediaeval Warm Period when the Vikings were grazing sheep and cattle, and growing crops, in Greenland. All of this is in the public arena.

The reality check would then suggest that unless both of these challenges to the IPCC’s projections, are shown or prove to be baseles, President-elect Obama is not going to risk going down in history as the President who handed the Chinese Government an enormous economic advantage on a plate, in an exercise in futility based on a false premise of which he was made aware.

And the Chinese Government, aware of all of this research, and whose economy will potentially double anyhow, in the course of an Obama presidency, assuming he has a second term, is not going to agree to anything other than what will allow it to metaphorically laugh all the way to the bank.

Obama’s successor would inherit a situation in which, assuming he/she had two terms, China’s economy could well be on the way to redouble again. A mere 16 yqears from now. And with economic power comes military power.

Methinks that President-elect Obama, once fully briefed, will not do anything drastic to shackkle the economy, Al Gore or no Al Gore.

Posted by Robert Williams | Report as abusive

The Cult of the Great Global Warming needs to get a grip. These cultists should stand back and ask themselves a few key questions: “Why do we shout down anybody with a dissenting opinion? Why do we call them names? Why do we try to impugn their intelligence?” It is because the cultists are emotionally convinced of their convictions and therefore afraid for them to be challenged. The Global Warming Cultists act EXACTLY like the religious dogmatists that shouted down Darwin, Hutton, and others that challenged their precious ideas. I fully acknowledge that the earth’s temperature rose rapidly from industrialization to mid-twentieth century, then cooled and began warming again from the 1970s to present, but I will not assume that in the 4 billion years of this earth’s existence that there was never another rapid warming incident like the one we are currently experiencing. Global warming is not anthropogenic, so there is probably not a man made solution, and quite frankly, the ludicrous idea that taxing carbon will actually do anything but hurt people is just plain, well to use the cultist vernacular, “dumb.” And, by the way, these are my own original ideas. Some people still think independently.

Posted by Matthew L. | Report as abusive

Obama is absolutely on the money with his policies that are going green. That is what the world wants to buy for themselves, and for their childrens future. Good on him for having the guts to actually follow this path. He will succeed, and the changes that are coming will revolutionise the world & capitalism for ever. Bring on a cleaner, polution-free world, bring on the electric car, and renewable energy. Death to oil, coal, gas guzzling cars, raping & pillaging. It won’t be easy to kill off the polluters, but renewable energy will eventually do it.
All I can say to the masses is get on board now or miss out on the gold rush.

Posted by Brad | Report as abusive

This is bad news for the American economy. Alternative energy means expensive energy for us while the rest of the world will use the less expensive fossil fuels that we disdain. Our energy costs go up across the board for American businesses and consumers making us non-competitive in the world marketplace. So begins the descent into economic misery led by Big Green. Just look at California as an example. It has rapidly been increasing its energy costs through big green mandates for the past ten years and it is now leading the nation in job losses and economic decline. Obama will do the same for the whole country. That is why I think that Obama will be a one-term president. When people see what Big Green does to their pocketbook, they will revolt.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

Don’t turn the use of Fossil Fuels into a Sin tax…that isn’t only a silly thing to do…the gov’t will just get more money, because we NEED the oil. We need to completely change the way we live…besides, it’s been said hundreds of times, using wind in 3 states can easily run the country if used enough…3 STATES…jeez, we can just spread it out if we don’t want to cram all of that turbine in one area. Besides, we can use geothermal even easier…and power the entire country from that alone…but everyone is waiting for the Gov’t to do something about it..and if anyone knows anything, is that, the legislative branch doesn’t touch anything unless it is on fire, radioactive, and threatening their re-election. What should be done is major investment by our state energy providers or private companies…but as of now it isn’t a money making idea so it isn’t being done…what they need is initiative…initiative that is almost impossible to muster…meh..whatever I guess, free and easy energy isn’t an important step for America right?

Posted by Brenden | Report as abusive

They just want more centralization and control. The government will not improve this situation. People are ignorant to believe otherwise. People are all too eager to place hope in these elected officials that will do nothing to solve the problem but tax it and make it harder for others to get a piece of the pie. Hopefully people will wake up one day.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

In my neck of the woods (Central Ontario, Canada which is well south of the 49th parallel) we have just completed the coolest and dampest summer in living memory.
The forecast is for -40°C. (-40°F is you are so inclined) over several days.
Thank goodness for global warming. I’d hate to see it get much chillier.

Posted by Dave D | Report as abusive

The global warming issue is becoming more of a stretch every day. This is exactly why you now hear this termed “Global climate change” rather than warming as recent data supports that the earth is in a cooling trend. This is absolutely a political issue that has permeated the fabric of our culture via media saturation to a point where most people rarely question its validity. The cap-and trade idea is nothing more than a huge scheme that will create a slush fund for politicians and AL Gore those that designed this will profit while the average American is forced to pay higher taxes for fuel. Do we really think Russia and China will get on board and be held accountable? This is a childish, stupid idea that will do nothing but help the creators of this mythical catastrophe get even more rich. The climate has always changed and always will. Anyone that buys into the thought that this is a problem that we can possibly change can purchase the Brooklyn Bridge from me for $1.00

Posted by Matt Christie | Report as abusive

Look at this from a perspective of energy independence rather than that of climate change and the protagonists in this argument will find much they agree on. America has always used it’s technological prowess to gain competitive advantage and this should be no exception. Alternative energy is more expensive at the moment, but fossil fuels will eventually run out. By investing now in alternative sources of energy, America will see itself with a clear advantage over those nations that have not garnered the technologies and expertise in their use. Yes in the short term that may mean that energy is more expensive, but look to the long term – that is where the benefits are realised.

Posted by jwh | Report as abusive

I have to agree with the man from Ontario. In fact, global warming is actually a welcome idea for most of the world and would benefit much of the worlds population. Set aside the Al Gore scare-tactic of twenty foot rise in sea levels this has been proven to be a dramatic exaggeration by the IPCC which is where Mr.Gore got his information in the first place. The Maximum numbers they predict are 6 inches to 2 feet in the next Century. This is no cause for alarm and they admit this is merely a prediction with a large margin of error. I once ascribed to the same group-think that most of you do. I just started asking questions and doing research on my own and was frankly shocked at what I found to be a conspiracy theory that most people believe is foolish to dispute. I’m sorry, I want clean air and water like everyone else. I just don’t like being lied to and forced to accept conditions on my lifestyle because some very wealthy people decide they have the money and power to lower my standard of living. I am not a sheep.

Posted by Matt C. | Report as abusive

Re Matt Christie’s comment: “”The global warming issue is becoming more of a stretch every day. This is exactly why you now hear this termed “Global climate change” rather than warming as recent data supports that the earth is in a cooling trend.” As a point of significant clarification, the change in terminology was coined by none other than Republican strategist Frank Luntz in his infamous environmental strategy memo to the Republican leadership in 2003 (see pg. 142 of the memo). As reported at the time, “The US Republican party is changing tactics on the environment, avoiding “frightening” phrases such as global warming, after a confidential party memo warned that it is the domestic issue on which George Bush is most vulnerable.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/20 03/mar/04/usnews.climatechange

Posted by lgcarey | Report as abusive

I write for a blog that addresses some of these issues and contains links to resources that shed light on this subject- http://1progressiveguy.blogspot.com/
I have to say that I agree with JWH in that this debate is more about the framing of the argument than the argument itself. However, I must point out that the consequences of each point of view and intended actions/reactions are very, very different. Ultimately, I think both sides agree that we want to use limited if any fossil fuels when this becomes feasible and we all want to reduce or eliminate our dependency on foreign oil.
While I agree with JWH on this I do respectfully disagree that we can simply use our technology to make fossil fuels obsolete in the near future. In addition, I am sorry but I am an American and I do not accept paying higher taxes on fuel for a political agenda. Prior to the economic meltdown we all lived in a Country based on free-market Capitalism. The idea of legislating mandates that will ultimately decide the type of car I drive and the size of the house I can afford to heat and cool is completely inline with modern European Socialism. They have had super expensive fuel for many years. The technological solution? Tiny, crappy, little cars that Americans wouldn’t care to drive and the best part-these cars would never be deemed safe enough for American roads. So, the problem is much more complicated than simply dependence on foreign oil. Personally, I love my SUV and I think I have every right to drive it even if I am not a wealthy politician. Not to mention, taxes on fuel raise the price on every type of consumer good from food to electronics through shipping costs. And, every small business owner that requires a truck, carpenters, plumbers, furniture stores, appliance stores, movers, etc. all of these will see an increase in the cost of doing business that will be passed on to the customer/consumer and likely reduce the amount of business these entrepreneurs are able to secure. These are the reasons that alarmist views on the environment that demand lifestyle changes for all Americans other than those that are wealthy enough not to be affected (Al Gore comes to mind…) are taken very seriously by ordinary citizens that want clean air and water but also appreciate America for the freedoms we are promised and deserve.

Posted by Matt C. | Report as abusive

This debate is one centered on an issue that is critical on a longterm basis if you believe that all the weather we are experiencing has something to do with “global warming”. It exists because some believe that CO2 levels will increase exponentially as world population grows leaving us with a warnmer environment, a consequence some see in a negative light on all fronts.

Currently the CO2 levels stand at .06 % of the atmosphere. A reading of above 20% CO2 in the atmosphere is needed to begin to induce death. That is a difference of 19.94% between the CO2 levels today and the levels needed to induce death. CO2 has several isotopes, some which are mitagatable under the normal photosynthesis and hydrologic recycling processes; then there is the portion of that .06% CO2 level which is not. So the actual level of critical CO2 which comes from the burning of fossil fuels which is not recycled by the photosynthesis/hydrological process adequately is only an unknown portion of this .06% CO2 reading.

The affects of the release of CO2 on the environment is, for obvious reasons, more significant near large cities because large cities do not have the number of green plants needed to process the CO2 let off by breathing, and of course, the greater concentration of fossil fuel burning industies and vehicle emissions is in the large cities. So the cities experience much higher levels of CO2 build-up than roural areas. This condition could be eased by planting more green plants in cities, increasing low-emissions public tranportation and eliminating most car traffic in the inner ciies. Designating full traffic lanes for bicyles and other non-polluting venues, which could be rented like baggage carriers are at airports, curbside would be significant measures toward reducing these emissions.

I can see the need for larger cities to build neuclear power plants, or other low-carbon emmissions alternatives, to reduce CO2 emissions and accommoate increasing populations. Large cities are responcible for most of the unmittigated CO2 emissions and they have enough population to split up the costs to build expencive power plants…a neuclear plant costs up-wards of $17 billion, for instance.

In this economy I cannot possibly support placing a new tax on CO2 emissions for businesses, since most businesses today are experiencing very rocky times now. Paying a new tax, or having to buy new expencive emissions reducing equipment to avoid being taxed could cause more lay-offs, or bankrupcies. They may not even be able to get the credit they need to finance the new green upgrades, or sell be able to sell enough inventory to pay the payments for the new up-grades. This is just a fact of the current economic reality.

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