Analysis: Obama acknowledges climate change in his inauguration speech

Obama takes oath at yesterdays inauguration.

 By Anders Lorenzen

As President Barack Obama was yesterday officially sworn in for his second term as the 44th President of the USA, he gave the strongest indication yet that he does view climate change as a serious global threat and will tackle it head on in this his upcoming and last term in office. In his own words:

‘’We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.’’

Obama’s environmental remarks were received with great excitement and enthusiasm by the crowd, environmental activists and bureaucrats alike across the world. These ranged from tweets by actor Mark Ruffalo to EU climate change commissioner Connie Hedegaard and former Vice President Al Gore:

Al Gore@algore
Great to hear President Obama call for climate action in today’s#inaug2013 address. Congratulations Mr. President http://bit.ly/VgnNwd

Mark Ruffalo@Mruff221
#inaug2013 Today the president said we must respond to climate change. Let’s help him do it. Please sign my petition. http://wh.gov/EawO

Connie Hedegaard@CHedegaardEU
1/3 He did, and strongly! We’ll respond to #climatechange knowing that failure to do so would betray future generations #Obama#inaug2013

Connie Hedegaard@CHedegaardEU
2/3 US will not only fight #climatechange “we must lead it! That’s how we’ll maintain our economic vitality” #Obama #inaug2013

Connie Hedegaard@CHedegaardEU
3/3 Great strong words on #climate at #inaug2013. The US President could not commit stronger to delivering now… #Obama

Despite not making clear how exactly his words would translate into policy, as this was not the right occasion, in referring to those who ‘still deny the overwhelming judgement of science’, one would assume he was making a less than subtle reference to those climate sceptics in the Republican Party who have threatened and opposed so many of his climate proposals to date.

In mentioning the ‘devastating impact of raging fires…crippling drought, and …powerful storms’, he was clearly referencing the severe widespread drought experienced by many states and superstorm Sandy which caused such domestic havoc for Americans in 2012.

And as Obama has always championed renewables it was no great surprise when he declared that the US must ‘claim the promise (of) the technology that will power new jobs and new industries’, however this time he went even further in stating that the US must take the opportunity to ‘lead’  this transition. Its an understatement to say that the US renewable industry will be delighted with this bold comment.

Whilst all these statements are reassuring, they will clearly raise key questions from environmentalists and green NGO’s in terms of what action they will translate into.  When he talks of protecting ‘waterways and forests’, is he in fact referring to any of these key pivotal issues:
The Keystone XL pipeline which Obama previously rejected – a new submission is coming up, will he have the courage to repeat his rejection?
Arctic oil exploration in Alaska (currently under review due to Shell’s ‘Kulluk’ drilling rig running aground) – does Obama have the courage to impose a US ban on Arctic drilling?
– And last but not least, the issue of fracking – the protest movement against this controversial shale gas extraction technique has the backing of several celebrities, including actor Matt Damon who stars in the upcoming film ‘Promised Land’ featuring this very issue – will Obama take a stand against it?

Ultimately Obama will be judged on actions and not words, something environmental advocates will be sure to remind him off.

Sub edited by Kirstie Wielandt.

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Categories: Obama, renewableenergy

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