See? Obama still cares about climate change! Despite keeping largely silent on the issue over the last year or two, failing to speak up to save the climate bill from certain death in the Senate, and not giving it any mention at all during his State of the Union address, he still wants Americans to address climate change. He said so right here, in this widely-hailed speech to the thousands upon thousands of ... students at Penn State University.Okay, so it's not quite the sort of leadership moment that'd be ideal for reinvigorating a public engagement with the climate problem. And for that matter, the mention was a general aside; a justification for making buildings more energy efficient. It's hardly a call to climate action. Now, I know plenty of folks have thought that I've been too hard on Obama for failing to step up and address climate change head-on -- they argue that his calls for more support for clean energy are by and large the same thing.
But I still disagree. I believe the best thing Obama could do on the climate front would be to begin constructing a new narrative about global warming, and engaging the public on the matter on his own terms. I know climate has been beaten back and boxed in by the political opposition and the media apparatus sympathetic to it, but the noise has become so incomprehensible that it seems Americans are just waiting to be given a straight line on the top. Even without a distinct policy agenda behind it, climate change desperately needs to reenter the American vernacular in substantive terms.
And as always, that line could go something like this: The vast majority of scientists continue to warn us that we are putting too many greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere. The evidence is beyond compelling; nations around the world have already joined together to face this threat -- and they've found that doing so has spurred a boom in the clean energy industries of tomorrow. It's time the United States to not only join the effort, but to lead it.
If Obama really wants to meaningfully address climate change, there's no way around it -- it's time to start talking climate.
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