Obama Seeks Urgent and Quick Action on Climate Change

Thomas Schueneman

While reassuring the world that “there is only one president at a time” in the United States, president-elect Barack Obama is sending definitive signals he takes seriously his campaign rhetoric of a “Planet in Peril” and intends to take quick action to address climate change early in his administration.

Obama signals quick and decisive action on climate change and energy policy

One such signal was sent when he sent policy advisor Jason Grumet to an environmental conference in Washington DC this week in order to convey assurances there would be swift action on climate change. While putting forth no policy specifics, the appearance of Grumet is reportedly seen as an indication Obama plans to make good on his campaign pledge of pursuing a 30–point plan for the environment.

…we will have the opportunity to move quickly because there has been a profound amount of knowledge generated,'' Grumet said. “My suggestion to all of you is to enjoy the holiday season, spend some time with your family and friends and rest up because I think it's going to be a very, very busy 2009.”

Despite Grumet’s optimism for, among other things, passing legislation for a cap-and-trade deal to help curb CO2 emissions, Senate Energy and National Resource Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico), anticipating much gnashing of teeth and contentious debate on the issue, finds it unlikely cap-and-trade will pass in 2009, looking instead for a deal to be hammered out by 2010.

Despite concerns that the continuing economic crisis will hamper efforts to address global warming and energy policy, Bloomberg reports John Podesta, head of the Obama transition team, concuring with Grumet that global warming and energy policy will move forward once Obama assumes office in January.

I anticipate him moving very aggressively and very rapidly on the whole question of transforming the energy platform in the United States from high carbon energy to low carbon energy”, Podesta told reporters.

Using his executive powers, Obama also plans on reversing many of the Bush administration’s environmental policies, including reversing the EPA’s refusal to grant California a waiver to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle tailpipes. In all, Obama’s team has identified some 200 Bush policies as possible targets for reversal. The list could grow as Bush uses his waning days as president to push through some final jabs at sound environmental policy (including his attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act).

Explaining the need for quick action once Obama assumes office, Podesta explained:

There’s a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we’ll see the president do that. I think that he feels like he has a real mandate for change. We need to get off the course that the Bush administration has set.”

Obama faces some of the most daunting challenges of any incoming president in history (Lincoln and Roosevelt come to mind, feel free to add your two cents), time will tell how well he is able to move the federal government toward responsible environmental stewardship. It is reassuring to see that he intends to act quickly.

After the past eight years, there is no more time to waste.

Sources and Further Reading:

Red, Green, and Blue

Buffalo News Opinion: “Limit the Parting Shots”


Tags: obama+environmental+policy, obama+transition, obama+climate+change


Climate Politics & Policy