Changing of the Guard: Obama's Inauguration Creates New Opportunity on International Global Warming

It is hard not to be inspired by this day in the US transfer of power (for lots of reasons).  It is a day that promises such dramatic opportunities for change.  Change from the destructive environmental record of the Bush Administration over the past 8 years (as my NRDC colleagues have represented here).  Change from a leader that doesn't understand that global warming is the most pressing environmental issue of our time, that the impacts of global warming are a huge national security threat in the future, and that the solutions to global warming can be a major driver of economic growth and job creation.


A major change in US global warming policy that offers an opportunity to both create a strong domestic policy to reduce our global warming pollution and to reach a strong international agreement (as I've discussed here, here, and here).  I say opportunity because this transfer doesn't create the necessary global warming solutions, but it sure increases the chances.

So I was inspired today, by the signals of change that President Obama outlined in his inaugural address.  There were few words specifically on global warming, but its mere mention is a continuing strong signal that addressing this is a top priority of his Administration.  After all, this address usually signals the overall framework of the new President, but rarely provides specific details on how that framework will be delivered.

Key points of his address send a strong signal of the approach that he'll bring to various issues including global warming and hints of policy changes that we can expect.  So with an air of looking forward, I looked into his inaugural address to glean the future direction of the Obama Administration and America on global warming.  Here are some snippets of his address that I found telling and some framing (in bold) that I read into those words (his whole address is available here).

The troubles we face...They can and must be addressed.

"...every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms."

"That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood...each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet."

"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real.  They are serious and they are many.  They will not be met easily or in a short span of time.  But know this, America - they will be met."

We must get to work and that includes repowering America.

"Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America...For everywhere we look, there is work to be done...We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories...All this we can do.  And all this we will do."

Are the challenges too big to address so fast?

"Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions -- who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans.  Their memories are short.  For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage."

Addressing global warming.

"With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to...roll back the specter of a warming planet."

"And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect."

Let future generations know that we didn't shy from addressing these challenges, but persevered to solve them.

"Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."

So with those inspiring words at this crucial juncture, it is hard to not be inspired that change is truly coming.  That the US and the world can come together and address the challenge of global warming by capping US emissions and getting a strong international agreement.

It can and must be done.  And now we can get started with the hard work of delivering on this promise.