President Obama's Environmental Record: Good on Fuel Efficiency, Not So Good on Climate & Energy

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photo: Utenriksdepartementet UD/Creative Commons

Assessing President Obama's environmental record so far seems to be the rage in the past few weeks. First Slate and now Yale e360 is stock-taking, enlisiting a dozen prominent environmental activists, economists, and pundits to extend their views. As you might expect it's a mixed bag. Nearly everyone hails Obama's efforts to increased vehicle mileage standards and early efforts to use economic stimulus money to promote green jobs. But at the same time the verdict on energy and, particularly, climate policy has been that for all the rhetoric on the campaign trail and in the initial months of his presidency on helping "the planet begin to heal" he has fallen short.

No doubt part of that stems from the actions of, as Climate Progress's Joe Romm rightly points out, "anti-science, pro-pollution ideologues" to derail both domestic and international climate action.

But I have to say--since e360 didn't ask me my opinion I'll give it here--that on climate policy the President's proposals pre-COP15 were never up to the demands of science. The bar was always set too low, and it was accompanied by a gross lack of self-awareness on that count.

Knowing that compromise is going to happen, it never made sense to make proposals for emission reductions, climate mitigation assistance, and conditions for participation in international agreements which were already below what the best minds studying climate change said was required to stop or at best slow it.

Hearing those proposals--that always amounted to about one-tenth of the emissions reductions necessary to keep us below 2°C temperature rise despite the pathetic message massaging of using a different baseline that the rest of the world uses--made it clear to me that the President was less than committed to causing "the rise of the oceans to begin to slow."

More on President Obama
Obama is a Pushover on the Environment: Ex-Interior Secretary
How Would You Grade Obama's Environmental Progess?

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