Friday, June 28, 2013

To the bully pulpit, President Obama’s Climate speech


BullyPulpitCCPresident Obama’s Climate Change talk on Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 was historic because of the US President’s unique role as a de facto world leader. Once the maddeningly slow process of American Democracy finally came together on ending slavery, getting to the moon, and addressing civil rights, we become a beacon of hope. Now, after decades of delay on addressing Climate Change, a US president states: “I'm announcing a new national climate action plan, and I'm here to enlist your generation's help in keeping the United States of America a leader -- a global leader -- in the fight against climate change.”

Actually, the US has not been a ‘global leader in the fight against Climate Change’ but rather a reluctant and powerful bystander as many world Climate talks have languished for years, in part due to the US’s refusal to join the Kyoto Protocol and other global attempts to set comprehensive and decisive goals in slowing down our greenhouse gases emissions. Much of the blame for our country’s foot-dragging can be place squarely at the feet of a small, but effective group of Climate deniers with unprecedented political and economic clout. Even before President Obama’s talk was finished, many mainstream media dropped coverage—that’s if they even covered the speech at all. [BTW: You can watch the entire speech here.) Then the extreme end of the GOP marched out a retraction to the President’s message with the absurd position that solving Climate Change would hurt jobs. It’s an absurd position because no one will have jobs in a warmer world, not even the plant and animal species that have traditionally kept our environment, and our economy for that matter, working. It is absurd to put the daily machinations of an anthropogenic economic system before the four billion year old life system of our one and only planet.

Yet if we fail to move a majority of folks away from mainstream media propaganda on climate denial, where despite the rise of the Internet most Americans still sit, not only will the US fail the world, the US will fail the US. For years President Obama’s administration has been working on addressing Climate Change through his Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, collecting scientific data, and producing recommendations for various governmental agencies. But this work has gone unheralded because our politics and media are marching to the tune of a different drummer, a short-sighted, dollar-driven drummer mostly indifferent to the plight of the rest of the world. So when the president finally does step up to the bully pulpit, most Americans were watching game shows, commercials, and talking heads talking nonsense.

At the same time, it becomes difficult for those concerned about our environment (the media uses the term ‘environmentalists,’ as if understanding and appreciating the significance of science were but one of the voting blocs) to criticize the president’s speech. The deniers will only use useful criticism for more of their loony fodder. Nevertheless many in New York State are very uncomfortable with Obama’s devotion to Fracking, and not just because of a lack of faith in American engineering prowess. Obama and others think we can, in part, Frack our way out of Climate Change. But planetary warming is far more complicated than adding another dirty fossil fuel to the problem of our planet’s environment, an environment thrown out of whack by ten thousand years of warming in 200 years.

What everyone can take away from President Obama climate talk is the call for of us to act:

“Understand this is not just a job for politicians.  So I'm going to need all of you to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends.  Tell them what’s at stake.  Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings.  Push back on misinformation.  Speak up for the facts.  Broaden the circle of those who are willing to stand up for our future. Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution.  Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices.  Invest.  Divest.  Remind folks there's no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth.  And remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote.  Make yourself heard on this issue.” (Remarks by the President on Climate Change, June 25, 2013, the White House, Office of the Press Secretary)

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