President Obama to Tone Down Climate Change Talk

Ken Silverstein | Sep 04, 2012

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This is President Obama’s week to detail his path for energizing America and to answer GOP-hopeful Romney’s scathing attacks. And while some of his responses will be pointed, others will be dulled -- most likely those discussing the potential of climate change on the U.S. economy.

When Obama accepts his party’s nomination for the U.S. presidency on Thursday, he will strike a reasoned tone. That is, the subject of global warming and of spending national resources to combat such an amorphous issue is one that his Republican opposition cherishes. Therefore, the president will approach it with a delicacy that conveys that he understands that his fellow-Americans are pinched but also in such a way that re-claims his resolve to create the next-wave of U.S. jobs through the federal funding of green innovations.

“We will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment ... when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” Obama intoned during his 2008 nomination.

But that idealism has been tempered in the wake of challenging times whereby people are mostly concerned with keeping their jobs. Still, Obama’s sense of duty is compelling him to keep alive the pursuit of the modern fuels and tools that would minimize heat-trapping emissions.

To that end, his outright support of a cap-and-trade system in which pollution limits are set and utilities would be given free market incentives to reach them has been set aside. Today, the goal is a “clean energy standard” that seeks to have 80 percent of all electric generation emanate from sustainable or nuclear energy, both of which have few such carbon releases. Or, that energy would come from natural gas-fueled or coal-powered generators that are equipped with the latest and greatest technologies.

It’s a policy change born out of necessity. It’s also one that sounds less threatening in today’s political tumult. But will it be embraced by the American people and by the industries that would have to live within that framework?

The short answer is that most people will give green energy and cleaner fuels the nod if they could be implemented in a cost-effective manner. And many utilities would do the same if they are provided a certain regulatory roadmap. The idea, nonetheless, will be met with resistance from coal-reliant utilities.

Central Divide

Indeed, the fork in the road is clearly marked: Romney is trying to appeal to those who are convinced that fossil fuels remain the most dependable and the cheapest form of electric generation while Obama is reaching out to those who think that such fuels are dirty and finite, and that sustainable energies are the path forward.

The debate, though, will get relegated to the mud pits. Romney, who governed Massachusetts as a moderate, is now mocking the same positions he once held: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet,” Romney said during the Republican convention. “My promise is to help you and your family.”

Romney has said repeatedly that wind and solar energies are unreliable and cannot compete with coal unless they are heavily subsidized. Stumping through coal country in Ohio, he pledged his undying support to coal while demonizing Obama’s EPA and his administration for their “war on coal.”

The choice: Romney wants to reverse or prevent anymore incremental movements in environmental regulations while Obama says that coal’s fate is contingent on investing in pollution controls and advanced coal generation.

It all circles back to whether addressing climate change should be a U.S. policy goal and if so, just what methodology ought to be used. Here, Romney’s most recent comments within the context of his revised stance on climate change would connote that global warming is, at best, a distant problem in which we don’t have the financial luxury to address right now.

Obama’s position, conversely, is that the phenomenon is real and that it is man-made but that it is now impractical to set firm limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The nation, therefore, ought to continue its unyielding quest for innovative technologies that can adapt to today’s electric generators, all to create a New Energy Economy that is also environmentally friendly.

Politicos have long sought to split the economic and environmental worlds. But the differences are more subtle and the degree to which they overlap is a function of whether public policy favors the traditional or the modern fuels. Obama will now respond to his critics and articulate his vision, all as voters decipher the rhetoric and make their selection for the next U.S. president.


EnergyBiz Insider has been awarded the Gold for Original Web Commentary presented by the American Society of Business Press Editors. The column is also the Winner of the 2011 Online Column category awarded by Media Industry News, MIN. Ken Silverstein has been named one of the Top Economics Journalists by Wall Street Economists.

Twitter: @Ken_Silverstein

energybizinsider@energycentral.com


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Romney Recognizes Futility of Unilateral GHG Emission Reductions

While EPA’s rule to limit CO2 emissions from new coal-fired power plants and pursuing 'green' energy may be emotionally gratifying to believers in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) theory, the reality is that unilateral US restrictions on CO2 emissions will be counterproductive.

In testimony before Congress, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson admitted that Waxman-Markey "cap and trade" GHG emission control legislation would reduce global temperatures in 2100 by 0.2°C (assuming CAGW theory is correct). The EPA’s recent GHG emission regulations will reduce US CO2 emissions by much less than Waxman-Markey. From 2001 through 2010, US CO2 emissions decreased by 1.7% while worldwide CO2 increased by 28.5%.Thus, it is obvious that the US, by itself, cannot meaningfully reduce worldwide CO2 emissions.

A strategy of trying to control GHG emissions through a global treaty is doomed to fail because the World does not have the international institutions needed to enforce such a treaty. The UN’s sterling record of halting genocide, nuclear proliferation, slavery, religious persecution, and piracy on the high seas, which are EASY compared to controlling GHG emissions, should make it obvious that a global GHG emission control treaty is doomed to fail.

It should also be pointed out that, in addition to being incompetent and impotent, the UN is also racked with corruption. Remember the $40 billion Iraq Oil for Food Program? $2 billion to the Iraqi people, $1 billion to the UN for administrative costs, and $37 billion missing.

The various scandals and corruption in the EU’s GHG emission trading scheme (ETS) indicates that even the EU, which is a comparatively very strong international institution, cannot prevent theft by organized crime, tax evasion, and fraud (much of it through UN approved bogus Certified Emission Reduction projects located in China and India).

Thus, the current strategy of preventing CAGW by controlling GHG emissions though an international treaty is destined to fail. Continuing with the current strategy is distressingly similar to well-meaning liberals during the 1930's, who outlawed war and agreed to disarmament treaties. Retrospectively, we not only realize the obvious futility of these international efforts, but many historians now believe these well meaning, but remarkably naive, efforts actually contributed to the start of WWII. Western democracies failed to re-build and modernize their military forces as Germany, Italy and Japan expanded their military and developed new weapons, believing that pieces of paper and moral suasion would stop a Hitler, Mussolini, or Tojo. These despots were much more cold-eyed; they saw the failure by western democracies to rebuild their defenses as an opportunity.

Similarly, unilateral GHG emission reductions by the US will not only be ineffective, but will also likely be counter-productive as industry migrates to countries that are more carbon intensive than the US (e.g. China, India, etc.). The economic benefits to these countries of having the US enact GHG emissions controls while they do nothing makes it less likely they will actually agree to reducing GHG emissions. 

It is long past time for those who believe in CAGW theory, such as Pres. Obama, to stop the charade of pretending a worldwide GHG emissions control treaty can be effective and develop strategies that actually have a realistic chance of working, given the political and economic realities of our world.

No we are not heading for disaster...

You are incorrect that actual temperatures have risen faster than climate scientists' predictions. On the contrary, the IPCC and the iconic Dr. Hansen have consistently predicted higher temperatures than have actually occured.

You are correct that in the US, July 2012 was the hottest July on record (since circa 1890 when accurate temperature records begin), surpassing July 1934 (2nd hottest) by 0.2ºC. This is a warming rate of 0.03ºC/decade, but believers in CAGW (catastrophic anthropogenic global warming) say that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are going to cause global temperatures to increase by 0.3-0.6ºC/decade, 10-20 TIMES faster than the observed warming rate. Thus, the recent record hot July does not validate CAGW theory but indicates, at a minimum, that believers in CAGW theory vastly over-estimate climate sensitivity to atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Koch Professor

There needs to be more said about this man. If he was a Koch fellow who was supposed to obey his bosses then it needs to be explained why he did not. What is the basis of his research to suggest that global warming is man made and not cyclical in nature? How do his peers feel about his research? What do the Koch brothers say now?

Koch Professor

Prof. Muller headed the Berkely Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) Project. One of the 'think tanks' supported by Charles & David Koch did contribute, also with many other organizations, to the funding of this study. The BEST Project used new, sophisticated statistical techniques to look for trends in earth surface temperature readings. BEST did confirm that the earth has generally been warming. However, it also showed two problem areas for advocates of CAGW (catastophic anthropogenic global warming) theory: 1) BEST extended analysis of the temperature record further back (circa 1800 vs. 1890) and this analysis shows the earth has been warming since the beginning of the 19th century (before man-made CO2 emissions began increasing), and 2) global temperatures have NOT been increasing since 1996, contrary to CAGW theory.

The BEST report clearly states that the project team made no determination why temperatures have been increasing.

100% of GCC caused by GHG?

Really?  I guess past climate changes did not exist or at least the factors that caused them no longer exist?  So the present alignment with one of the largest solar flare emitting areas of the sun have nothing to do with GCC despite all the dire warnings about interference with the electric grid and past evidence that solar flares do impact weather?

To say the financial system means nothing is also unrealistic.  The financial system is the means by which we pay for things.  I mean, I seriously doubt you will be able to take a bushel of corn down to your electric provider to pay your bill.  We have to find ways that work with both and the single biggest impact we can have right now is to replace older power plants with others that are more efficient and cleaner but still provide economically feasible power to industry and business, schools, hospitals, homes.  More efficient means less CO2/MWh and less heat rejected to the atmosphere.  At the same time we need to work on the demand side of the equation--do what we can to reduce energy consumption.

Continuing to give money taken from middle-class taxpayers to give it to rich investors and corporations in order to lower their tax bills through PTCs merely does two things--it results in a plethora of wind farms that make power at the wrong time and need backup fossil power and thus do nothing significant to decrease CO2 emissions and it makes the share of the tax burden shouldered by the middle-class larger putting more financial hardship on them possibly dropping them out of the middle-class.

RPSs are no better.  They increase the price of electricity for those not wealthy enough to buy into the renewable game.  Even wind farms contribute to increased electricity prices because of the cost of long distance transmission lines borne by the ratepayers.

Go after CO2/MWh in the most economical manner and go after MWh demand first.

O'bama and Climate Change

Ken, your article clearly shows youre political "bent" as you characterize "Romney’s scathing attacks" when in fact he was only presenting the facts.  If you want to talk about scathing attacks you should comment on the Left's disinformation attacks on Romney's business, taxes, concern for individuals, etc.

You say that "Obama’s sense of duty" requires him to be concerned.  The only sense of duty he has is to continue to drag down the United States by increasing energy costs, adding to the national debt, "bowing and apology" tours derating the U.S. and on and on.

You note that Romney appeals "to those who are convinced that fossil fuels remain the most dependable and the cheapest form of electric generation".  This is not a matter of opinion but a matter of fact - can you identify any country that has moved away from these fuels to wind and solar energy?

You note that "Romney has said repeatedly that wind and solar energies are unreliable and cannot compete with coal unless they are heavily subsidized".  I would like someone to prove otherwise - you can't!  We can't even keep the government subsidized companies afloat in the U.S. - Solindra, etc.

For all you folks that have previously posted that global warming is a foregone conclusion should educate themselves by reading the article at the following link:

http://www.energypulse.net/centers/article/article_display.cfm?a_id=2563

 

Anthropogenic Global Warming

Does this mean that President Obama won't be explaining to the American people exactly how 4 atmospheric CO2 molecules in 10,000 (or 400 PPM) holds sway over our planet's climate.  ...and how 3 atmospheric CO2 molecules in 10,000 (or 300 PPM) is just right like Goldilock's porridge.  ...or how a concentration of 2 atmospheric CO2 molecules in 10,000(or 200 PPM) will suspend photosynthesis and food production world-wide.  These horrors need to be explained to the willing, the naive and the ignorant.   Maybe we can implement carbon taxes with all the rest to come at the edge of the January 1st Fiscal Cliff.  I hope Obama reconsiders and spends a lot of time exlaining these critical issues to the American sheeple.

AGW and CO2 continued

Climate science IS a science that deals with facts and reality. Those who argue with it will have to argue with about 160 Scientific societies world-wide as well as the visible evidence they can see today. The universally agree the AGW is real and a threat to civilization. Prof. Richard Muller of UCB was such a skeptic and hired by the Koch brothers to show how the data was all wrong and skewed. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jul/29/climate-change-sceptics-change-mind

But unfortunately for the Koch Bros. he found the data not only to be correctly evaluated but says that 100% of Climate Change is due to GHG emissions by humans...AGW.

Massive and sustained droughts and floods will reduce the planetary capability to produce crops to sustain life. We will see some of that in the grocery store this Fall. Hydroelectric and irrigation projects are now and will continue to suffer exacerbating the energy situation further. The USA could literaly go completely broke and the consequences can be repaired but the Climate can not be and we rely on it far more than money or fossil fuels. 

So, if you are worried about the fiscal cliff, imagine the Climate cliff. When the arctic warms it has a positive feedback on climate change by replacing white reflecting surfaces with dark absorbing surfaces. Tundras packed with eons of rotten vegetation and frozen methane stores release their gases (22x the GHG effect of CO2) further accelerating the process. Acidification of the oceans, already measurable, increases threatening the collapse of that eco-system and food supply. FISCAL cliff? You worry about NOTHING.

Perhaps You Can Explain (But I Doubt It)

If you cannot explain how and why 4 atmospheric CO2 molecules in 10,000 (i.e. 400 PPM) cause irreversible Global Warming, then you have no argument.  Not one study or book on the subject can explain just how an infinitesimal trace gas (CO2) has the capacity to significantly impact our climate.  The IPCC Technical Reports themselves verify the Global Warming Potential (GWP) for carbon dioxide at unity (1) is the lowest of all the trace gases which compose a whopping 1% of our atmosphere.  Oxygen and nitrogen compose the other 99%.  So, how is ith that CO2, which composes 4 one-hundredths of one percent (.04 of 1%) of our atmosphere, poses such an extraordinary risk?  How is it that a concentration of 3 one-hundredths of one percent (.03 of 1%) is JUST RIGHT?  But, a concentration of 2 one-hundredths of one percent (.02 of 1%) garantees worldwide starvation?  Finally, why is it that commercial greenhouse operators invest in CO2 generators to run their greenhouse concentrations up to 12 one-hundredths of one percent (.12 of 1%) to maximize their plant growth and facilities output?   Are they just crazy?

Bankrupt?  Our country is already bankrupt.  Do you think for a moment there is ANY money left to invest in reducing the non-existent GHG problem?

We are heading for disaster....

We have seen the EARLY warnings of Climate Change the past two years. The warmest year ever, the hottest, driest Summer on record, the list goes on. If Obama has failed it is at delivering the message so critical for human survival which is to modernize our energy sources away from carbon and GHG based sources. 

I have attended many events and seminars at Stanford and elsewhere. I am not a Climatologist, but Climatologists seemed to have predicted a far slower evolution of Climate than we have seen already, which is to say, they underestimated how severe the problem is. Water, food and livability are far more critical than any need for fossil fuels. The continued GHG caused Climate Change already dialed in based on the natural inertia of the system, is significant and yet we continue to grow the problem. When you don't have food and water or proper climate, financial deficits and virtually every other excuse for not acting will seem unimportant. Denying the problem is classic when a powerful special interest with money is threatened. The time has past for discussions, the problem is upon us and the solutions are ready.

We are heading for disaster....

We have seen the EARLY warnings of Climate Change the past two years. The warmest year ever, the hottest, driest Summer on record, the list goes on. If Obama has failed it is at delivering the message so critical for human survival which is to modernize our energy sources away from carbon and GHG based sources. 

I have attended many events and seminars at Stanford and elsewhere. I am not a Climatologist, but Climatologists seemed to have predicted a far slower evolution of Climate than we have seen already, which is to say, they underestimated how severe the problem is. Water, food and livability are far more critical than any need for fossil fuels. The continued GHG caused Climate Change already dialed in based on the natural inertia of the system, is significant and yet we continue to grow the problem. When you don't have food and water or proper climate, financial deficits and virtually every other excuse for not acting will seem unimportant. Denying the problem is classic when a powerful special interest with money is threatened. The time has past for discussions, the problem is upon us and the solutions are ready.