Little did I know, when I composed my somewhat cynical take on global warming and the upcoming State of the Union speech yesterday, that the chief White House figure charged with achieving climate change action would shortly be departing. Carol Browner is taking off, her chief mandate–a climate bill–unmet.
There’s no surer sign that nothing major is going to happen on global warming in the next two years–except maybe some brutal battles at the EPA. The president can adopt centrist, business friendly talking points and even get himself reelected in that way–but the climate system is another matter. It won’t be waiting for anybody.
Incidentally, a valued correspondent reminds me of a weakness in my last piece, in which I argued that the clean energy message was the right one for the president to adopt:
Don’t get me wrong: I think climate scientists should communicate clearly about climate science to address the many misconceptions out there on the topic—and they’re becoming better and better at doing just that, in real time. I also think it’s important to expose misinformation campaigns, and trace them to their corporate and think tank origins.
But I’m not sure that presidents, environmental groups, and even some leaders of industry are wrong to focus on a message about clean energy innovation, rather than warnings of planetary climate instability.
The problem here is that there’s no room left for talking about climate change adaptation, which is something that citizens, cities, and states have to be concerned with, but that gets left out of the “green jobs” message–and isn’t an exclusively scientific matter either. There’s a need for the government and president to lead on this subject. I may have more about that soon.