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President Barack Obama has taken bold action with his recent announcement of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The plan sets new stringent standards to reduce CO2 emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Obama is demonstrating decisive leadership and America’s commitment to the success of of the Paris COP21 climate talks in December.
Obama Setting the Pace on Climate Action but is it Enough?, boomer warrior
The 1,534 Mw Sandow Station coal-fired electric power plant in Rockdale, Texas: Credit/Steve Davidson

Setting the Pace

In his passionate address, Obama called his plan “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change. We only get one planet. There’s no plan B.” Obama also quoted US Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state who coined the phrase:
We are the first generation to feel  the impacts of climate change, and the last generation to be able to do something about it.

The Clean Power Plan accomplishes four principal goals:

  1. It will achieve significant cuts the US carbon emissions. The plan forces states to submit their own emissions-cutting plans for the 2030 target by 2022.
  1. It will accelerate the shift to renewable energy. The CPP is designed to strengthen the fast‐growing trend toward cleaner and lower‐polluting American energy.
  1. It’s an effective diplomatic tool placing the United States in a strong position for the December Paris climate talks. The US is moving forward on climate change. This is the kind of leadership the world needs.
  1. It isolates countries like Canada and Australia both formerly known for their strong environmental leadership globally. But that was in the past. Now both countries are focusing on the development of their carbon-heavy economy. Prime Ministers Stephen Harper (Canada) and Tony Abbott (Australia) have been laggards and obstructionists at various international meetings even to the point of blocking progress on climate talks. The recent G7 meeting in Germany is a case in point. Angela Merkel was forced to dilute her intended message of ending the use of fossil fuels by 2050. Canada would only agree to the year 2100 – an 85-year pledge to get off fossil fuels, which is the same as no plan at all.

But is it Enough?

In her interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything, commends Obama for the Clean Power Plan but goes on to say that it’s not enough. There needs to be not only a yes to renewable energy but also an outright no to fossil fuel exploration and development, especially in the Arctic says Klein.

Naomi Klein: Obama Is Beginning to Sound Like a Climate Leader, When Will He Act Like One?

Published on Aug 4, 2015
Standard YouTube License

Following are transcript from the video.

So I think that what we’re seeing from Obama is a really good example of what a climate leader sounds like……everything he’s saying is absolutely true about the level of threat, about the fact that this is not a threat for future generations, it is a threat unfolding right now around the world, including in the United States….So he’s doing a very good job of showing us what a climate leader sounds like. But I’m afraid we’ve got a long way to go before we see what a climate leader acts like, because there is a huge gap between what Obama is saying about this threat, about it being the greatest threat of our time…..but the measures that have been unveiled are simply inadequate.

When you talk about emission reductions, we don’t look at just one sector, just at electricity generation; you have to look at the economy as a whole. And what climate scientists are telling us is that relatively wealthy countries, like the United States….would need to be cutting emissions by around 8 to 10 percent a year (numbers from the Tyndall Centre on Climate Research in Manchester). His plan would lower emissions in the United States by around 6 percent overall……not just…the power sector, but overall emissions by 6 percent by 2030. So compare what we should be doing—8 to 10 percent a year—with 6 percent by 2030. That’s the carbon gap, and it’s huge.

The problem is not that this plan itself is bad. If this was announced in Obama’s first year in office, I would be the first to celebrate this and say, “OK, great. So now let’s bring on a carbon tax. Let’s prevent leasing of new oil and gas and coal on public lands….Let’s have huge investments in public transit, and we’ll really be on our way.” But at the end of his two terms in office…. this does not buy a climate legacy. It’s not enough, because it isn’t in line with science, and it also isn’t in line with technology….So, if the scientists are telling us we need to do it, and the engineers are telling us we can do it, then all that’s missing are the politicians willing to introduce the bold policies that will make it happen. And that’s what we’re missing still.

It’s a step in the right direction. But simultaneously, he’s taking some significant steps in the wrong direction with Arctic drilling…….he’s overseen an explosion of fracking for gas. He’s still waffling on the Keystone XL pipeline…..he’s opened up new offshore oil and gas leases. So, you know, when you take one step in the right direction and five steps in the wrong direction, you’re going in the wrong direction.

In Defense of Obama

Rolling Stone defends Obama’s record on the environment pointing out “that the only way forward has been through executive action based on existing legislation, which is a poor substitute for the new laws we need….what Obama has done is far from trivial.”

Internationally Obama has also demonstrated strong climate leadership. In November 2014, China and the US signed a historic agreement to jointly curb carbon emissions, setting the pace for Paris 2015, which Michael Mann has called “probably our last-ditch opportunity to stave off dangerous human interference with the climate.”

The landmark deal has created momemtum with countries like Mexico and India making public their respective intentions to join the global effort to reduce emissions. Mexico was the first developing country to submit its national emissions-reduction targets to the United Nations.

Although he has been able to move the climate action needle forward, time is running out on Barack Obama to become the undisputed world climate leader. He only has about 15 percent of his eight-year presidency left. Yes he was the first President to  say “Climate Change is a fact,” but he may also be remembered as the last President who could have done something about it but failed to do so.  __________________________________________________________

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Rolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Reality leader, a blogger and a Climate Activist. Rolly has been published widely – Toronto Star, The Hill Times, Kingston Whig, the PEN, UnpublishedOttawa, Climate Change Guide, World Daily, Examiner, The Canadian, 350Ottawa, ClimateMama, MyEarth360, GreenDivas, The Elephant, Countercurrents, County Weekly News.

He’s a member of Climate Reality Canada, Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Ottawa) and 350.Org (Ottawa). You can follow him on FacebookTwitter and Linkedin.

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  1. This one step forward in public and 5 steps back (beyond public view) is not unique to Obama and the US. In Britain, the recently elected Conservative Government (nollw in power for 5 years) has just revoked some of the recent subsidies given to Green Energy development that was brought in under a coalition government (Liberals and Conservatives) of the previous five years.

    While Britain still expounds all the niceties of joining the Green Carbon Fund and enjoys telling other Nations it does more than enough to mitigate CO2 levels, it too is still looking at Fossil fuels taking us forward for cheap energy bills in households. The magic bullet (in this case) for the Conservatives is “Fracking for Gas.”

    I don’t find it encouraging that Petroleum is falling in price at the Gasoline pumps… Price talks to the masses.

    All governments are being totally irresponsible when it comes to tackling global warming trends and increasing greenhouse gases. The subject gets buried so far behind the pet projects designed to increase trade and wealth, that I wonder if any government is really going to “get it” in time?

    The speeches are just that… speeches. I am not seeing the government action toward greening energy consumption, seeing the implementation of carbon taxing on a significant scale, or indeed, seeing any government tell the fossil fuel industry “to go fly a kite!”

    • Colette,

      Obviously we can’t rely on politicians to save the planet. It’s hard to understand and accept. After all, they are people too who live in the same world as everybody else. They have families – kids and grandkids – which they cherish and want to see succeed and thrive in the future. They have access to the same information the rest of us do. They understand the implications of a warming world. They know that we can’t continue business as usual without repercussions.

      So what can we do? I’m not feeling very optimistic right now. We are simply not getting it. Day after day I continue my climate activism but I dread that I’m not having much impact. It’s a feel good thing for me but at the end of the day, nothing has really changed.

      • I don’t have an easy reply to that Rolly. In reality, it is not just our leaders who are ignoring the mounting problems. Why? I’m not sure. I suppose the civil servants who really run things behind the scenes must have something to do with it.

        I watched a rather sobering (fictional) drama film called “War Book,” about how the British Government monitors the nuclear attack threat. The War Book is real, but the drama was speculatory about how the government monitors nuclear movements and proliferation in the world.

        Apparently, they use scenarios to develop plans on how to face such an attack. It was very sobering – not just because it could potentially happen (and quickly should a nuclear bomb be dropped), but because the government will become callous and calculating. They will develop national security measures based on protecting our economic interests, food security and protection of resources (including the government itself). Individual people, animals and environment are secondary items and often not considered as important but rather, dispensable for the common-good!

        In many ways, I can see these measures as similar to tackling climate change. Each Nation is looking to protect itself only, and when mass migration starts to occur, the borders will start to close. Many may perish. I see this already with Syrian refugees who are causing mayhem in Greece, a Nation that can barely cope with its own problems.

        It will take movements of people beyond Governments to do what they can. World Peace is required for World communication and World cooperation. We are a very long way from that.
        I live in hope that it will change.

        • There is no easy reply to the despair that emerges in climate change circles. It’s part of the job. Check out this article if you haven’t already.

          In the US, the effects of climate change on national security are being taken very seriously. The military in particular has explored different scenarios on how the US will be impacted around the globe by climate change. I’m sure there will be a lot more coming out on this in the months and years ahead.

          • Good article… sadly it seems Governments are putting more effort into the military ramifications of climate change, than actually doing much to mitigate the effects of climate change… perhaps they know time has become too short? The article suggests that Arctic summer sea ice might completely disappear next year… decades ahead of climate model predictions. If Governments have access to some of the latest data, I imagine the first response will be to keep security a number one priority before anything else if the future looks bad.

            On an aside… I took a 10-mile walk through a narrow greenbelt straddling a canal yesterday. The untouched forest and water on a 200 meter wide corridor held between a major railway line and the MOD (Ministry of Defence) training grounds, held a remarkable number of shy animals such as a plethora of fish, frogs, kingfishers, shrews, mink (now wild), heron, and many small birds. I wasn’t even trying to spot them. It was amazing how wildlife can exist without our interference. However, these small pockets of life are the most vulnerable to climate change.

            Any landscape we humans have dominated has been annihilated of nearly all life other than our own. As I walked, I listened to the constant machine gun fire, and pop-pops of military training beyond a barbwire fence on the far side of the corridor. Occasionally, I’d see military personal jogging along the track – their minds only on their muscles and their endurance. Each ran past me without a glance or interest in their beautiful surroundings.

            We ‘general public’ are at a crossroads. If we don’t stand up and voice our opinion on our climate future, we will be relegated to the ‘non-essential’ when military fires up its plan against mass climate migrations that will likely be the consequences of inaction on cleaning up our environment.

            I hope that future plans of all governments will start to change to many steps forward on clean and carbon-free energy solutions, leaving the military to their practice-only scenarios that never become a necessary activation of war over resources.


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