“They deserve a vote. They deserve a vote.”
President Obama repeated the phrase over and over, in a powerful appeal to Congress to curb gun violence at the end of last night’s State of the Union address.
His approach to climate and energy was different. Senator McCain’s pained grin said it all, as the President gently chided Congress for its unwillingness to consider the kind of climate legislation that presidential candidate McCain had proposed – back before fossil-fueled denialism consumed his party.
The President went on to offer the rough outlines of an agenda for climate action through the use of existing executive authorities. He slammed climate denialism and spoke frankly about the reality of climate impacts. He spoke in broad terms of research and development investments and endorsed accelerated deployment of renewable energy. He issued a “new goal for America” to cut energy wasted in our homes and businesses by half, and offered federal support for states that lead the way. And he proposed to use oil and gas revenues to fund “an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.” That’s good: “for good.”
And yet even as he suggested some meaningful actions to advance climate solutions, he stepped all over the message – as he has for several years – by focusing heavily on increased oil and gas development. And he certainly did not elevate the issue to the level where he was willing to challenge Congress to do its job and adopt a national climate policy. The victims of Sandy Hook surely do “deserve a vote,” but apparently the victims of Sandy do not.
The President is on the right track in terms of using existing executive authority to reduce climate pollution and accelerate investment in energy efficiency and clean energy. (And the Northwest is in an ideal position to lead that national effort by leveraging our existing federal power infrastructure to drive the next wave of clean energy development.)
But he’s also stuck on the wrong track at the same time – expanding domestic fossil fuel production, waffling on the Keystone pipeline permit, and essentially giving away billions of tons of coal on public lands to support development of fossil fuel infrastructure around the world.
Simultaneously moving in the wrong direction and the right direction won’t do the job. Business-as-usual investments that “lock in” emissions growth – even if they are combined with near-term investments in efficiency and clean energy – will result in catastrophic climate disruption, with unthinkable consequences for humanity.
The President’s right – we do know how to respond to the climate challenge while sustaining prosperity. We can look at the victims of Sandy – and our kids, the prospective victims of still-preventable disasters – and say “we know how to make this better, and we will.” But they won’t believe us until we stop making it worse.
The President – and America – can no longer go backward AND forward on climate. We don’t have enough time. We don’t have enough money. We have to choose.
That message will be delivered to the White House loud and clear, this week. You can amplify it at Forward on Climate.
And today, some of our most courageous leaders will be risking arrest at the White House. Hear them, support them here.