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It was wonderful to see President Obama make a clear and stirring statement on climate at his inaugural. After years of avoiding the issue, he came right out and said a lot of good things, on the biggest stage:

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.

The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise.  That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks.  That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.  That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

Good rhetoric is one of most important things Obama can bring to the fight against catastrophic climate change - especially now, with a GOP House. A successful president will truly focus the nation and set the terms of the national conversation. (Too much of our national conversation is in Reagan's terms, still.) With his words and conviction, a president can drive public opinion, the sine qua non of long-lasting change, the precursor to good legislation. As Lincoln said:

“In this age, in this country, public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed. Whoever molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions.”
With that in mind, let's take a look at the gems in the climate part of Obama's inaugural address:

1. "We, the People ... " - with this reference to the Constitution Obama argues that real Americans plan for the future. He does not cede "patriotism" to war-mongers and tea partiers (a classic latter-day Dem fail); on the contrary, Obama powerfully asserts that patriotism requires us to ensure our sustainability. He continues his recent pattern of referencing classic American phrases to advance liberal ideas - recall his citing "government of, by, and for the people" at the recent press conference on guns.

2. "Failure to do so would betray our children and future generations." These words - the antithesis of W's "go shopping" in the wake of 9-11 - call upon us to look at the larger picture and resist toxic selfishness. A person who thinks about the kids can feel good in a way that a narcissistic shopper never will.

(In actuality, of course, ignoring climate change betrays ourselves as well as the next generation. Climate change is here now.)

3. "None can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms." BANG! The president goes there - he puts our current extreme weather in the context of global climate change. This connection is so important to make if we are to solidify public sentiment around action.

4. "The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult." A good leader says the right thing can be hard to do. This is how we steel ourselves to do it. History shows Americans will support difficult choices if they understand why we must do so.

5. "That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure ...." The president AGAIN brings a powerful liberal frame -  responding intelligently to climate change can be GOOD for the economy at the same time that it is good for us and all the creatures on this earth. He rejects the classic "jobs vs. economy" false choice that far too many Dems have accepted.

6. And finally, "That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.  That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared." This bit is Lincoln-esque.

All around, an excellent job by President Obama.

Of course, what will matter is if he and his people keep this up. We can help by going to DC on February 17 for the Foward on Climate rally sponsored by 350.org and others.

There is an opportunity to make headway on climate in the wake of Sandy, the drought, the floods, the derecho, etc. From Rolling Stone's Obama's Climate Challenge:

Now Obama gets another shot at it. "The politics of global warming are changing fast," says Kevin Knobloch, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Thanks to a year of extreme weather and Hurricane Sandy, a large majority of Americans – nearly 90 percent – favor action on global warming, even if there are economic costs. The U.S. economy is on the road to recovery and no longer offers an excuse for inaction. Big Coal, traditionally the loudest voice against climate action, has been weakened by a glut of cheap natural gas and the economic viability of solar and wind power. China has new political leadership that appears open to discussing a global agreement to cut carbon. And Obama himself has nothing left to lose. "The president has a big opportunity here," says former Vice President Al Gore. "This is a moment when he can expand the ideas of what's possible."
I'm not sure about the 90 percent number, but the polls do show that a solid majority of Americans supports climate action.

In the words of Peter Sinclair, 2012 was the year climate change got real for Americans. And the crazy weather just keeps on coming. From a 1/10/13 NYT article:

Around the world, extreme has become the new commonplace.

 Especially lately. China is enduring its coldest winter in nearly 30 years. Brazil is in the grip of a dreadful heat spell. Eastern Russia is so freezing — minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and counting — that the traffic lights recently stopped working in the city of Yakutsk.

Bush fires are raging across Australia, fueled by a record-shattering heat wave. Pakistan was inundated by unexpected flooding in September. A vicious storm bringing rain, snow and floods just struck the Middle East. And in the United States, scientists confirmed this week what people could have figured out simply by going outside: last year was the hottest since records began.

Mother Nature is telling us we must make the most of this opportunity. Hope to see you out on 2/17. We will encourage our newly bold president to keep bringing the good stuff.

Originally posted to mightymouse on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:42 AM PST.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

    by mightymouse on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:42:38 AM PST

  •  This is our moment. This is our time. (6+ / 0-)

    Let's seize it!  Let's drive this issue to the top of the political agenda!  If not not, when?  If not us, who?  

    If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

    by John Crapper on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:51:24 AM PST

  •  Nice action diary, (4+ / 0-)

    mightymouse.

    Well done.


    "Justice is a commodity"

    by joanneleon on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:52:33 AM PST

  •  Unfortunately which is even worse (3+ / 0-)
    The U.S. economy is on the road to recovery and no longer offers an excuse for inaction. Big Coal, traditionally the loudest voice against climate action, has been weakened by a glut of cheap natural gas
    when obtained via fracking.

    Any chance the EPA is going to start regulating this?  (heh ehhe he heha ah, ha ha - boy, do I ever crack myself up sometimes).

    •  Depends on who Obama appoints (3+ / 0-)

      If we get a real EPA administrator like Jackson, it would be likely.  

      (And I'm not sure you are right about cracking being worse, even with the fugitive emissions.  They're both pretty bad)

      Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

      by Mindful Nature on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 09:10:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, something like 7% of methane (3+ / 0-)

        from frackin is estimated to escape into the atmosphere.

        At 20x more potency than CO2, that works out to an additional 140% global warming potential - which is measurably worse than coal, which adds about 100% more CO2 to the atmosphere per unit electricity produced compared to natural gas.

        Not sure what your point about Jackson was, since this was all transpiring under her watch . . .

        •  my sense (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Roadbed Guy, mightymouse

          was that Jackson's EPA was getting moving on regulating fracking, so it'd need somebody to come on board to push that forward so that the effort picks up steam.  As you know, it's moving too slowly, but my understanding was that the regulatory effort wasn't dead and may be expected to gather steam.  I could easily be misinformed thought.

          Thanks for the math on the methane too!

          Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

          by Mindful Nature on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 09:58:12 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hmm, I looked it up and the fossil (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mightymouse, Words In Action

            fuel industry (strangely!) feels that they * were * subject to draconian regulations under Jackson:

            Jackson, who suffered withering criticism from big industry and Republicans for her efforts to curb pollution and limit greenhouse gas emissions, has cautiously condoned the practice as safe, while acknowledging the need for greater study and, in some cases, oversight.

            "(Fracking technology) is perfectly capable of being clean," Jackson said in February. "It requires smart regulation, smart rules of the road."

            link

            In any event, it looks like things are bound to get even laxer (from the same link):

            Some analysts say Obama will not risk the economic stimulus of cheaper, domestic energy by pushing for tougher regulations. The oil sector is one of the few bright spots in the U.S. economy; natural gas prices are near their lowest in a decade, a boon for manufacturers, and U.S. oil output is the highest in 18 years.

            "Even before (Jackson's resignation) there didn't seem to be much of an appetite in the White House to regulate shale drilling on a federal level in the next couple of years," says Nitzan Goldberger, U.S. energy policy analyst with Eurasia Group.

  •  It was a good speech (4+ / 0-)

    Need more of them.  And more than that, need the Keystone pipeline to remain unapproved.  Otherwise it's all BS.

    •  Sure - but good speech > no good speech (3+ / 0-)

      this is his first good speech on climate since he was elected AFAIK.

      now we know he has the ability to say the right thing.

      An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

      by mightymouse on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 08:08:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's too bad imo that Keystone has taken on such (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mightymouse, Steve Canella

      symbolic meaning in the climate world.  I don't see that blocking it will have much effect on overall emissions.  

      Unless we really believe that by denying the permit we can keep that Canadian gunk in the ground.  Is this a real probability?  So far, I'm not convinced.

      Otherwise we should be pushing for a carbon tax, Cap and Dividend, mandatory efficiency standards all over, ending FF subsidies, reforming or banning fracking, a Tobin tax with proceeds dedicated to building green energy capacity worldwide, public transportation (trains), stopping coal exports, divestment, etc etc.  Pigovian taxes on the shipping aspects of globalization.  

      And a public campaign to shame the energy pigs.

      Great speech President Obama!  Now we've gotta push!

  •  The hope that Mr. Obama might seriously address (4+ / 0-)

    climate change in his 2nd term is the primary reason I cared about his reelection. I said so, here and elsewhere.

    Actions speak louder than words, but clear words are how it has to start.

    When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill...

    by PhilJD on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 08:10:12 AM PST

  •  "Commanded to our care..." (3+ / 0-)

    doesn't seem right. I thnk the correct phrase might have been better as "commended to our care". Obama is such a literate man that I assume he mis-spoke.

    For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

    by Anne Elk on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 09:11:27 AM PST

  •  It's only (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse

    THE challenge of our times. I mean, going to the moon was a frivolous lark compared to this. The consequences of failing are...well, catastrophic.

    The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

    by Words In Action on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 07:05:25 AM PST

  •  A did a poll (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse

    yesterday.

    Among the small group of 80 self-selecting respondents:

    80% feels certain that we will not respond substantively enough to avoid the worst effects of Climate Change.

    52% feels agreed the interpretation that the worst effects mean that "in this century we will see mass extinctions/die-backs of millions of species, 100s of millions or billions of human deaths, billions of refugees & perpetual war"

    1 person denies that Climate Change exists, 4 people feel that it is outside man's influence.

    9 others (11%) feel that we will avoid the worst effects.

    This poll is certainly skewed to those who care about Climate Change. My suspicion is that a larger, broader sample here on DailyKos would reveal much more denial and unexamined belief that other people will solve it.

    The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

    by Words In Action on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 07:14:24 AM PST

    •  I know how your respondents feel (0+ / 0-)

      dealing with climate is a tall order even if people want to do it ... and our country is full of propaganda from the other side.

      However, I also think that if our country ever does get off its duff and get going, we will feel a lot better and a sense of possibility will open up.

      There is nothing more depressing than knowing you have a big issue to deal with and procrastinating and trying to think about something else.

      An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

      by mightymouse on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 09:40:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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