What's next for climate change?

No more Mrs. Nice Ruth—Earth first in Obama’s second term.

No more Mrs. Nice Ruth—Earth first in Obama’s second term.

(Come friend Aunt Ruthie on Facebook and let’s hang out.)

Aunt Ruth is still a little giddy from last week’s election. The stupid smile just won’t go away. Et tu?

Just when she thought she was too old to have a morning-after epiphany ever again, along came November 7: Proposition 30 won; binders full of women are heading to the U.S. Senate; gay marriage was voted go in three states and marijuana legal in two. The electoral power of the Latino voter is irrefutable. And Mitt Romney, the inimitable Capt. Etch A Sketch, is going back to where he belongs—no, not the 1950s but back into the private sector.

Proposition 37gave it a good shot.

And, as best as Aunt Ruth can recall, President Barack Obama mentioned climate change for the first time in the entire presidential campaign: “We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

Had Obama made first mention of climate change in his concession—rather than acceptance—speech, it would have been worse than far too little, far too late. It would have been far, far too sad.

Today, we'll have to settle for far too late. Not that there weren't notable victories achieved by his administration, largely through the Environmental Protection Agency, but for Ruthie, it's like this: No more Mr. Nice Chick; no more nice eco-girl next door. That was so last term.

Political reality dictated Obama neglect climate change to get re-elected—and nobody can quarrel his strategy—but the scientific reality is beet-red clear: It is the defining issue of our era. Focused effort must be paid, whatever the economic, political and cultural consequences. And it can’t wait any longer.

Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, told Ruth in an email that the right wing of Congress is more the culprit, and that we should lean on the Washington, D.C., offices of local Congressional deniers (U.S. Reps. Tom McClintock and—should the skies fall—Dan Lungren) that the press be challenged when climate change is denied, and that dousing Obama in mail on the subject is the right tact, given the isolation of the office. All good points.

But Auntie Ruth imagines we have not seen the last of eco-activist arrests in front of the White House.

He's family, he's our president. It's going to be a family squabble—something we lefties do real well. That he will be hamstrung on the right can't matter anymore.

Congratulations on an amazing victory, Mr. President. Now, let's get on with it.