In his second Inaugural Address this morning, President Obama promised action on climate change:
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not
just to ourselves, but to all posterity. 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.
As veteran political observer Ronald Brownstein tweeted, this is a logical step:
After contraception, dreamers, gay marriage, immigration +guns, climate next logical step for a prez who won w/out non-col + rural whites
But as Philip Bump pointed out for Grist, it's also a step the President hasn't taken before. Shortly after the election, Obama's rhetoric on the issue was about "tough choices," not the necessity for action.
It is fair to find this [change] heartening. It is the strongest, broadest
argument for responsible stewardship of the planet: that we have an
obligation to the future.
In a Twitter discussion about this question, Andrew Revkin was heavily criticized by climatologist Michael Mann, among others, for not being blunter about calling a denier a denier. (Revkin thinks that's not helpful.) But, based on interviews, Revkin published a list of no-regrets actions the President could take now, including speeding the shift away from the burning of coal.
Fair enough, but it appears that Obama is thinking much bigger, as a chorus of voices on the left, from John Dickerson at Slate (who calls on him to pulverize the GOP), Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, and Michael Tomasky at the NYRB all think he should. Tomasky suggests that the President is a transformational figure, as he promised he could in 2008. Maybe we just haven't noticed:
But it could be that this is what transformation often feels like. Perhaps this is what the New Deal felt like; after all, liberals were constantly frustrated with Roosevelt in precisely the same ways today’s liberals wish more from Obama. Shortly into his second term, Roosevelt riled the left by wholeheartedly embracing deficit reduction. Obama has only halfheartedly embraced it, which is progress.
Gun control, immigration, and climate change are the remaining big domestic items on the president’s agenda. The clock ticks.
Think the Prez knows what time it is. His favorite campaign line comes to mind: Fired up. Ready to go.