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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

There is now less than a month until the United States will elect their next President. In the past 8 years President Bush has gone out of his way to reject, suppress, and generally ignore action on climate change issues. During Bush’s years in office however, climate change has slowly risen on the national and international agenda, which has to be a good thing.

Everyone has already forgotten about Bush, and he has long since stopped pretending to be worried about climate change, saying ‘Goodbye from the worlds biggest polluter’ to the other G8 leaders back in July, with a nice big grin on his face.

Much is often made of the perceived necessity for the US to take a lead by example on climate change, and encourage the rest of the world to follow suit. This is a view often emphasised by Americans themselves (see Jonathon Porritt’s recent review of Thomas L. Friedman’s new book) but as the world collectively realises what we may be facing, leadership from the United States becomes less and less relevant. The scenes in Bali last December may have been a wake-up call to this effect, as US representatives were told to ‘…..get out of the way’ of new international negotiations, to cheers from representatives from the majority of nations present.

However, the position of the US is undoubtedly important, if not in persuading other nations to act, then purely in terms of reducing their own contribution to global warming as one of the worlds largest polluters. With this in mind, anyone who realises the importance of minimising climate change will be carefully examining the environmental ideals of both Presidential candidates.

Realclimate recently examined what the vice-presidential candidates said in their televised debate about climate change (see here), with fairly predictable results. Of the two candidates, the Republican John McCain is, unsurprisingly, the one who’s less bothered about climate change. His running mate Sarah Palin has repeatedly stated that she isn’t sure that climate change is being caused by humans, but she doesn’t think the cause is important – the response to it is the important bit. As Realclimate (and countless others) point out – the cause is VERY important if you want to know how to tackle the problem.

McCain favours a cap and trade system, and wants to reduce emissions by 60% by 2050, but isn’t going to force small businesses to be included in this. Tellingly, McCain’s page of plans for global warming finish with an emphasis on ‘adaptation’. He’s going to need a much larger section on that bit if he gets elected.

In comparison, Barack Obama seems to be a long way ahead, at least in terms of rhetoric. According to his website, Barack Obama ‘supports implementation of an economy-wide cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.’. However, his running mate, Joe Biden, recently highlighted their belief in ‘clean coal’ technology and the role it can play in their carbon reduction plans – a technology that is untested and extremely unlikely to deliver ‘clean’ energy generation. The general picture that the Democrats have been painting is one that says “We know we need to have at least an 80% reduction by 2050, but there’s no way we’ll get elected if we spell out what that means in terms of changes within the country.” It could also be interpreted as “We need an 80% reduction by 2050. Help! How the hell do we do that!”.

It goes without saying that whoever gets elected will be judged on what they actually deliver and not what they have pledged to do. Unfortunately, only the most optimistic observers will be expecting the new president to begin the groundbreaking green revolution now required to restrain global warming below catastrophic levels.

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