Does Obama Have a 'Secret' Plan to Adapt Nation to Climate Change?


Photo: Mak1e via Flickr/CC BY

Obama's middling ability to articulate his vision for the nation's energy future is certainly eclipsed by his inability to explain to the American people the vast threat posed by global climate change. Ever since the election, the man has mostly clammed up on the topic. But few doubt that he still believes that it's an issue very much worth addressing -- most agree that he lacks the political willpower or the fortitude to take a public stand in favor of climate action. So it wouldn't be all that surprising if Obama had quietly launched a 'secret' plan to address and adapt to incipient climate change ...GOOD's Michael Cote has an interesting report on the Executive Order the president recently signed that requires the federal government to green up its act. Though it barely made a ripple in the news cycle, it embraced ideas like greening the national fleet, reducing waste in federal programs (the literal kind), making buildings more efficient, and so on and so forth. But as Jervey points out, there was also an initiative buried amidst the expected green stuff that instructed federal organizations to begin climate adaptation training.


On March 4th, in a move surely designed to side-step Congress, Obama's Council on Environmental Quality issued instructions to all federal agencies on how to adapt to climate change. All agencies, from the Food and Drug Administration to the Department of Defense, will be required to analyze their vulnerabilities to the impacts from climate change and come up with a plan to adapt. Thousands of governmental employees will be trained on climate science, like it or not.
Such training will extend to all private business that contract with the government, and will be given to thousands of government offices and companies. What, exactly, will this entail? Cote ticks it off:

  • Appoint a Climate Adaptation specialist

  • Establish an Agency wide Climate Change Adaptation Policy and Mandate by June 2011

  • Participate in Climate Adaptation workshops and then educate all employees throughout 2011

  • Identify and analyze climate vulnerabilities that would interfere with accomplishing the Agency's mission by March 2012

  • Implement the adaptation plan by September 2012

The order says something like this: climate change is real, it's happening, and despite the politically charged and (intellectually dishonest) debate in Congress, we're going to need to do something about it. This 'secret' plan really isn't a big deal at all -- it's pretty minor news. The US armed forces have all long ago accepted the realities of climate change, and have been working on adaption strategies ever since. And my sense is that these 'adaption' strategies are to have very little effect on the things that are actually causing climate change -- I can't imagine they'll seek to curtail emissions or anything like that.

In other words, Obama has signed an executive order confirming that climate change is a threat that agencies across the board are going to have to start dealing with. Hardly controversial. What should be controversial is the fact that Obama recognizes the scope of the threat climate change poses, and that he's not willing to fight harder for policies that would substantively address it.

More on Obama and Climate Change
Obama : Climate Reform Dead for at Least Two Years
Obama Announces New Climate Change Strategy (Video News)

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