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3 Things Obama Needs To Do About Climate Change

Lauren Foliart |
January 27, 2013 | 12:37 p.m. PST

Senior Staff Reporter


Poster in a San Francisco apartment window on Inauguration Day. (KTDrasky/Creative Commons)
Poster in a San Francisco apartment window on Inauguration Day. (KTDrasky/Creative Commons)
President Obama made a pledge in his inaugural speech to tackle climate change in his second term as Commander-In-Chief, sparking praise from environmentalists on a crucial issue they feel is way overdue.

The president's gracious attention to the subject in his roughly 20 minute speech surprised activists who noticed the absence of such issues in his platform for reelection, but reminded them of the call to action he originally made in 2008.

Will Obama keep his promise this time?

In his first term as president, Obama withdrew many efforts he vowed to make in that 2008 campaign.  He botched legislation to cap carbon pollution, abstained from international climate discussions and never got around to educating the public about the realities of global warming.

Not to say Obama completely failed environmentalists the past four years.  He increased automobile fuel standards with a program that will cut global warming pollution by 6 billion metric tons and promoted clean energy, doubling both wind and solar as renewable sources.  These successes demonstrate the president is both qualified and capable of delivering his affirmations.

Here are a few things President Obama should do to fulfill his inaugural promise:

Curb Carbon Emissions

Obama can rectify his abandonment of legislation to cap carbon pollution by imposing new emission standards on existing industries.  

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is now behind the issue, saying that the EPA's authority, coupled with the public's inability to ignore the effects of global warming after Hurricane Sandy, makes it likely that we will see a change in regulation.  

Also on the table for discussion is the idea of a carbon tax on fossil-fuel industries -- a solution that would make companies pay for pollutants they release into the atmosphere.

Block The Keystone Pipeline 

A name we are starting to hear again in the news, the Keystone XL Pipeline returns for Obama's second term as a serious environmental concern. The proposed system would transport synthetic crude oil and "dilbit" from northeastern Canada to refineries as south as the Gulf Coast of Texas.

The project has prompted massive dissent from environmentalists and they're looking to Obama to take action.  

Concerns about the pipeline include the fact that petroleum extraction for tar sands creates substantially more greenhouse gases than standard oil production, the potential desecration of ecosystems and the risk of oil spills along the planned route.

In January 2012, Obama rejected the application amid protests only to approve the construction of the southern half two months later.  Facing the issue again in his second term, the president delayed his decision only a few days ago to continue construction on the pipeline in a section of Nebraska.  

Educating The Public 

As Obama mentioned in his speech that while some might still deny the evidence behind global warming, "none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms."

The president cannot underestimate the power of knowledge or the growing public concern for environmental reasons for recent disasters.  In his second term,  Obama has been granted a unique opportunity to drive public awareness now that Mother Nature got their attention.

Putting power behind grass root organizations and encouraging people to seek out green jobs does have potential to be one of the most effective effort in conquering the climate challenge, although the timeline for noticeable change might out live his presidency.  

Most importantly, Obama needs to speak to country in a way they will understand.  Environmental policy is too heavy laden with fruitless language -- fossil fuels, carbon emissions, alternative energy, etc. -- that doesn't mean anything to the average person. 

Obama needs to make an effort to help the country grasp the reality of a warming planet.  People need to understand that a life in suburbia with SUVs, manicured lawns and air conditioned malls is not sustainable.  Our planet will only become less inhabitable if we continue to abuse it, and right now President Obama has the nation's attention.  

Reach Reporter Lauren Foliart here.



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