President Obama was elected in 2008 based on promises to, among other things, do something about global warming. My e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey called my attention to an article highlighting his refusal to act. Here’s an excerpt:
Obama has sufficient scientific resources at his command to know exactly what we are doing and failing to do. He came into office with control of both houses of Congress and a clear mandate to act on the climate crisis, with scientists the world over sounding all the necessary alarms.
But in pursuing an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, highlighted by the figurative explosion of fracking and the literal explosions of oil trains and deep sea drilling rigs, Obama has turned the US into the No. 1 producer of fossil fuels in the world.
The value of federal government subsidies for fossil-fuel exploration and production increased by 45 percent under his watch, even as he turned what were once climate “treaty” talks into a subterfuge for global inaction. This, from the guy who ran against “Drill, Baby Drill!”
True, Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has enacted regulations classifying greenhouse gasses as pollutants, which are intended to close down aging coal-fired electric power plants. He has obtained subsidies to promote renewable energy. And he has set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to be accomplished by future administrations.
But this has been offset by his promotion of the domestic oil and gas industry and his opposition to enforceable international climate treaties.
The problem is that there is no immediate political payoff from trying to slow down global warming. The climate change that is manifesting itself right now—record-breaking temperatures, floods and droughts—is the result of decisions made or not made 30 or 40 years ago.
What is done—or not done—today about climate change will not change the present situation. It will only help people 30 or 40 years from now. There is little political incentive to do that.
Neither democratic government nor free-enterprise economic systems, assuming that this is what we have, would respond to the immediate concerns and wishes of the public, but not to warnings about future problems. Not that socialist dictatorships have a better record!
The only answer, as I see it, is for climate change activists to do what Naomi Klein describes in her book, This Changes Everything, which is to join up with those who are fighting fossil fuel companies on other grounds—protection of property rights, Indian treaties, public health and the environment, and the authority of local government.
President Obama’s Lethal Climate Legacy by Zhiwa Woodbury for Truthout.