Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A New Climate

At long last, there was a question and a long answer on the climate crisis at President Obama's press conference.  Here it is in full:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. In his endorsement of you a few weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg said he was motivated by the belief that you would do more to confront the threat of climate change than your opponent. Tomorrow you’re going up to New York City where you’re going to, I assume, see people who are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which many people say is further evidence of how a warming globe is changing our weather. What specifically do you plan to do in a second term to tackle the issue of climate change? And do you think the political will exists in Washington to pass legislation that could include some kind of attacks on carbon?

THE PRESIDENT: As you know, Mark, we can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change. What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago. We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago. We do know that there have been extraordinarily -- there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.

And I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.

Now, in my first term, we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks. That will have an impact. That will take a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere. We doubled the production of clean energy, which promises to reduce the utilization of fossil fuels for power generation. And we continue to invest in potential breakthrough technologies that could further remove carbon from our atmosphere. But we haven't done as much as we need to.

So what I'm going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers, and elected officials to find out what can -- what more can we do to make a short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then working through an education process that I think is necessary -- a discussion, a conversation across the country about what realistically can we do long term to make sure that this is not something we're passing on to future generations that's going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.

I don't know what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point, because this is one of those issues that's not just a partisan issue; I also think there are regional differences. There’s no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices. And understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth, that if the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody is going to go for that. I won't go for that.

If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth, and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that's something that the American people would support.

So you can expect that you’ll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps move this agenda forward.

Q Sounds like you're saying, though, in the current environment, we're probably still short of a consensus on some kind of attack.

THE PRESIDENT: That I'm pretty certain of. And, look, we're still trying to debate whether we can just make sure that middle-class families don't get a tax hike. Let’s see if we can resolve that. That should be easy. This one is hard -- but it’s important because one of the things that we don't always factor in are the costs involved in these natural disasters; we just put them off as something that's unconnected to our behavior right now. And I think what -- based on the evidence we're seeing, is that what we do now is going to have an impact and a cost down the road if we don’t do something about it."

So in this answer President Obama alludes to both components of the climate crisis: the causes (carbon and other greenhouse gas pollution) and the effects (weather and other related disasters.)  This is in the context of renewed interest on both the left and right in the idea of a carbon tax, which also has the virtue of being a revenue source.  And despite national inaction, the state of California is about to start its own cap and trade system.  Here's another article on this.

President Obama's position here is pretty clear.  It seems to me that if events and other actions accelerate the willingness for action, he will respond. For it may be as a former Congressman who lost his primary because he said global warming exists, "I think the impossible may be moving to the inevitable without ever passing through the probable," said former Rep. Bob Inglis.

 In any case President Obama is now on the record as making the climate crisis a priority for his second term.  We'll probably hear more on Thursday, at least on the "effects" side, when the President tours areas of New York hit hard by superstorm Sandy.

Of the Day

Headline of the day: Two Generals, Two Women and the FBI: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Epic Fail: Lakers hire D'Antoni over Phil Jackson.  They will now lose their season, and Dwight Howard after it.

Wonder which Mitt was the real one?  Wonder no more.  In yet another confidential conversation with big money donors on Wednesday, Mitt Romney blamed his loss on President Obama "giving gifts" to blacks, Latinos and young voters.  You know, the ones who just want stuff from the government and won't take personal responsibility for their own lives.  So yeah, it's this one:

Smackdown of the day: President Obama defends UN Ambassador Susan Rice against cynical and baseless attacks by John McCain and the Senate's prick-in-chief, Lindsay Graham.  "If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me."  I know who my money's on.

Insanity of the day (if insanity is repeating something and expecting a different result):  As Rachel pointed out, while the NRA spent millions of dollars this election and won essentially nothing, Planned Parenthood won essentially everything--every candidate they supported, every candidate they opposed, every ballot measure--for their contributions. 

So Ohio Republican legislators decided to repair their problem with women to defund Planned Parenthood.

Virtue of the day: Perseverance.  Instead of being exhausted by the election campaign, and depressed because every though they won so much, there is still so much opposition, supporters of Planned Parenthood in Ohio came out in strength to fill the halls and adjacent rooms of the Ohio legislature, to demonstrate their support in no uncertain terms.

Perseverance also for the high school activists in Arizona who protested that state's restrictive and prejudicial (anti-Latino) voter registration process by going out and registering thousands of voters.  When election day came, suddenly election officials didn't have those voters on the rolls, so they had to file provisional ballots.  Most of those ballots in Arizona are routinely thrown out, but those high school kids are on the case, demonstrating publicly to hold those election officials accountable and get those votes counted.

For it turns out that there's actually a state worse at elections than Florida.  It's Arizona.  The counting isn't over there.  Several late-breaking House races have flipped to Democrats.  The Senate seat may still be in play, and Gabby Giffords old seat definitely is.