Obama and climate change

As I heard from lots of friends Tuesday (I think I’m getting to be known in my community as being slightly obsessed about this topic!), Obama didn’t have much to say about climate change in his State of The Union speech (just like last year).  This is a calculated strategy to avoid the negative political consequences of taking this issue head on.  LAME . Obama needs to be a leader on this front.  Scientist-bloggers like us cannot swing the tide of America’s misperceptions about climate change without the assistance of our nations leaders.

I try not to get overly political in my blogging, but Iv’e gotta say it; on most the political issues I really care about – gay rights, gun control, war, the environment – this administration is totally disappointing.

Joe Romm has been blogging a lot about this and has a great post today with a long piece by Dr. Robert J. Brulle of Drexel University on why Obama’s “don’t use that nasty C word” strategy is unlikley to work:

In his State of the Union speech, Obama called for a big boost in low-carbon energy, but didn’t mention carbon, climate or warming, as I noted last night. Other people noticed, too.

Matthew Hope, a researcher in American politics at the University of Bristol, found that Obama has mentioned ‘climate change’, ‘global warming’ or the ‘environment’ fewer times on average than his two predecessors, as an article today by the UK’s Guardian notes. That piece, which quotes my post, also quotes Dr. Robert J. Brulle of Drexel University, “an expert on environmental communications,” saying Obama’s “approach has several major drawbacks.” I asked Brulle for all of his thoughts on Hope’s key word analysis and Obama’s speech.  Brulle has a lot to say that is worth reading. Here it is:

From a political viewpoint, it is clear that Obama is not talking about climate change. The analysis based on key word counts is interesting, but not definitive. The idea that both Clinton and Bush are more “green” than Obama cannot be maintained from just a key word analysis. With all of the Obama administrations faults, this administration has done more than either Clinton or Bush in actually implementing regulations and standards to encourage actions to reduce GHG emissions.

What I see going on here is that Obama is following the rhetorical advice of David Axelrod and groups like ecoAmerica, who argue that the American public is unwilling to deal with climate change. [See Messaging 101b: EcoAmerica’s phrase ‘our deteriorating atmosphere’ isn’t going to replace ‘global warming’ — and that’s a good thing].

So rather than make the case for climate change and the necessity of action, this approach focuses on “clean” energy and research and development as a way to make a transition to a different energy mix. This is considered the popular, no pain, “energy quest” approach that relies on a mystical belief in R&D to address climate change. The Obama administration appears to have bought this approach completely as the politically popular way to address this issue. In my opinion, this approach has several major drawbacks, and effectively locks in massive and potentially catastrophic global climate change.

Read the complete post here on Climate Progress

And tell us what you think!  Are your political leaders ducking this issue?

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