Obama's Weak Enviro Agenda Is Suicide for Humanity -- Here's the Stark Future We Face
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Are there any self-respecting environmental organizations out there that are still behind President Obama? After his State of the Union on Tuesday it's hard to imagine there could be. In his address, Obama proudly declared, "The 'all the above' energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades."
Based what we know from the most recent climate science, Obama’s "all-of-the-above" energy policy is actually suicidal. To say that we’re approaching a dangerous precipice would be too optimistic or simply unrealistic. For a decade we were peering over the edge, but now we’re falling—how long and how hard depends on what we do this year and in the next few years.
The biggest reason for our desperate situation is our failure to address climate change. Obama acknowledges that the problem is real, but his approach to energy issues veers from reality. The more science we understand, the worse the picture looks: ice sheets and glaciers are being depleted and are retreating at faster rates than we first thought; ocean acificiation is on the rise; the last 30 years were the warmest in the last 1,400 years.
Scientists told us we needed to drop emissions of greenhouse gases drastically to avoid raising global temperatures above 2 degrees Celsius, but it’s looking like we’ll hit that level of warming in 30 years, if not sooner. Some new research says even this threshold is too high; that we need more aggressive plans for low-carbon economies—and quickly.
If we continue on our current path set out by Obama and other world leaders we’ll be welcoming the age of catastrophic climate change soon.
The effects will look different depending on where you live, but we know we’ll see an increase in the frequency and severity of storms, floods and droughts, more catastrophic wildfires, sea-level rise, and loss of animal and plant species -- we're already seeing this.
We need policy decisions being made that use the best science we have on climate change as a benchmark, but given the political deadlock in Congress and Obama’s love affair with the natural gas industry, don’t expect much from national lawmakers.
Meaningful change at the international level through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has been small even after decades of meetings. What happens at (and leading up to) the annual Conference of Parties in Paris in 2015 will be a good indicator of our future. But based on previous meetings, it's hard to be optimistic.
The best way to shift to a low-carbon future is to make it an economic imperative. Clean energy simply has to be cheaper than dirty energy. (It already is if you figure in all the externalities, like emergency room visits for asthma thanks to dirty power plants, but we overlook that in our accounting.) In some places it’s happening (like recently in Minnesota where a solar plant beat out a gas plant based on economics). Europe is ahead of the game when it comes to wind in countries like Denmark, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, and Germany. Although even Texas, the heart of the U.S. oil industry, is about to hit 10 percent power from wind. This is great news, but our transition to cleaner energy needs to happen faster and in more places. Leveling the playing field by eliminating subsidies for dirty fossil fuels is a must.
Despite, or maybe because of climate change’s far-reaching impacts on our health, environment, safety, and economy it’s a difficult issue for some people to connect to. It’s too big, or too scary, or not tangible enough, or it’s been dipped in some sort of toxic political potion people don’t want to get near.