President Obama Reminds Us That It Is Time to Get to Work Solving Global Warming

Countries representing over 80% of the world’s global warming pollution left Copenhagen committed to reduce their pollution.  As we discussed here and here, this was a significant step forward in international efforts to address global warming.  And by the end of this week, these countries are expected to record their commitments in the Copenhagen Accord (as my colleague discussed here).  So the U.S. can no longer hide behind the inaction of others as an excuse for its own inaction.  That wall has crumbled -- as now all major emitters are committing to take steps to address their pollution.

So now it is the Senate’s turn for action!

As someone that experienced the ups and downs of those two weeks of global negotiations -- probably the most complicated, confusing, and critical global negotiations in recent history -- it would have been easy to pack-up our tents, give-up, and hit the road.  But that isn’t the America I know so President Obama rolled up his sleeves and negotiated an agreement with other world leaders. 

So “conventional wisdom” in DC can have mood swings and that is definitely true right now on a comprehensive clean energy and global warming bill in the Senate (a view that doesn’t match the facts as NRDC’s President stressed here). But when faced with ups and downs, obstacles, or uncertainty on critical issues that confront the U.S., this country doesn’t pack-up.  As President Obama put it in tonight’s State of the Union Address:   

“…when the Union was turned back at Bull Run and the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt.  When the market crashed on Black Tuesday and civil rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the future was anything but certain…And despite all our divisions and disagreements; our hesitations and our fears; America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, and one people.

Again, we are tested.  And again, we must answer history’s call.

… We do not give up.  We do not quit.  We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit” [emphasis added].

After Copenhagen, I’ve been thinking more and more about the future that we are going to leave my two children (and your children).  Do my kids look at me in 20, 30, 40 years and ask: “what happened? You were confronted with the challenge of global warming pollution and you didn’t tackle it?”  Or do they look at me and ask: “how did you get it done?  You faced such obstacles and yet you overcame them?”  I hope that my children ask me the latter set of questions.  And that is what President Obama noted in his speech:

“From the day I took office, I have been told that addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious – that such efforts would be too contentious, that our political system is too gridlocked, and that we should just put things on hold for awhile.

For those who make these claims, I have one simple question:  How long should we wait?  How long should America put its future on hold?” [emphasis added]

So despite all the recent “conventional wisdom” that President Obama would “duck for cover” and not push a comprehensive clean energy and global warming bill this year, he slammed a door on those doubts (as NRDC’s President highlighted here and here):

“…to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives…And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year.  This year, I am eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate” [emphasis added].

President Obama is signaling loud and clear that now is the time to pass comprehensive clean energy and global warming legislation.  A bill that will truly allow us to: “have gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight against climate change”, as he put it.

And tonight, the President made it clear that the time to pass this legislation is now. Let your senators know that you agree.