Hello, climate change


Environmentalists got what they’ve been waiting for Monday, when President Obama reinvented himself as a committed liberal in his second inauguration speech. He referred to climate change by its proper name, rather than dancing a little rhetorical jig around it, and even summoned the Almighty. God, he said, “commanded” the planet to our care. He flatly rejected climate denial, and said the U.S. “must lead” the renewable energy revolution. After the speech, V.P. Joe Biden, hobnobbed with environmentalists and told them to “keep the faith.” He intends to get a whole lot done by 2016, he said.

Of course, a strong speech by the President isn’t likely to provoke a sudden change of heart in Congress, that ever-able obstructer of climate policy. In fact, it could drive their heels further into the ground. So what’s actually possible in Obama’s second term? A more detailed agenda is expected from the White House soon. In the meantime, we shall speculate:

Let the EPA lead: California Senator Barbara Boxer announced in December that she was forming a “climate change caucus” to push climate bills in the new Congress. But this week, she said that the best thing Congress could do is stay out of the administration’s way, according to Greenwire. Why? The EPA already has authority to mandate big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. In Obama’s first term, the agency put new rules in place to limit emissions from new power plants, and set new standards for what cars and trucks can spew out their tailpipes. The big elephant still in the room is existing power plants, which are responsible for the biggest chunk of U.S. carbon emissions. Earlier this year, EPA officials indicated they have no plan to regulate these beasts. The question now is whether they’ll change their tune in light of Obama’s renewed to resolve to cement a climate legacy. It’s something they’re actually supposed to do, per the terms of a settlement agreement. As Boxer said: “If they don’t do it, they’re going to be sued.”

Energy efficiency: Tightening up buildings so they bleed less energy is one of those unsexy changes that could have an measurable impact on our collective fossil fuel appetite. And it’s not super controversial. Obama has already demonstrated a willingness to stimulate efficiency upgrades via executive order, and further action on this front by the White House or EPA will likely be part of his new agenda.

Carbon tax: There was a lot of talk this fall that a carbon tax might succeed in Congress where cap-and-trade failed. It’s a market-driven approach to cutting emissions, and could generate badly needed revenue for the government. But it looks like all that talk was probably a lot of hype. The White House has bluntly indicated it won’t push a carbon tax, and as Grist.org's David Roberts blogged this fall: “Why won’t it happen? Because — and try to follow along here, because it’s pretty complicated, and this is coming to me from highly placed inside sources — Republicans run the House of Representatives and Republicans hate taxes.”

Speaking of Congress: Republicans still own the House, and still haven't indicated they have any interest in climate legislation of any kind. And since second-term presidents generally have less political capital to spend to get Congress to do things it doesn't want to, the real action in the next two years – and likely the next four – will continue to happen in the administrative arena. The top item on enviros’ agenda will be regulation of existing power plants. It’ll be a fight. As Tim Philips of Americans for Prosperity, a free-market advocacy group bankrolled by the Koch Brothers, told The New York Times: “(Obama’s) address read like a liberal laundry list with global warming at the top. Americans have rejected environmental extremism in the past and they will again.”

Cally Carswell is HCN's assistant editor. She tweets @callycarswell.

john kelly
john kelly
Jan 29, 2013 07:21 PM
I believe the climate has always been changing. to think we can alter it is amazing. there has been temperature variation for ever. co2 levels have been higher. plants love higher co2 levels. co2 is 4% off the atmosphere. man is responsible for 4% of that. so minor influence. global teperature has gone up by just over 1 degree in 100 years.global temperatures increases have not gone up in 12 years. here a few links if you want more information... http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/1806245/posts
http://antigreen.blogspot.com/ open your mind to a different view. thanks, the truth will set you free........
Evan Ravitz
Evan Ravitz
Jan 29, 2013 08:33 PM
Quite a few Repubs might OK a carbon tax IF other taxes were reduced to make it all "revenue-neutral." This was the original idea for a carbon tax, to tax what's bad instead of what's good: income.

John Kelly is living in an "antigreen" echo chamber, with false "truth" to set him free from having a conscience. John, ever hear of "NASA"? They and NOAA agree: " the nine warmest years in the 132-year record all have occurred since 2000." See the LA Times report: http://www.latimes.com/news[…]aa-20120115,0,7943007.story

Your numbers are WAY off. CO2 is almost .04% of the atmosphere, not 4%, and that's up from less than .03% 150 yrs ago, meaning people have increased it over 33%. You just have to get numbers from real NASA and NOAA scientists instead of typists at "antigreen."
Robert Laybourn
Robert Laybourn Subscriber
Jan 30, 2013 09:53 AM
Commenting on a comment; I agree with john kelly that Earth's climate isn't static. His reasoning then stops dead and he can't take the step to realizing that climate changes in the past were caused by numerous things. If a volcanic eruption affects climate; why can't the massive impacts of humanity?
john kelly
john kelly
Jan 30, 2013 07:35 PM
evan , thanks for pointing out how truely little co2 there is in the atmosphere. my mistake at the %. to me that reenforces how small a problem co2. as a greenie i want more co2, plants love it! comical greenhouses use it to improve growth.
here a few links that tell a different story than you have read:http://www.theblaze.com/[…]/?corder=desc#comments
thanks for the discussion

Evan, your article states:[For the record, 4:55 p.m. Jan. 15: An earlier version of this post stated that NOAA's report showed that the global annual mean temperature had increased at an average rate of 0.11 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 132 years, but that since 1963, the mean global temperature jumped at an average rate of 0.27 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. It should have referred to annual rates per decade in both references. In addition, the time frame of the latter number has been adjusted.]
so .11 temp increase in the last 132 years is me living in a anti-green echo chamber. maybe. the climate models all said temps. would be much high today. 132 years, such a short time to judge "what is the right temp for the world". isn't that a rather short time period by which we should make major economic decisions as to how to move forward with our energy needs?
also a comment after your la times report wrote this:
forparity at 9:44 AM January 17, 2013
Hansen admits there's been no global warming for a decade (based on 5-yr mean).

The record shows it's basically flat since 1998 -- 14 years.

According to NOAA, in Dec 2012 the amount of snow cover in the northern hemisphere was the greatest of the last 130 years.

The IPCC, and just about every other shrill prediction for the last 10-15 years (including this recent US study that the media wet their pants over) called for:

IPCC - 2001: 'Milder winter temperatures will decrease heavy snowstorms &

In IPCC Draft 1995: 'shrinking snow cover in winter.

Sea level rise is de-accelerating.

Ice melt on Greenland is not accelerating.

Cyclone activity and total energy released is not increasing.

No evidence of increasing trend in floods, or droughts.

Tornadoes on the wane.

OK - time to focus on the real issues again, folks.

how much more do you want us all to pay for our energy? solar and wind are not viable option. global climate change, caused by man is a theory with little evidence and a lot of consequence to us all.

 and thank you for pointing out how much less of co2 there is in the atmosphere. making that gas even less sig
john kelly
john kelly
Jan 30, 2013 07:42 PM
evan, second section was a mistake, didn't read the la times article closely enough, I didn't mean to post that.thanks
Tim Baker
Tim Baker Subscriber
Feb 01, 2013 02:00 PM
    I won't bother trying to debunk all of John Kelly's mis-guided assertions but I will point out that an article in Science (Nov. 2012) said that the Greenland Ice sheet has lost (melted) an average value of 142 gigatonnes per year between 1992 and 2011, the span of years they analyzed.

     I'd also point out that the small percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not representative of its large impact on global energy balance. Compare for instance how the very small percentage of iron in our bodies that is critical to maintaining our own metabolism. What matters with CO2 is that humans have increased the concentration in the atmosphere by some 40% and it will continue to increase for the foreseeable future without a change in how we get and use energy.