Climate News: media bias, Rubio's denialism and Obama's next steps
Despite President Obama's many references to climate change and energy policy on Tuesday's State of the Union address, Joe Romm caught The Washington Post in a classic example of overlooking climate change:
In its quantification of the key elements of the speech, the paper’s editors apparently couldn’t see or hear or speak of the nearly 10% of the State of the Union address devoted to climate and energy. But, hey, Obama devoted 3% of the speech to immigration — that’s news!
Really, what's up with that?
The Washington Post's graphics department aren't alone in ignoring climate change. Andrew Sullivan rounds up some reactions to the subtle climate denialism of Republican Senator Marco Rubio's response to the SOTU. Jonathan Chait at NYMag makes the key point:
[W]hat’s going on here is that Rubio wants to uphold the Republican position without coming across to non-Republicans as a total yahoo. So he is not directly questioning the carbon-climate link, but instead moving his skepticism to the climate-weather link. Saying “government can’t control the weather” sounds plausible enough — a way to take a position that doesn’t sound completely insane to audiences but is, in fact, completely insane.
The insidious intention of Rubio's statement that "government can't control the weather" is to imply that controlling the weather like some evil super villain is the goal of Obama or environmentalists. Rubio wants to portray Obama's agenda as grandiose, far-fetched, much like Mitt Romney's mocking Obama's pledged desire to address climate change. Romney made a joke that Obama wanted to "heal the planet," whereas he wanted to "help your family," as if the two are incompatible. I'm certain farmers affected by the record drought or families whose homes were washed away by Superstorm Sandy or burned in wildfires would agree that slowing climate change would also help their family, or at least prevent similar tragedies from befalling others.
I highlighted some of Obama's next steps on climate policy, including executive action.
Adding to the argument for executive action is Denis Hayes at Crosscut.com, who lists five things Obama should do to tackle climate change. Not waiting for Congress to act is a key tactic:
3. The President should use his executive powers to arrest or reverse the most dangerous, climate-related practices. Most of these involve the extraction, transport and burning of coal and other hydrocarbon fuels. Mr. Obama should, for example, shut down existing coal-fired power plants and make new ones impossible to permit; strictly regulate or ban coal exports; stop the importation or sale of liquid fuels from tar sands and coal liquefaction; accelerate the federal drive to electrify our vehicle fleet; and follow the rest of the industrialized world (even China!) in building a nation-wide grid of high-speed electric trains. It is not enough to complain that Congress won’t act. The President can and must do what has to be done.
I've written extensively about how activism can create an environment in which a politician is given greater freedom (or political cover) to act on their agenda. Yesterday, the Sierra Club, 350 and other activist groups used civil disobedience to help create such an environment for President Obama to act. See the links at the bottom of this post for ways you can add your voice to that call for action.