In a signal that president-elect Barack Obama will take a drastically different approach to global warming than the outgoing Bush administration, Obama sent a video message to a group of governors who had gathered to discuss climate policy. He reiterated his campaign promise to establish a nationwide cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide emissions as soon as possible, and repeated his ambitious goals: “We will establish strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them by an additional 80 percent by 2050,” he said [Reuters].
President George W. Bush famously pledged to tackle global warming when campaigning for the presidency in 2000, but backtracked when in office, saying that the science had not yet been settled. In contrast, Obama made clear that he had no intention of retreating from his campaign promises despite the worsening economic climate, and said that the science is beyond dispute. “Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all,” Obama said. “Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high, the consequences too serious” [San Francisco Chronicle].
Obama also repeated his pledge to invest $15 billion per year in a host of energy projects including solar, wind, nuclear, and “clean coal” (not all of which is music to environmentalists’ ears), and says that these investments will counterbalance the economic impact of forcing industries to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. In his videotaped address, Obama said his energy policies will actually create five million new jobs “that can’t be outsourced,” as well as reduce expensive oil imports (and that climate change, left unchecked, will damage the economy further) [Scientific American]. However, Obama will have to convince Congress to go along with his ambitious plans, which may be a tall task; some congressional leaders have suggested that global warming legislation just isn’t feasible until the economy recovers.
Representatives of foreign nations were also present at the governors’ meeting, and Obama addressed his message in part to them, saying that in office he will “help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change.” His statement comes just a month before a United Nations-sponsored meeting on the international response to global warming, and it may well buoy the flagging global momentum on climate change. The European Union, which has long led the world in aggressively addressing global warming, has lately gotten cold feet about its own ambitious carbon targets, with poorer members like Poland arguing that such goals are unaffordable in a depressed global economy. Big developing nations like China, India and Brazil, which will be responsible for the majority of future carbon emissions, have meanwhile remained reluctant to do much about climate change as long as the U.S. stays on the sideline [Time].