State Of The Union: Climate Change Takes A Back Seat

President Obama's first State of the Union speech highlighted many of our current challenges, but focused primarily on jobs, the economy and health care. Notably absent were visionary plans to tackle climate change in a meaningful way. Has climate change been drowned by the rising seas of economic concerns? melted by debates over health care?


The President spoke about a new jobs bill, tax credits, the health care debate, the bailout bill, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. When it came to the climate change, his comments were limited to the Clean Energy and Climate Bill.

Sadly, some of his proposed initiatives include such un-TreeHugger strategies as:

  • "Safe, clean," nuclear power plants (at least he pronounced it properly)
  • Opening off-shore areas for oil and gas development
  • Investment in clean coal technologies

Facing grumbles from the Right, he said that even if you doubt the "overwhelming scientific evidence" for climate change "providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy, and America must be that nation."

The failure of the Copenhagen Conference and changing public sentiment may be behind the absence of a meaningful climate change vision in President Obama's speech. Startling new surveys are showing that public concern over climate change is on the decline in America. The percentage of Americans who think global warming is happening has fallen to 57% and only 47% of Americans think that human activity is responsible for climate change.

Whether this change in opinion is influenced by misleading statements by some public figures and the news media or if it is simply the result of a change in priorities due to microeconomic worries does not matter. Climate change may not be "convenient" politically, but meaningful action was needed years ago in order to prevent some of the impacts that we are facing today and scientists now predict we are destined to face. The Clean Energy and Climate Bill, if passed, will be too little, too late. On the other hand it would be a small victory in the right direction, to build upon when the political consensus and will to act returns.

Hopefully when President Obama returns to the joint chambers of the US Congress next year he will have a bold vision to guide us to a more sustainable future.

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