Bad times ahead

In the wake of the failure of the current U.S. administration to pass climate legislation, Grist’s David Roberts asks ‘How bad are the next few years going to suck?

He predicts that “Democrats are going to get shellacked in the midterms” but that they will probably retain control of the senate. The economy will quite probably remain weak, which significantly worsens Obama’s prospects for a second term. Finally, he says “[b]y 2016 my son will be a teenager and atmospheric CO2 will be flirting with 400 ppm” and calls for people to take local action, while central leadership is lacking.

That’s more useful than saying ‘throw up your hands in despair, we are dooming the world’ but it doesn’t strike me (or Roberts) as an adequate response to the problem. Humanity’s level of collective intelligence still looks pretty low.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

7 thoughts on “Bad times ahead”

  1. Director of Policy on Climate Will Leave, Her Goal Unmet
    By JOHN M. BRODER
    Published: January 24, 2011

    WASHINGTON — Carol M. Browner, the White House coordinator for energy and climate change policy, will leave the administration shortly, officials confirmed Monday night. Her departure signals at least a temporary slowing of the ambitious environmental goals of President Obama’s first two years in the face of new Republican strength in Congress.

    Ms. Browner, a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, was charged with directing the administration’s effort to enact comprehensive legislation to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases and moving the country away from a dependence on dirty-burning fossil fuels. That effort foundered in Congress last year, and Mr. Obama has acknowledged that no major climate change legislation is likely to pass in the next two years.

    No decision has been made on whether she would be replaced or if the position would simply disappear, a White House official said.

    “She will stay on as long as necessary to ensure an orderly transition,” a White House official said. “Carol is confident that the mission of her office will remain critical to the president.”

    News of her departure was first reported by Politico.

  2. Yes, it’s true that President Obama has proven himself to be a feckless negotiator and even worse messager on the debt issue. But he will actually have maximal leverage right after the 2012 election, when the Bush tax cuts are poised to expire if no positive action is taken. Also, he won’t be up for reelection, so, in theory, he can play hardball. Yes, I know, it’s a theory, but remember, we’re 321 degrees F below zero. Put on your thermal underwear and play along.

    Obama could trade both the Bush tax cuts and the corporate tax rate reduction for a carbon tax. No, I’m not saying he will. I’m only saying that he could — and indeed, it strikes me as his only opportunity in his entire second term to enact any policy that would actually reduce absolute levels of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions.

    It is therefore his only chance to meet the commitment he made before Copenhagen, a commitment that is certainly crucial if there is to be a global deal during his hypothetical second term, a commitment that is crucial if there is to be even a tiny chance of averting multiple, catastrophic climate impacts. Yes, Obama does have to get reelected for this scenario to make much sense, but that looks to be at least 50-50 right now.

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