From Climate Change Talks to Climate Change Action

Between the DOMA and Immigration Reform Bill decisions, the US government has been busy! But not too busy to take time to discuss another issue within American politics: our climate plan.

On June 25, 2013, President Obama gave a speech at Georgetown University to describe the U.S.’s next steps for climate change action. As a part of their bi-monthly policy briefing phone calls, Organizing for Action (OFA), a nonprofit organization established to support President Obama, hosted a briefing on Climate Change on June 26, 2013.

The briefing presented a few more details on the President’s four main points:

  1. “Create the first-ever EPA limits on how much carbon pollution U.S. power plants can create”

  2. Because 40% of carbon pollution comes from power plants, a timeline has been set for cleaning and limiting pollution which will be done by EPA in conjunction with individual states

  3. “Double the production of clean energy in the U.S. by 2020”

  4. The President has stated an interest in renewable energy including solar and wind and to double the amount used to 6 million homes during his second term

  5. Appliances and vehicles will also be targeted

  6. “Lead the international community to address global climate change”

  7. The US should be an established as a leader of the climate change issues

  8. Interest in acting as leader of international agreements to move us forward

  9. “Prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change”

  10. Emphasis on mitigating problems that we are going to experience such as droughts and storms

  11. Emphasis on preparing communities to become more resilient

The OFA invited Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), a champion for climate change policy, to give his professional input regarding this new course of action. Senator Whitehouse stated that every state has their own climate story which makes Obama’s plan to (1) reduce emissions, (2) protect us from the already changing environment and (3) have the US become a world leader in climate change action, relevant.

Senator Whitehouse also described his own feelings on climate change policy making within the US. In describing the political environment in which policies are passed, he states that there are three types of senators: the proactive senator, the senator who will move when the industry moves and the fierce denier who does not listen to the science at hand.

He encourages the polluters and deniers within congress to reconsider their opposition to change, which raises a listener’s question, “How do you encourage people to act now even though it is a problem for the next generation?” Senator Whitehouse responds by identifying that we have not done a good job at creating a narrative which details that things are only going to worsen as a result of climate change inaction. To make this change, politicians have to support proactive policies while the people also voice their support for change.

The Senator highlighted one of the President’s points- climate action raises moral questions because of the effect on future generations. So with all of the change occurring within our country, it will be interesting to see how President Obama’s climate plan will evolve.

By Ani Esenyan, Environmental Services Intern, Human Impacts Institute

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