Obama On Climate Change Is Just being Obama

Back in the run up to the 2008 elections, I observed that Barack Obama seemed to have taken a major leaf out of Tony Blair’s spinbook – try as much as possible to be all things to all people while leaving yourself wiggle room (“maintain my options” as Obama put it on preserving renditions and on his secret kill list) to do or not do stuff and still be able to say whatever happens is what you promised would happen.

Right now, he’s displaying his Blair-esque talent for verbal tightrope walking on the issue of climate change, as Columbia Journalism Review neatly illustrates.

At his first post-election press conference on Wednesday, President Obama talked about his current position on climate change in greater detail than he’s done in two years. News outlets’ attempts to interpret the meaning of his remarks produced bewilderingly disparate takes, however, whether that involved Obama’s personal commitment to addressing the issue:

“Obama vows to take personal charge of climate change in second term” (The Guardian) “Obama Makes It Clear He Isn’t Willing To Fight for Action on Climate Change” (Slate)

Or his legislative prioritizing:

“Obama Sees Second-Term Focus on Climate Change” (Reuters) “Obama Says Climate Change To Take Backseat To Economy” (Politico)

The problem, as journalist Keith Kloor observed in a nice roundup of the coverage, was that what Obama said was “likely reassuring, encouraging, and infuriating—all at once—to the climate concerned community.”

Obama said he’s a “firm believer” in climate change and that “we’ve got an obligation” to do something about it, but he conceded that it would be politically difficult and that any measures would have to fit within the framework of economic growth and jobs creation.

This despite the fact that already middle- and lower-income Americans are  disproportionately harmed by extreme weather events which have cost the nation $174 billion in the last two years alone, according to the latest CAP report, and despite every analyst from the Pentagon’s own planners down saying that climate change is one of the major national security threats the nation faces in the next decade and further.

It’d be nice to have some actual leadership, instead of political posturing with one hand always covering the President’s own ass, in the face of Republican intransigence. As CJR points out, “the Republicans in the running to chair the House Science, Space and Technology Committee reject even the fundamentals of climate change.”

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

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  • If you’re 27 or younger, you’ve never experienced a colder-than-average month

    Grist, By Philip Bump, November 16

    Nowhere on the surface of the planet have we seen any record cold temperatures over the course of the year so far. Every land surface in the world saw warmer-than-average temperatures except Alaska and the eastern tip of Russia. The continental United States has been blanketed with record warmth — and the seas just off the East Coast have been much warmer than average, for which Sandy sends her thanks.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration summarizes October 2012:

    The average temperature across land and ocean surfaces during October was 14.63°C (58.23°F). This is 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average and ties with 2008 as the fifth warmest October on record. The record warmest October occurred in 2003 and the record coldest October occurred in 1912. This is the 332nd consecutive month with an above-average temperature.

    Emphasis added. If you were born in or after April 1985, if you are right now 27 years old or younger, you have never lived through a month that was colder than average. That’s beyond astonishing.

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