If Not Now, When?

This morning, Thomas Friedman published “Obama and the Oil Spill,” a challenge to President Obama to rise above the temptation to think small and instead reach for the big picture of how the US gets its energy and what our energy future is. As Friedman says:

Why is Obama playing defense? Just how much oil has to spill into the gulf, how much wildlife has to die, how many radical mosques need to be built with our gasoline purchases to produce more Times Square bombers, before it becomes politically “safe” for the president to say he is going to end our oil addiction? Indeed, where is “The Obama End to Oil Addiction Act”? Why does everything have to emerge from the House and Senate? What does he want? What is his vision? What are his redlines?

Friedman isn’t alone in calling for action. Today, two prominent business coalitions announced the biggest number yet of companies that support clean energy and climate legislation: 6,000 companies employing 3.5 million employees and that generated over $3.2 trillion in revenues last year. That’s a big base of support for clean energy and climate legislation from a constituency you don’t usually find backing environmental initiatives. As Tim Greeff with the Clean Economy Network and We Can Lead Campaign said:

Leadership by the Administration and Senate is critical to our success in unleashing investment for new energy technologies that will create new American jobs. A clear market-based price signal that rewards clean energy innovation is key.

And, as my colleague Dan Lashof notes, today the National Academy of Sciences issued a stark reminder of why we can’t afford to wait for leadership anymore. As the NAS report states:

Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for—and in many cases is already affecting—a broad range of human and natural systems.

As for those who will insist on denial – and will never be satisfied by mere facts – the NAS has this to say:

Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.

Coming as they do when Senator Murkowski is attempting to toss the science to the winds by overturning EPA’s determination that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases pose a threat, Lashof notes that the Congressionally requested NAS reports should be considered particularly relevant to the debate:

Congress requested the National Academy of Sciences to prepare America’s Climate Choices precisely to inform the kind of choice that Senators will face if Senator Murkowski brings her resolution to a vote. We need to insist that Senators follow the advice they asked for.

Exactly. And we have to insist that all of our leaders – from President Obama to those in the US Senate – seize this moment to reach for the future. The science is solid, the solutions are sound and the support is there. It’s time for our leaders to act. If not now, when?