Hope and climate change

President Obama’s mention of climate change during his victory speech last week caught many off guard, including environmentalists who had been dismayed at his ignoring the issue during the campaign season. Obama said he wants “An America not threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

But environmentalists won’t let him slide this term if he doesn’t follow through with concrete efforts to encourage sustainable energy and practices in the U.S. An opinion piece by Bill McKibben in the Washington Post discussed several measures Obama will need to take to prevent further environmental damage, including stopping the Keystone XL pipeline, which is currently under construction despite several minor setbacks (“Pipe blockage,” Oct. 25).

If progress on the pipeline continues, “it will mean the president doesn’t understand that his legacy requires dealing with climate change—and that dealing with climate change requires leaving carbon in the ground,” McKibben wrote. “There are lots of other actions that will be necessary, too: A serious tax on carbon, for instance, has long been the sine qua non of real progress. … The truth is, we’ve got to do it all, and it will be hard, harder than anything else the administration is considering, since it runs straight up against the richest industry on Earth.”

Despite Obama’s recent regulations on the auto industry to encourage fuel-efficient cars—a standard of 54.5 mpg by 2025—McKibben notes that any reduced emissions would be canceled out by the fuel used from the Keystone XL pipeline.

McKibben also writes that climate change is not such a taboo topic with major publications anymore, citing Bloomberg Businessweek’s recent cover, which read “It’s Global Warming, Stupid” in large, underlined letters above a photo of a flooded Manhattan street. While many climate scientists acknowledge that Hurricane Sandy alone is not indicative of global warming, more frequent hurricanes and natural disasters are some of the many consequences of climate change.