Opinion

The Great Debate

Obama signals global shift on climate change

President Barack Obama rolls up his shirt sleeve before speaking about his vision to reduce carbon pollution at Georgetown University in Washington, June 25, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing  

President Barack Obama unveiled his national plan Tuesday to “reduce carbon pollution and lead global efforts to fight” climate change. He intends to rely heavily on executive actions rather than seeking congressional legislation.

This plan, coming less than a year after Superstorm Sandy’s extensive flooding, also focuses on preparing the United States for the effects of near-term climate change.

The latest Government Accountability Office (GAO) biennial review may have heightened Obama’s urgency, for climate change appeared on its “high risk list” for the first time. The report asserted that climate change presents a “significant financial risk,” and stated Washington needs a “government-wide strategic approach with strong leadership” in response.

Obama’s plan will likely be welcomed by many worldwide, since it comes when the global battle against the huge risks of climate change seems leaderless. For example, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change summit in December made only modest progress, despite the fact that evidence keeps mounting that our planet is heating up.

For real results on climate, look beyond Copenhagen

– Aron Cramer is the president and CEO of BSR, a global business network and consultancy focused on sustainability. He is also coauthor of the forthcoming book Sustainable Excellence (Rodale 2010). The views expressed are his own.  –

(Updated on December 17th to correct figure in McKinsey study in paragraph 7.)

As world leaders seem uncertain about whether a binding treaty is even possible at Copenhagen, it’s important to remember what was already clear: Twelve days in Copenhagen were never going to solve climate change anyway.

No doubt, these negotiations, now extending into 2010, are crucial. The sooner we can seal a global deal to reduce emissions, the sooner we can avoid catastrophic climate change. But as important as the treaty negotiations in Copenhagen’s Bella Centre are, even a successful outcome will be for naught if boardroom decisions and factory processes aren’t reoriented toward a low-carbon future.

Change the climate narrative

birdsell-subramanian– Nancy Birdsall is the president of the Center for Global Development. Arvind Subramanian is a senior fellow at the Center and at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a regular columnist for the Business Standard, India’s leading business newspaper. The views expressed are their own. –

Efforts to cut emissions of the heat-trapping gases are gridlocked over a misunderstanding about what is fair. This misunderstanding is hindering climate change legislation in Congress and threatens to torpedo international negotiations in Copenhagen next month.

We propose a new way of thinking about climate fairness that focuses not on emissions cuts but on meeting developing countries’ energy needs in a climate-friendly manner. This simple narrative can provide a framework for U.S. legislation and open the way for international collaborative efforts to avert climate catastrophe.

Obama’s “number 1 priority”

– Peter Barnes is an entrepreneur and writer whose books include Who Owns The Sky? and Climate Solutions: A Citizen’s Guide. The views expressed are his own.

A few days before the election, Barack Obama told Time’s Joe Klein:

Finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There’s no better driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy … That’s going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office.

That’s exactly the right choice for numerous economic, geopolitical, and ecological reasons. By spawning “a new energy economy,” Obama can create millions of new jobs, decrease our dependence on foreign oil and avert catastrophic climate change. But the politics of launching that new energy economy — even with enlarged majorities in Congress — remains challenging.

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