Obama Should Talk Climate Change in His State of the Union Address


Photo credit: US Navy

As per usual, the intertubes are awash with speculation of what President Obama will say during his State of the Union address -- along with plenty of friendly advice on what he should say, too! And who am I to sit on the sidelines while the internet chatters away? Here's my two cents: Obama should use the momentum from a recent uptick in the polls and take the opportunity to talk firmly about the realities of climate change -- and how American innovation is more than able to tackle the problem, while creating jobs in the process.I mean, it'll never happen. Since climate action is perceived to be "bad for business" and Obama is wracked with a stigma of being anti-business, don't expect him to touch the notion with a 10 foot pole. As Grist's Dave Roberts aptly notes, it'll be miraculous if Obama even mentions the words 'climate change' -- so taboo does conventional political wisdom now hold them to be. And Roberts has a good draft of a speech he'd like to see the president make, too. Here's a a bit of it:

America boasts the world's leading scientists ... virtually all of whom find that climate disruption is a serious and urgent problem. Until there is credible reason to doubt American scientists and scientific institutions, I plan to accept their findings.

For that reason, I plan to vigorously defend the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to implement reasonable measures to reduce climate pollution. As the agency carries on with the work of the Clean Air and Water Acts, some of the most successful and cost-effective public health programs in the nation's history, I will veto any bill that attempts to take them backwards ...

These are all important points -- most climate watchers now feel that the most crucial thing Obama can do policy-wise is to stick up for the EPA, so it can begin regulating the nation's worst carbon polluters. But to my ears -- and most likely the layman's -- it's a little on the wonky side. So I propose coming out with a little more gusto; something like this:

"Our nation's best scientists, at NASA and in universities in every state, have determined that last year was the hottest year ever recorded. And last decade was the hottest decade ever recorded. Though it may be an unpleasant truth, it is one that is now clearly evident to science: Our climate is warming, and it is due to human causes.

My fellow Americans, it is time to stop the partisan infighting that has divided our attempts to tackle this great problem. But perhaps that's because we've been conceiving it as a great problem -- and not a great opportunity. Because if I know anything of America, it's that it thrives when faced with challenges. And climate change gives us a grand opportunity -- to move from the polluting fuels of the past, to create jobs in the newest global high-tech industry, and to finally secure our energy independence. And we can do it. Never let anyone talk slightly of American innovation -- it has brought us the computer, the microchip, the internet; the solar panel. It can bring us an answer to climate change."

Now that would be a speech on climate change.

More on Barack Obama and Climate Change
Planet 100: Obama Announces New Climate Change Strategy : Video
Leaked Confidential Document Reveals Obama's Climate Strategy
Obama to Give First Big Climate Change Speech

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