Leadership on Climate Change

June 26th, 2013 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Leadership on Climate Change

PresidentObamaYesterday, President Obama gave a historic and impressive speech on climate change and outlined a very bold and progressive plan to tackle the world problem of global warming. Climatologist Michael Mann said of the speech, “It is the most aggressive and promising climate plan to come out of the executive branch in years and President Obama should be applauded for the bold leadership he has shown in confronting the climate change threat head on.” Former Vice President Al Gore, who’s repeatedly pushed Obama to tackle climate change more head on, said yesterday, “This was a terrific and historic speech, by far the best address on climate by any president ever.”

The speech was beautiful and incredibly well-crafted. One of my favorite parts of the speech was this pushback against the pessimists who don’t believe Americans and American businesses are up to the challenge of solving this problem:

The problem with all these tired excuses for inaction is that it’s a fundamental lack of faith in American business and American ingenuity. (Applause.)

You know, these critics seem to think that when we ask our businesses to innovate and reduce pollution and lead, they can’t or they won’t do it. They’ll just kind of give up and quit. But in America, we know that’s not true. Look at our history.

But for me the best part was when he calls on young people, indeed on all Americans, to become climate hawks and create a nationwide climate movement:

I don’t have much patience for anyone who denies that this challenge is real. We don’t have time for a meeting of the flat earth society. (Cheers, applause.)

Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm. And ultimately, we will be judged as a people and as a society and as a country on where we go from here.

Our founders believed that those of us in positions of power are elected not just to serve as custodians of the present, but as caretakers of the future. And they charged us to make decisions with an eye on a longer horizon than the arc of our own political careers. That’s what the American people expect. That’s what they deserve. And someday our children and our children’s children will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could, when we had the chance, to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more stable world? And I want to be able to say, yes, we did. Don’t you want that? (Cheers, applause.)

Americans are not a people who look backwards. We’re a people who look forward. We’re not a people who fear what the future holds; we shape it.

What we need in this fight are citizens who will stand up and speak up and compel us to do what this moment demands. Understand, this is not just a job for politicians. So I’m going to need all of you, to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends.

Tell them what’s at stake. Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings. Push back on misinformation. Speak up for the facts. Broaden the circle of those who are willing to stand up for our future. (Applause.)

Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. (Applause.) Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices. (Applause.) Invest. Divest. Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth.

And remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote! Make yourself heard on this issue. (Cheers, applause.)

And my other favorite segment was this pushback against the idea that fighting climate change is a job killer:

Now, what you’ll hear from the special interests and their allies in Congress is that this will kill jobs and crush the economy, and basically end American free enterprise as we know it. And the reason I know you’ll hear those things is because that’s what they said every time America sets clear rules and better standards for our air and our water and our children’s health. And every time, they’ve been wrong.

For example, in 1970, when we decided through the Clean Air Act to do something about the smog that was choking our cities — and, by the way, most young people here aren’t old enough to remember what it was like, but when I was going to school in 1979-1980 in Los Angeles, there were days where folks couldn’t go outside. And the sunsets were spectacular because of all the pollution in the air. But at the time when we passed the Clean Air Act to try to get rid of some of this smog, some of the same doomsayers were saying new pollution standards will decimate the auto industry. Guess what — it didn’t happen. Our air got cleaner.

In 1990, when we decided to do something about acid rain, they said our electricity bills would go up, the lights would go off, businesses around the country would suffer — I quote — ‘a quiet death.’ None of it happened, except we cut acid rain dramatically.’

See, the problem with all these tired excuses for inaction is that it suggests a fundamental lack of faith in American business and American ingenuity. These critics seem to think that when we ask our businesses to innovate and reduce pollution and lead, they can’t or they won’t do it. They’ll just kind of give up and quit. But in America, we know that’s not true. Look at our history…. The point is, if you look at our history, don’t bet against American industry. Don’t bet against American workers. Don’t tell folks that we have to choose between the health of our children or the health of our economy.

To see a clear picture of the problems and how the President plans to address them, you can visit the White House website, which does a great job of visually depicting their plans and the issues they hope to tackle. Keep in mind that the EPA allows for the President to take direct action on these climate change issues and by-pass Congress. Obama once hoped to achieve these actions through legislation, but given the head-in-the-sand approach to climate change that our Republican led House of Representatives has shown, this is a good and necessary by-pass.

More leadership and action like this please!