The left side of the blogosphere has been aflutter ever since President Obama mentioned climate change at the DNC, one week after Mitt Romney essentially dismissed it as a joke at the RNC. Just a few examples (among many):
Grist: “Obama: climate change is not a joke, Mitt”
Motherjones: “Obama: not a hoax, extreme weather not a joke”
Huffington Post: “Hat Trick: Obama Speaks on Climate, Crowd Cheers, the ‘Village’ Notices”
The message seems to be that, if you’re at all concerned about climate change, you must vote for Obama - and not Romney - in November. This HuffPo piece pretty much says just that: U.S. Election 2012: Battle for the Soul of America
But there’s something not quite right with this logic. I agree that Romney almost certainly will do nothing to address climate change. But how is Obama going to help solve this problem exactly? He clearly hasn’t done very much so far - what evidence is there that he’ll do anything substantially different in his 2nd term? Being “better” than Romney doesn’t mean much. What matters more is this: Will four more years of Obama actually help?
President Obama proposes an energy plan that has a large focus on increasing domestic fossil fuel production, including expanded fracking for natural gas, expanded domestic oil drilling, and a ten-year plan to develop “clean coal”, whatever that is. (How does that plan compare with Romney’s? Have a look at this: Obama, Romney, or Stein: Who Has the Greenest Energy Policy?.) On the plus side, development of renewable energies are included in Obama’s energy plan too, but at a level that appears to be far too low to have much impact anytime soon, given the immense scope and short time-frame of the crisis. Support for reduced emissions is also good, and increasing automobile fuel efficiency standards by 2025, as Obama proposes, will help a little as well. But the positives of the Obama energy plan hardly amount to a solution to what is arguably the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. Where’s the urgency? Meanwhile, the very year that we’re seeing record low arctic ice cover and extreme weather all over the planet, Obama has allowed Shell to start drilling in the arctic. And he has only delayed, but not rejected the Keystone XL pipeline that will start the Alberta tar sands flowing; his approval may very well come in a 2nd term.
Obama may or may not be the right choice in November. But superior rhetoric alone won’t really help solve the climate change crisis, and so it should be valued accordingly.
Paul Krugman has likened the magical thinking of the economic austerians in Europe to the South Park underpants gnomes. These gnomes, you’ll recall, steal underpants for profit. How does this work? Simple:
- Collect underpants
I think the same analogy can be applied to solving climate change by voting for the right person in November:
- Vote for Obama (NOT Romney)
- Climate Change solved!!
Believe me, I’d be the first person to cheer if Obama finally gave climate change the attention it demands. But so far I’ve seen no reason at all to think that will happen in a 2nd term. And magical thinking just doesn’t cut it for me.