Posted by: ericgrimsrud | May 29, 2013

“Profile in Courage” Moment for President Obama

Sadly, there presently appears to be only one remaining reason to hope that our government might soon take strong action on the problem of climate change and that is that our President might have sufficient courage to make the enormous problem of climate change one of his highest priorities.  While I have written about this point previously, a recent opinion piece by Eugene Robinson also expresses this thought and does so very clearly and thoroughly.  Therefore, I will simply provide Robinson’s entire article below. Thanks Eugene – your thoughts are right on. Obama has an opportunity to effect the future of mankind, but it appears that he might have to go it alone with little support from other elected officials at least at the start.  As related in my book, his dilemma and challenge associated with it is much like that which faced Winston Churchill in the 1930’s, only far more important. Is it too much to hope that some 80 years later, we might again see a leader who clearly sees the greatest threat to human civilization and has the guts to address it?

Eugene Robinson: Obama will have to go it alone on climate change

President Barack Obama should spend his remaining years in office making the United States part of the solution to climate change, not part of the problem. If Congress sticks to its policy of obstruction and willful ignorance, Obama should use his executive powers to the fullest extent. We are out of time.

With each breath, every person alive today experiences something unique in human history: an atmosphere containing more than 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide. This makes us special, I suppose, but not in a good way.

The truth is that 400 is just one of those round-number milestones that can be useful for grabbing people’s attention. What’s really important is that atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by a stunning 43 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

The only plausible cause of this rapid rise, from the scientific viewpoint, is the burning of fossil fuels to fill the energy needs of industrialized society. The only logical effect, according to those same scientists, is climate change. The only remaining question — depending on what humankind does right now — is whether the change ends up being manageable or catastrophic.

Only someone who was ignorant of basic science — or deliberately being obtuse — could write a sentence such as this one: “Contrary to the claims of those who want to strictly regulate carbon dioxide emissions and increase the cost of energy for all Americans, there is a great amount of uncertainty associated with climate science.”

Oh wait, that’s a quote from an op-ed in The Washington Post by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Yes, this is the officially designated science expert in the U.S. House of Representatives. See what I mean about President Obama likely having to go it alone?

For the record, and for the umpteenth time, there is no “great amount of uncertainty” about whether the planet is warming or why. A new study looked at nearly 12,000 recently published papers by climate scientists and found, of those taking a position on the question, 97 percent agreed that humans are causing atmospheric warming by burning fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The mechanism by which carbon dioxide traps heat is well understood and can be observed in a laboratory setting. If Smith and other deniers wish to create the impression there is an “on the other hand” argument to be made, they’ll need to come up with a radical new theory of physics.

Last I looked, there was no member of Congress named Einstein.

The greenhouse gases that we already have spewed into the air will linger for centuries; if we stopped all carbon emissions tomorrow, we’d still have to deal with the effects of climate change. The question is how bad it gets.

The United States no longer holds the distinction of being the biggest carbon emitter; we’ve been outstripped by China. Unilateral action in Washington to reduce emissions will have no significant effect on climate change unless there is similar action in Beijing. If the world’s two biggest economies were to act, it would be much easier to convince the rest of the world to come along.

There are signs that China, for its own reasons, may be ready. The activity responsible for most of China’s emissions— the burning of coal in power plants — shrouds Chinese cities in noxious pollution that the increasingly vocal middle class finds unacceptable. The government is talking for the first time about at least slowing emissions and perhaps capping them. Such a move would be huge.

While Congress was covering its ears and going “na-na-na,” Obama took a big and important step by raising fuel economy standards for automobiles. Now the president should direct the Environmental Protection Agency to complete work on a rule governing emissions from new power plants — and, more importantly, begin work on a rule limiting emissions at existing plants, including those fired by coal.

Obama can direct government agencies, including the military, to use more renewable energy. He can direct the EPA to regulate emissions of methane, an even more powerful greenhouse gas. He can continue to fund research into solar energy, despite criticism from Congress.

Obama will have to go it alone. Addressing climate change cannot be just a duty. It has to be his mission. “


  1. Obama won’t have gone it along on climate change. The “Winston Churchill” of today is Al Gore. Be interesting to see Gore run for the presidency again and this time based on a “climate change” agenda. Is there a more pressing issue? No. Is there a political figure more associated with this mission. No. Churchill’s strength was content and not personal image. Same for Gore.

    (Response by EPG: Dave, your wishful thinking concerning another run at the Presidency by Al Gore is fine with me. The continuing problem associated with that “plan” is that action on climate change must start now (if not yesterday). We can’t afford to wait even three more years until a better advocate is elected in 2016. This is the bit that the public does not seem to appreciate – that is the urgency associated with the issue. The longer we wait the less are chances are for meaningful corrections. Therefore, a better idea is to have Al Gore literally force our current President to take action. If that happens, Obama is the one that must be ready to take the heat and risk his political career.)

  2. Dave Grimsrud,
    You are blessed with common sense. It would be a pleasure to sit around a warm fire drinking adult beverages while discussing matters of interest with you. It is a darned shame that you live so far away.

    I love Eugene Robinson. Like the ACLU he is on the wrong side of every issue so I wrote to him about that article your brother liked so much. Thus far I have not received a response:

    I always enjoy your columns but your recent piece on climate change
    leaves me baffled.

    I noted with some amusement this statement:
    “The only plausible cause of this rapid rise, from the scientific
    viewpoint, is the burning of fossil fuels to fill the energy needs of
    industrialized society. The only logical impact, according to those same
    scientists, is climate change.”

    What do you mean by “Climate Change”? Will temperatures rise or will
    they fall?

    Montreal vs. Kyoto
    It is interesting to contrast the politics and science of the Montreal
    Protocol (limiting CFC emissions) to the Kyoto Protocol (limiting CO2

    The Montreal Protocol is rock solid; “Consensus Scientists” have routed
    the skeptics almost totally. Compare that to the Kyoto Protocol which is
    as dead as a door nail.

    The big difference is that when CFCs were reduced the ozone hole did get
    smaller as predicted by McElroy and his cohorts. It might be dumb luck
    but I am persuaded that the science is “Robust” to use a term much loved
    by “Climate Scientists”.

    In the case of Kyoto the planned reductions of CO2 never happened owing
    to the rapid industrialization of China and India. According to the IPCC
    (AR4) the failure to control CO2 emissions should have produced “Global
    Warming” of up to 6 Kelvin by 2100. What actually happened? The year
    following the Kyoto protocol (1998) was the “Hottest on Record” but
    since then temperatures have fallen. Given that Mother Nature mocks the
    Keeling curve, the IPCC predictions now have zero credibility.

    It is not hard to understand why the IPCC predictions are so lame. They
    depend on models (e.g. CMIP) with CO2 as the primary variable based on
    the Arrhenius (1896) theory that is false. Garbage in, garbage out.

    Sincerely, Peter Morcombe

    [ Response from EPG: Peter, until you acquire a much better understanding of what “garbage” is, you will have a very long wait before the likes of Eugene Robinson will respond to yours. Issues such as this one are complex enough when serious and informed input is considered. You think that Svante Arrhenius did not understand the basis of the greenhouse effect? ]

  3. “A new study looked at nearly 12,000 recently published papers by climate scientists and found, of those taking a position on the question, 97 percent agreed that humans are causing atmospheric warming by burning fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.”

    You mean the study in a 2009 survey 2 researchers sent to 10,257 scientists. Only 3,146 responded, and the researchers tossed out 3,069 replies, selecting only 77 favorable answers, and narrowed it down to 75 finalists agreed totally. That’s the claimed 97%.

    Obama’s main objective is to extend the control of government threw draconian bureaucracies. In fact that is what progressives like to do by hook or by crook. Real progress for the Orwellian’s.

    [Response from EPG: Scottar, You neglected to provide a reference for this bit of nonsence.]

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