Saturday, November 10, 2012

National Geographic: 'Climate Change Back On Political Radar After Sandy, Election'

Tim Profeta of Duke University, writing at National Geographic, reminds us of perhaps the most important issue you never heard mentioned by the presidential campaigns:
In his re-election victory speech, President Barack Obama finally touched on a seldom-mentioned issue of the campaign—climate change: “We want our children to live in an America … that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” ... New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the issue the centerpiece of his endorsement of Obama last week...

A number of environmental groups have expressed hope Obama will finally be at liberty to take steps to address the issue. “I do think there’s an opportunity, if the president chooses to take it, to show leadership and get attention on the cost that climate change is likely to cause,” said Kevin Kennedy of the U.S. Climate Initiative of the World Resources Institute. ...

But the future of U.S. climate policy is far from certain. With comprehensive climate legislation dead in Congress, many see the path forward in continued regulation of carbon emissions from power plants. Sen. Harry Reid said he hopes the Senate, where the Democrats have expanded their majority, can address climate change, but he didn’t offer any specifics. ...

The article is short and worth your time to read, but it is also discouraging. After the election, Mr. Obama is theoretically free, indeed arguably has a mandate, to act on this most significant of all issues. But he is surely still beholden to corporate interests which funded his campaign and which anticipate direct or indirect profits from older, dirtier methods of energy generation. Coal isn't going away on its own!

I don't even need to say that an Obama presidency opens the possibility of addressing climate change in a way that a Rmoney presidency would have shut off within five minutes of his election. But even with Obama, this will not be easy; it is incumbent (heh) on us to make sure the president is under as much pressure from environmentally concerned citizens as from big-money contributors. We have to sell our politicians on renewable sources of energy... sell them, and sell them again, until they are irrevocably sold on them.

Another approach, one at which Americans have proven themselves time and time again over more than a century, doesn't get mentioned often enough. That is building devices that use less energy. From computers to cars to industrial plants, we can provide incentives for technology companies to build energy conservation measures into their products from the moment they are designed. Are you, say, 50 years old or more? Chances are good the first computer you ever used filled a sizable room, required A/C in immense amounts, and drew power in quantities comparable to a small housing subdivision. Today, there's your iPad... even if your company has 50 employees each with an iPad or a small laptop, with a local network, all together they don't begin to touch the energy requirements of one old-fashioned room-sized computer. This can be done with other technologies. It can even be done with cars... the Tesla is just the beginning. Energy conservation... what a concept!

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