Obama takes action on climate change
June 25, 2013 2:10 PM   Subscribe

President of the United States Barack Obama unveils his Climate Action Plan
While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged. Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our children’s health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment.

Complete document

Fact sheet

Some early responses:

"Obama, lacking magic wand, sets new renewable energy goals"—Earthtechling

"Why Obama’s plan to accelerate permitting for renewable energy is a big deal"—Forbes

"Solar has a place as Obama outlines climate change policy"—PV Magazine
posted by No Robots (108 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
"We don’t have time for a meeting of the flat-earth society. Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it's not going to protect you from the coming storm."
posted by Rhaomi at 2:11 PM on June 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Thank you for posting this FPP. With all of the other political news today, I was afraid the President's climate speech would get ignored. This is a big deal, and I'm glad he's doing what he can by executive order to bypass the broken-down clown car that is the U.S. Congress.
posted by vibrotronica at 2:11 PM on June 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm curious where the Keystone pipeline fits into his vision. Surely extracting and burning more oil will not help cut carbon pollution.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:17 PM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


"We don’t have time for a meeting of the flat-earth society. Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it's not going to protect you from the coming storm."

Is one of his speech writers reading Mefi comments?
posted by jason_steakums at 2:17 PM on June 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


He is good at speeches, huh?
posted by spitbull at 2:21 PM on June 25, 2013 [33 favorites]


Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. (Applause.) The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.--from the speech
posted by No Robots at 2:23 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm curious where the Keystone pipeline fits into his vision.

It's in a blind spot.
posted by Jimbob at 2:23 PM on June 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


I haven't read this yet, but I'm pretty sure Fox News is going to tell me it's socialism.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:25 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


"We don’t have time for a meeting of the flat-earth society. Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it's not going to protect you from the coming storm."

It's not "I can't believe I actually have to say this, but I'm going to say it. The river is closed. You. Can. Not. Boat. On. The. River. I have a large number of nouns that I can use to describe the people that I saw in a canoe on the Bow River today. I am not allowed to use any of them. I can tell you, however, that I have been told that despite the state of local emergency I am not allowed to invoke the Darwin Law. " -- but it's still good to hear.

However, I'm reading "Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution ..." as a potential Yes to Keystone, given the recent draft report to the State Department. The report stated that that Keystone would have a small impact on greenhouse gas emissions. How significant is "small"? How final is a draft? I am more pessimistic than optimistic.
posted by maudlin at 2:27 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I really, really want to believe. But I'm afraid that it's too late. The time for this was back in 2000, with President Al Gore, or maybe earlier. Now - too little, too late.

Obama says, "Don't bet against American innovation" - but when you have physics and thermodynamics taking the other side of the wager...?
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:28 PM on June 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Steven Chu, "clean" coal, etc.
posted by adipocere at 2:28 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is all nice stuff, but why am I supposed to believe that it will make any real impact on the global climate?
posted by Longtime Listener at 2:28 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow those commenters at The Hill are like all roid ragers.
posted by goethean at 2:28 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


A Pigovian carbon tax is out of the question, I guess.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:29 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I know the speech was on climate change in particular, but I'm not enthralled with the current attitude towards natural gas as a cornerstone to our clean energy future. There are more negative side-effects to fossil fuel production and use than just the exacerbation of climate change (though that's very huge in and of itself). Fracking in particular is problematic, because however clean they are trying to tell us that it burns, it's still contaminating well-water to the point that there is (cleanly burning) flammable tapwater coming out of people's faucets.
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:33 PM on June 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


> why am I supposed to believe that it will make any real impact

Overall, the president’s strategy aims to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.
posted by stbalbach at 2:34 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


-President Obama's plan to fix climate change is fatally flawed, experts say
-Did Obama leave himself wiggle room to approve Keystone XL?
-Is a carbon tax more effective than EPA rules? You might be surprised.
-A Carbon Tax Is the Big Issue Burbling Under the Surface of Obama's Plan to Regulate Power Plants
posted by kliuless at 2:34 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Everybody talks about climate change but nobody does anything about it.

With apologies to Mark Twain.
posted by chavenet at 2:38 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fuck this guy. We used to be cool then he read all my tweets and didn't even RT and not a single fucking like on my statuses. Gimme some fucking faves Obama.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:39 PM on June 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Overall, the president’s strategy aims to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

Great, but what does that mean? Is that enough to keep Miami from being submerged, or is it just going to stretch out the timeline by a few years?
posted by Longtime Listener at 2:41 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's positive that the Administration is making an effort (God knows the alternative Administrations would make an effort to make it worse), and some good will come of this, I hope. The EPA rules making seems like it should be a dramatic and positive development.

But.

It's discouraging that half-assed is the best we can get.

And it's frustrating that the only money proposed (which talks while bullshit walks) is for loan guarantees for clean fossil fuel projects (from the Complete document link):
• Spurring Investment in Advanced Fossil Energy Projects: In the coming weeks, the Department of Energy will issue a Federal Register Notice announcing a draft of a solicitation that would make up to $8 billion in (self-pay) loan guarantee authority available for a wide array of advanced fossil energy projects under its Section 1703 loan guarantee program. This solicitation is designed to support investments in innovative technologies that can cost-effectively meet financial and policy goals, including the avoidance, reduction, or sequestration of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. The proposed solicitation will cover a broad range of advanced fossil energy projects. Reflecting the Department’s commitment to continuous improvement in program management, it will take comment on the draft solicitation, with a plan to issue a final solicitation by the fall of 2013.
Keystone XL is probably gonna get the OK, too, would be my guess, based on the President's comments.
posted by notyou at 2:44 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think part of the reason for this speech was to soften the blow for the probable upcoming KXL approval.
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:49 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


> Great, but what does that mean?

It means US carbon emissions are on a downward curve, the right direction. It's not enough to save FL because already cooked in. It's one very small step in a multi-generational effort to save civilization from itself. It's the best the US has done in 20 years, but much remains. Vested interests will be fighting it and some things could be overruled in court or a later administration.
posted by stbalbach at 2:49 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


So it sounds like it's a nice gesture, but not much more than that.
posted by Longtime Listener at 2:54 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, there's a lot of weasel words in that speech as far as Keystone XL goes, and given the combative tone of the rest of the speech (flat-earth society, etc.) if what he really meant was "I am not going to let Keystone XL happen, period." I'm pretty sure he would have said exactly that.

So yeah, I'm inclined to agree with Cookiebastard.

Is one of his speech writers reading Mefi comments?

If I were a presidential speechwriter I'd totally trawl Metafilter looking for pull quotes. True, the President would end up giving a lot of speeches that included comments about how the government's going to set up a committee for further beanplating, or HURF DURF REPUBLICANS, that most people wouldn't understand, but I think it'd be worth it.
posted by mstokes650 at 2:54 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Like most things we've outsourced our CO2 production to China (so I don't think we are as virtuous as the recent American co2 numbers make us look)

While I want to believe, the whole turnabout on the spying thing has really taken the winds out of my sails for supporting Obama.

Obama took the wussy way out on health care.
He took the wussy way out on Guantanamo
He took more than an wussy way out on surveillance

I'm supposed to believe him now on climate change?
posted by bottlebrushtree at 3:08 PM on June 25, 2013 [25 favorites]


Keystone XL is probably gonna get the OK, too, would be my guess, based on the President's comments.

It probably sounded bad for KXL at first, but most people trying to read between the lines will likely agree with this assessment. TransCanada's stock rebounded after a drop that I'm guessing happened right after he delivered those few lines.
posted by Kabanos at 3:08 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll believe this noise means something when he puts a solar tracker on the South Lawn like the ones the Mennonites install on their farms up here.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:11 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is one of his speech writers reading Mefi comments?

There. is. no. cabal. [purse lips]
posted by Kabanos at 3:12 PM on June 25, 2013


My guess is that Obama will downgrade the Keystone XL to just L.
posted by mondo dentro at 3:13 PM on June 25, 2013


Is one of his speech writers reading Mefi comments?

Funny, when I heard it on the radio a few minutes ago, I thought he was borrowing from Bad Religion.
posted by indubitable at 3:15 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Keystone is a red herring that is wasting environmentalists time, energy and political capital for no significant impact on climate change.

In very simple terms, think of oil as cocaine. How well has our war on drugs stemmed the flow of cocaine? As long as demand exists the product will find a way to market. As long as demand grows prices will increase and production of truly dirty resources will be economic. If you want to make a difference then you have to REDUCE DEMAND. That is what we should be working on, everything else is like trying to hold the sea back with tissues.
posted by Long Way To Go at 3:24 PM on June 25, 2013 [34 favorites]


In his speech, Obama mentioned divestment as one way to "'shelter... future
generations against the ravages of climate change".

If anyone has some free time and wants to help, I am working on a document to convince the University of Toronto to sell its stock in fossil fuel companies.

Toronto350.org will be seeking endorsements from U of T faculty, students, staff, and alumni soon. Right now, we are working to make the document as convincing as possible.

If you have some time to help out, please get in touch.
posted by sindark at 3:27 PM on June 25, 2013


"to convince the University of Toronto to sell its stock in fossil fuel companies"

This is another example of expending energy on something that is purely symbolic and will have no impact on reducing the amount of carbon that enters the atmosphere. How about instead trying to convince the university to reduce it's overall energy consumption by 25% in the next 5 years. Then also convince the student body to do the same. Even just working to educate the students on how their own actions impact energy usage would be concrete works towards the real goal. Of course these things are all much harder than selling stock.
posted by Long Way To Go at 3:38 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


While I'm all for getting off of oil, there's a huge and growing body of opinion that the biggest culprits in atmospheric carbon buildup is ecological damage due to land mismanagement and deforestation. Putting less carbon into the air isn't going to help much when you're eliminating the ecosystem's ability to remove it. The only way to actually remove carbon is to sequester it, and the only practical place to do that is in living systems of the kind we're frantically busy destroying with both hands.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:39 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here's Stuart Varney, FoxNews' multi-multimillionaire British graduate of the London School of Economics, one of the world's most elite universities, going off on Obama's speech as being for the elite.

"The elite ruined Europe... now they're doing exactly the same thing here", he says.

Did I mention that Varney previously cited Downton Abbey as a great example of how the rich, powerful elite Lords and Ladies of Britain were generous, nice, stylish, classy job creators, and Americans love them?
posted by markkraft at 3:40 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Long Way To Go,

Divestment by U of T would not be purely symbolic, though the signal it would send is one important reason for doing it. If you are interested, I would be happy to send you the current draft of the brief. In the FAQ section, there is even a response to: "Other people will buy the stocks we sell, so how does this make a difference?"
posted by sindark at 3:41 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Overall, the president’s strategy aims to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

That seems like an astonishingly low bar to set.

One political party is asking for a million dollars but will grudgingly accept $100,000... and the other side needs $50, starts asking at a compromise position of $25 (but will go as low as $10) and ends up paying a $100 fine.
posted by dubold at 3:43 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


In particular, burning down a rainforest to put in a palm oil plantation for biofuels is like treating athletes foot by cutting off your leg.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:44 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ok, good but not really in the what-the-hell-do-we-do-with-Miami zone yet.
posted by Bwithh at 3:46 PM on June 25, 2013


Quibble with the post title: Obama speaking on an issue is not Obama acting on anything. As we've learned.
posted by xmutex at 3:53 PM on June 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


"Keystone is a red herring that is wasting environmentalists time, energy and political capital for no significant impact on climate change."

Bull.

From the article cited:

"Even if the largest production shortfall of 210,000 bpd is realized — and presuming the supply wouldn’t simply be developed elsewhere — this only amounts to 0.2 percent of current global oil demand."

So, *only* 1/500th of the world's oil demand? That's pretty significant... especially since we're talking about a policy that is specifically American in focus.

In 2010, Alberta oil sands supplied 15 percent of U.S. oil imports... but average greenhouse gas emissions for oilsands extraction and upgrading are estimated to be 3.2 to 4.5 times as intensive per barrel as for conventional crude.

So, that translates to nearly 1% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions for oil if Keystone XL is rejected... and a much, much bigger percentage of US greenhouse gas emissions from oil. Indeed, if we can make Alberta Tar Sands an off-limits source of energy, that's about 60% of Us greenhouse gases from oil, in total! Significant yet?!

By building the Keystone XL, we'll be making taking that very, very costly and polluting oil -- one where the true costs are passed on to the people of the world as a whole -- and mainlining it cheaply, at subsidized government expense, into the heart of our refineries, to be lapped up by greedy consumers.

Hell no. We should not want or need this kind of pollution. We absolutely should not use government to help pay for it. We would be *MUCH* better off approving of fracking in every American's backyard, than to buy into permanently cheap oil from the stripmined and superheated tar sands of Canada. If you want to see that kind of pollution fade away, you have got to keep the price of that oil high, so that technologies like solar and wind have a chance to compete.

In fact, we should insist that Canadian Government stop socializing so many of the costs of extracting and shipping that particularly filthy oil, and stop dumping it on our doorstep.
posted by markkraft at 4:00 PM on June 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


Great, but what does that mean? Is that enough to keep Miami from being submerged, or is it just going to stretch out the timeline by a few years?

I think at this point, it's more about whether we get to keep some kind of human civilization, than Miami.
posted by anonymisc at 4:05 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


> So it sounds like it's a nice gesture, but not much more than that.

That's a very negative assessment, contrary to most specialists who are praising today's announcement:

"Environmental groups rushed to respond to the plan, putting out largely complimentary statements."

“Really, this is a moment that’s been 20 years in the making,” David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council told the New York Times. “Most of the last 20 years, unfortunately, have not been well spent.”

----

To learn more:

Breaking Down Key Features of Obama’s Climate Plan

..for the first time directing the Environmental Protection Agency to limit emissions of manmade greenhouse gases from both existing and proposed coal-fired power plants. (huge deal)
posted by stbalbach at 4:07 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, it's quite plausible that this is the difference between losing a lot, and losing everything. That's not a gesture, that's outright critical.
posted by anonymisc at 4:10 PM on June 25, 2013


the president just issued a national buy order for the now depressed stocks of natural gas suppliers and brokers.

the reason US CO2 production has dropped so dramatically in the last decade is a combination of the great recession and the fracking bubble which led to a glut of natural gas supplies. The drop in the price of natural gas meant that power companies shutdown old coal-fired plants to run more gas powered ones, which have the ability to increase and decrease production to meet the spot market i.e. are more profitable.

This is an almost entirely cynical speech, but at least we won't have to clap along with "Clean Coal" next election season.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:15 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


At this point, I'm wondering if the fires in Indonesia are going to affect the picture -- will the additional atmospheric particulates contribute to global cooling in the short term? Needless to say even if it does it's a huge net negative: in addition to all the net carbon added to the atmosphere by the fires and the lost sequestration capacity of the burned forests, any period of cooling (by way of dimming) will result in reduced photosynthetic activity, i.e. less sequestration. It's an ugly situation. More than anything else we need to throw our environmental degradation trends into reverse, hard, starting like yesterday.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:16 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, some of y'all just won't ever be satisfied. I think this is a lot better than nothing at all.
posted by BeeDo at 4:17 PM on June 25, 2013


Yes We Can

well, we could, but we di - int
we should, but we wo - n't
posted by mule98J at 4:25 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


will the additional atmospheric particulates contribute to global cooling in the short term?

It's complicated.
posted by hat_eater at 4:25 PM on June 25, 2013


"In very simple terms, think of oil as cocaine. How well has our war on drugs stemmed the flow of cocaine?"

Nobody is outlawing Canadian oil sands "crack cocaine"... but perhaps some of us see the point of not using government largesse to help overseas drug dealers import and distribute a particularly damaging variety of crack cocaine into the U.S., while simultaneously hurting both those suggesting healthy alternatives, such as rehab and a healthy diet... and those industrious individuals making crystal meth right here in the good ol' U.S. of A.

The way to get rid of Canadian crack cocaine is to not use our largesse to help it be competitive on the world market.

(We might even, y'know, want to start thinking about making rehab less expensive and an easy choice to make...)
posted by markkraft at 4:27 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Reading this article last year severely dampened my hopes that our 100 year trajectory can be substantially changed. As the author says, "At this point, effective action would require actually keeping most of the carbon the fossil-fuel industry wants to burn safely in the soil, not just changing slightly the speed at which it's burned." But, as complicated of a system as the biosphere is, civilization is even more complicated, so I'll hope that this will help to buy us enough time to take more substantial action.
posted by gsteff at 4:28 PM on June 25, 2013


Also, cooling/dimming is accompanied by reduced farmland productivity, which in turn would lead to more food shortages and higher food prices, leading in turn to the clearing of even more land for farming... So stupid people would look at it and say "look! Global warming was bullshit, we had a cool year!" when in fact the problem just got a whole lot worse, and the next year the air will be clear again and it'll be hotter than ever...
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:29 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know the mefi crowd hates to mix money with environmental issues but the credit markets are taking a giant shit and I'm not sure everyone realizes how sensitive clean energy initiatives are to financing costs. A lot of plans that make sense with borrowing costs @ 5% are no longer viable at 7%. This is not just solar farms and whatnot, but capex-intensive gas exploration etc. My point is its basically all talk until the proper subsidies or taxes are in place to meet the objectives. If we as a country are willing to backstop pools of mortgages because of a collective 'american dream' or whatever, we should be able to backstop financing for renewable projects that achieve our goals in that realm. FNMA-like borrowing costs for solar would bring grid parity basically overnight.
posted by H. Roark at 4:30 PM on June 25, 2013 [19 favorites]


I'm curious where the Keystone pipeline fits into his vision. Surely extracting and burning more oil will not help cut carbon pollution.

It can't be worse than shipping the bitumen south by rail as we currently do.

The reason to oppose the pipeline is the potential for accidents and spills, not as a way to reduce carbon emissions.

Before anyone mentions it, yes, I am posting from Calgary; no, I don't work in the O & G industry.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:33 PM on June 25, 2013


My point is its basically all talk until the proper subsidies or taxes are in place to meet the objectives. If we as a country are willing to backstop pools of mortgages because of a collective 'american dream' or whatever, we should be able to backstop financing for renewable projects that achieve our goals in that realm.

Indeed. And before someone says "B-b-b-but Solyyyyyyyndraaaaaa....!", See Romney's Clean Energy Whoppers.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:34 PM on June 25, 2013


How much does Canada subsidize Canadian oil sands, to make cheap, incredibly polluting energy for the US?

LOTS. Each Canadian pays $1200 a year to subsidize cheap, destructive oil for the US... but lots of Canadians like this, because it creates jobs, drives up real estate prices, etc. This is classic dumping, but NAFTA makes it easy to do.

In return, they'll have plenty of immigrants to look forward to when tens of millions of American environmental refugees have to illegally cross into Canada one day.
posted by markkraft at 4:36 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unless your plan is "evolve flippers and gills", you're too late Mr. Obama.
posted by Renoroc at 4:37 PM on June 25, 2013


My point is its basically all talk until the proper subsidies or taxes are in place to meet the objectives. If we as a country are willing to backstop pools of mortgages because of a collective 'american dream' or whatever, we should be able to backstop financing for renewable projects that achieve our goals in that realm. FNMA-like borrowing costs for solar would bring grid parity basically overnight.

Why is it that people who advocate market solutions somehow think that it's the job of government to rig the market? Why should a bunch of energy investors get to charge rent on government financing?

Mortgages mean at least individuals are able to purchase real property. Even a grid-metered solar array if just a site-leasing arrangement with the local power company. (though, to get the local electric companies on board, you'd have to really sweeten the subsidy on home solar power else they would be losing money trying to absorb all of that power at the bottom of the grid.)

The US government gets paid to borrow money. Why add in a layer of brokers if the government wants solar arrays?
posted by ennui.bz at 4:40 PM on June 25, 2013


I kinda sorta know one of Obama's speechwriters and I would not be surprised if he was a mefite. I don't know him well enough to ask though.
posted by lunasol at 4:47 PM on June 25, 2013


average greenhouse gas emissions for oilsands extraction and upgrading are estimated to be 3.2 to 4.5 times as intensive per barrel as for conventional crude.

That number doesn't have enough context to tell you how much worse oil sands oil is than conventional after you've burned it. The emissions are 12% higher.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:49 PM on June 25, 2013


Just a gesture? Perhaps. A plan with real, immediate impact would be to unplug on the entire country on live TV.

That said, the plan that also prepares for climate change instead of futilely trying to prevent it is a sobering acknowledgement of the problem, which is the first step.

Certainly for the next generation, the difficulty and unpredictability of the world's climate will have an impact on everyday life not felt since the last ice age. So the more preparation and contingency, the better.
posted by sharkitect at 4:51 PM on June 25, 2013


Indeed. And before someone says "B-b-b-but Solyyyyyyyndraaaaaa....!"

It's like how Valerie Plame got people on the left cheering for CIA agents. There is no compelling reason why the US government should have been getting involved in complex financing deals for speculative energy start-up companies. Fund a moonshot fundamental research program in battery technology, or next-gen solar, sure. Or do it the old fashioned way and make the DoD buy a ton of tech meeting a certain spec, and at least you will have a production-line producing actual things.

But deals like Solyndra just pad the pockets of investors like Romney, which is why his (and the Republicans) hysterical criticism is so completely hypocritical.

Market solutions is just a buzzword for not being serious.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:51 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


xmutex: "Quibble with the post title: Obama speaking on an issue is not Obama acting on anything. As we've learned."

...from the Constitution.

I want to tackle climate change as much as the next guy, but the comprehensive plan for doing this needs to come out of Congress. The executive branch has very, very little power to work with here.

If you're upset with Obama, you should be even more upset with Congress.
posted by schmod at 5:05 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


With all of the other political news today, I was afraid the President's climate speech would get ignored.

Cable News Virtually Ignores Obama’s Major Climate Speech
posted by homunculus at 5:53 PM on June 25, 2013


Kolbert: Keystone XL is ‘Just Another Step On The March To Disaster’
posted by homunculus at 5:56 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


xmutex: "Quibble with the post title: Obama speaking on an issue is not Obama acting on anything. As we've learned."

...from the Constitution.

I want to tackle climate change as much as the next guy, but the comprehensive plan for doing this needs to come out of Congress. The executive branch has very, very little power to work with here.

If you're upset with Obama, you should be even more upset with Congress.


This would require folks to acknowledge that they're supposed to be calling their representatives every week on this and that our government relies on us for its cues. The thing about the whole "the game is rigged" crap is that it absolves people of the responsibility of living in a democracy. It also allows rebel poses to be struck.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:56 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why is it that people who advocate market solutions somehow think that it's the job of government to rig the market? Why should a bunch of energy investors get to charge rent on government financing?

Mortgages mean at least individuals are able to purchase real property. Even a grid-metered solar array if just a site-leasing arrangement with the local power company. (though, to get the local electric companies on board, you'd have to really sweeten the subsidy on home solar power else they would be losing money trying to absorb all of that power at the bottom of the grid.)

The US government gets paid to borrow money. Why add in a layer of brokers if the government wants solar arrays?
The markets are already rigged in innumerable ways by the government, why does it need to stop when it benefits this particular sector? Especially when not incentivizing investments in this direction will put us at such a competitive disadvantage compared to the rest of the world, that is investing in the future? Can you give one good reason why it is not the job of the government to set preferential tax situations here, when it sees fit to do so in order to incentivize all sorts of other behavior, and legislate all sorts of businesses into and out of existence?

You seem to be proposing that the US government just build a ton of big solar installations as somehow more efficient than market incentives. That idea fails for many reasons. First, the technology is changing very quickly, and there's no reason for the government to be a kingmaker for a small number of manufacturers. Here's one place where an agile and incremental market will obviously outperform a top-down decision of large purchase. Second, there is no base of government employees that can build and maintain solar installations. This means that such "government" installations would be built and maintained by "government contractors," i.e. the most inefficient system known to humankind to perform any sort of task. I mean inefficient in time, money, and personnel. You engineers with friends that work for government contractors know what I'm talking about. ("Wow, it's 1:00PM on Tuesday, I'm pooped. Should we get to designing that fin?" "Nah, let's wait until next Monday to start that." "Boy I'm so glad that I took this contracting job where I get paid 50% more than I did as a gov employee, and that's after my boss takes his cut!") Third, one of the biggest advantages of solar is that it's just as effective in small installations as in large installations, and can be deployed on private property wherever there's free space. Large governmental installations can not easily take advantage of this without commandeering lots of roofs, and making decisions for people about what's free space and what's not free space. And people are taking advantage of this already. Those entities with access to capital and that have the long-term interest to see the benefit of solar are installing it all over the place on new roofs. Not because they want to be green, but because it makes economic sense. This is only going to make more and more economic sense as the technology improves and economies of scale in manufacturing continue to improve. I would install solar on my roof today, if I weren't close to needing my roof redone. And when I do get my roof redone, there's definitely going to be solar on it, not just because I think it's the environmentally friendly thing to do, but also because it would be economically foolish to not install solar at that time.
posted by Llama-Lime at 6:07 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


You can be really pissed at Obama for making/letting the US Govt. spy on citizens. But as much as I'd love a rip-roaring program to reduce carbon, make real progress on alternative energy, and some real talk about just how screwed we may already be and what we should do about it, how in the world do you expect it to get accomplished with a Congress that is solidly, implacably, gleefully opposed to any progress? If Obama proposed an end to kicking puppies, there would be hearings, accusations, tears (Boehner), blame, acrimony, and nothing would be done, except lots of those people who block progress would be on the Sunday morning news shows pontificating about how Obama can't deal with puppy kicking. The Right still has its head in the sand, denying climate change, because Jesus wouldn't like it.

Obama's taken far too long to speak out. I hear from people in the insurance industry that they're building Global Climate Change into their planning. Insurance people are incredibly conservative and incredibly realistic. If they think there's going to be a lot more weather disasters, I'm paying attention. I feel like we've gone from What if? to Yeah, Alberta's under water - Global Climate Change - shrug. Maybe I need to get ready for the invasion of Maine when Texas is burnt to a crisp and Florida's under water.
posted by theora55 at 6:39 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obamafilter: Wow, some of y'all just won't ever be satisfied. I think this is a lot better than nothing at all.
posted by chortly at 6:43 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


What does that mean, chortly? Are you accusing me of something?
posted by BeeDo at 6:57 PM on June 25, 2013


I hear from people in the insurance industry that they're building Global Climate Change into their planning. Insurance people are incredibly conservative and incredibly realistic. If they think there's going to be a lot more weather disasters, I'm paying attention.

Insurance people are conservative with regards to their money. Inflating risk works in their interest because they can use it to justify higher premiums. I'm not saying that climate change is bogus just that insurers are not conservative when factoring in risks.
posted by srboisvert at 7:05 PM on June 25, 2013


And yet that argument is commonly used to undermine the concept that insurers have anything to tell us about large-scale risks due to climate. I mean, they must know something about the future value of insured losses, yes? They, and we as insurance buyers, agree that inflating risks is essential to cover some of the variability in estimates of future losses.
posted by sneebler at 7:34 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


markkraft: Each Canadian pays $1200 a year to subsidize cheap, destructive oil

My impression is that the feds and the province of Alberta have invested huge money over the last 50-60 years to subsidize the technology and the infrastructure of the Tar/Oil Sands. It seems like we've been hearing about it since I was a kid.
posted by sneebler at 7:40 PM on June 25, 2013


What does that mean, chortly? Are you accusing me of something?

No, sorry: just noting that that argument is at the core of the Obama debates on Metafilter these days.
posted by chortly at 7:50 PM on June 25, 2013


At least Obama has drones and Strykers to control the chaos -- no banker will be disturbed.
posted by Surfurrus at 8:13 PM on June 25, 2013


I'm not going to feel like we're making a dent in total pollution until we draw down the global population to under one billion. Limit the number of children, offer incentives for sterility, anything, just let the population fall so we don't have so many people coughing up this, that, and the other into the air, water, and soil.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:24 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're upset with Obama, you should be even more upset with Congress.

Obama has the final say over the Keystone pipeline because it is — in his words — a "national security" matter, crossing international lines. He has threatened to veto any action Congress takes to control the direction of this project. It seems fair that, as he has decided to be entirely responsible for the outcome of that project, he should be held to account for any decisions made in that regard.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:25 PM on June 25, 2013


Great, but what does that mean? Is that enough to keep Miami from being submerged, or is it just going to stretch out the timeline by a few years?

Stretching the timeline is the only way we can save anything. The only solution is to keep buying ourselves more time with the incremental steps that we can take, and hope technology and political will can gather momentum in the meantime.

Obama has the final say over the Keystone pipeline because it is — in his words — a "national security" matter, crossing international lines. He has threatened to veto any action Congress takes to control the direction of this project. It seems fair that, as he has decided to be entirely responsible for the outcome of that project, he should be held to account for any decisions made in that regard.

Obama shouldn't be categorically ruling it out, as the second he does he won't be able to talk about climate change even in sympathetic media. It will just be non-stop defense about how he doesn't hate jobs. (Republicans know this, which is why they created an artificial timeline forcing Obama to reject it last year. They want the issue more than the pipeline.) There's no point in throwing red meat to Obama's finicky left flank when it also throws red meat to his much more organized and powerful enemies. Obama should stretch this out as long as possible and block it as late as it can be, or, if deal-making ever becomes possible again, trade it for something that will actually help climate change. The Left always thinks its cause du jour matters more than objective progress.
posted by spaltavian at 8:58 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Thanks, Obama"
posted by windykites at 9:13 PM on June 25, 2013


Obama Bails Out The Ocean With A Thimble
posted by homunculus at 11:48 PM on June 25, 2013


Meanwhile This is happening.

For his planned trip to Africa: A trip basically to give China a little pushback on planned investments there.
•Air Force 1 and Air Force 2 (a backup 747) will fly from DC to Africa.
•A Navy aircraft carrier or amphibious ship, with a fully staffed medical trauma center, will be stationed offshore in case of an emergency.
•Military cargo planes will airlift in 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines and three trucks. •Fighter jets will fly in shifts, giving 24-hour coverage over the president's airspace, so they can intervene quickly if an errant plane gets too close.

How big is your carbon footprint?
posted by Gungho at 5:57 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


He'd Skype, instead, Gungho, but you know, security.
posted by notyou at 6:57 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those entities with access to capital and that have the long-term interest to see the benefit of solar are installing it all over the place on new roofs. Not because they want to be green, but because it makes economic sense. This is only going to make more and more economic sense as the technology improves and economies of scale in manufacturing continue to improve.

-Alternative energy costs are dropping
-Why SolarCity Changes Its Energy Efficiency Business
-Thinking About the Energy-Efficiency Gap
Adoption of energy-efficient technologies could reap both private and social rewards, in the form of economic, environmental, and other social benefits from reduced energy consumption. Social benefits include improvements in air quality, reduced greenhouse-gas emissions, and increased energy security. In response, governments around the world have adopted policies to increase energy efficiency. Still, there is a broadly held view that various barriers to the adoption of energy-efficient technologies have prevented the realization of a substantial portion of these benefits.

For some thirty years, there have been discussions and debates among researchers and others in academia, government, non-profits, and private industry regarding the so-called "energy efficiency gap" (or "energy paradox") — the apparent reality that many energy-efficiency technologies are not adopted even when it makes sense for consumers and businesses to do so, based on their private costs and benefits. That is, decision makers appear to "under-invest" in energy-efficient technologies, relative to the predictions of some engineering and economic models.

What causes this gap? The answer to that question could presumably help inform the development of better public policy in this realm...
How the world's population has changed - "THE world in 1950 looked very different from how it does now. Europe was home to 22% of the world's 2.5 billion people. Germany, Britain, Italy and France all counted among the 12 most populous countries. But strong economic growth in Asia coupled with high fertility rates in Africa have contributed to a big regional shift in the global population. The UN's latest World Population Prospects expects the world to grow from 7.2 billion people today to 9.6 billion in 2050. This is 300m more than it had previously estimated, and reflects increases to the fertility rates in sub-Saharan countries such as Nigeria and Ethiopia, and other populous countries. More than half of the extra 2.4 billion people in 2050 will be African. India will swell to 1.6 billion people; it is on track to overtake China in 2028. China's population will peak in 2030; India's is predicted to do so around 2063. By 2100 the UN forecasts the population to reach 10.9 billion—and still be rising. It will also be much older. The median age is forecast to rise to 41 years old from 29 today, and around 28% of the world (almost 3 billion people) will be over 60."
posted by kliuless at 7:00 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I believe its too late for any measure to "work." It's no government will be motivated to do anything that will make an impact until it is far, far too late, and its already far too late.
posted by agregoli at 7:26 AM on June 26, 2013


How much does Canada subsidize Canadian oil sands, to make cheap, incredibly polluting energy for the US?
LOTS. Each Canadian pays $1200 a year to subsidize cheap, destructive oil for the US... but lots of Canadians like this, because it creates jobs, drives up real estate prices, etc. This is classic dumping, but NAFTA makes it easy to do.


I don't think that article says what you think it says. Canadians are not paying $1200 per capita to subsidize oil. The CEO quoted was highlighting the fact that Alberta oil sells at a discount to Texas oil, largely because Alberta oil is more difficult to process and further from market. His point is that without easy pipeline access to the US and Canadian coasts, Canadian oil prices remain depressed, and in that way Canada is in effect "subsidizing" US energy consumers.

Having said that, it doesn't mean Canadians aren't subsidizing the oil industry in Canada. This 2010 study prepared by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (and paid for by Greenpeace), estimates that the government provides about 2.8 billion dollars in tax break and royalty subsidies. That works out to about $82 a year per Canadian.
posted by Kabanos at 7:36 AM on June 26, 2013


I believe its too late for any measure to "work."

Please state the difference between "working" measure and a measure that works.
posted by hat_eater at 7:51 AM on June 26, 2013


Over the past seven years, the solar industry experienced unprecedented growth. The price of solar-PV modules dropped from more than $4 per Wp in 2008 to just under $1 per Wp by January 2012, and global installed capacity increased from 4.5 GW in 2005 to more than 65 GW today.--"Solar power: Darkest before dawn"
posted by No Robots at 8:07 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's pretty clear that Obama's leaving himself an opening to approve Keystone XL based on the theory that that oil is coming to market somehow, either in trains over the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver or in a pipeline to US refineries in Texas.

That theory sounds about right to me. The oil is coming out of the ground no matter what, so the US might as well get a bite at the job and revenue apple while it can.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:08 AM on June 26, 2013


So, that translates to nearly 1% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions for oil if Keystone XL is rejected... and a much, much bigger percentage of US greenhouse gas emissions from oil. Indeed, if we can make Alberta Tar Sands an off-limits source of energy, that's about 60% of Us greenhouse gases from oil, in total! Significant yet?!

OK....::deep breath::

1) How, exactly, are you getting from 1% of the world's GHG emissions to 60% of US GHG emissions from oil? Considering that the US is responsible for something like 25% of global GHG emissions, that seems like an awfully big jump.

2) Even if your figures are correct, you are aware that climate change is a global phenomenon, right? Do you seriously believe that, just because one pipeline is not built, the oil companies who have spent BILLIONS on the tar sands will just pack up and go home? No, they'll export that shit to China, or wherever, at least as long as the price of oil is high enough to make the expensive tar-sands extraction process a winning economic proposition. And when China belches out oil, or coal, it still affects the US.

3) You are aware that there are myriad rail and road links between the US and Canada, correct? You yourself referenced US imports of oil from Alberta. How do you think that gets here? Magic? The oil companies in Alberta probably won't even export that shit to China, really...they'll just load more of it onto rail cars and send it down here. So, are we going to close the border between the US and Canada? Are we going to institute a nationwide ban on imports from Alberta?

The Keystone XL pipeline is the fucking dingleberry in the shit-tank of climate change, and it really drives me bonkers that environmentalists have latched onto it as some kind of Custer's Last Stand of the Battle Against Climate Change. It's like, well, we can't actually get a carbon tax passed, or do anything else that will really make a difference, so lets get our pants all twisted up over this symbolic bullshit. You want to advocate solutions for climate change, fucking advocate solutions for climate change! Carbon taxes. Real cape-and-trade. Real supports for renewable energy. One stupid pipeline isn't going to make a goddamn difference.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:24 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


> The oil is coming out of the ground no matter what

If this is true, then we are going to drown no matter what.

In order for us not to drown, in order for us to avoid the worst case scenario, some of that oil must stay in the ground. If Mr. Obama's plan assumes "the oil is coming out of the ground" then it means he's assuming the worst case scenario for climate change.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:10 AM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I keep getting these emails from the White House about this or immigration since the Snowden / NSA scandal and I can only think "what a ridiculous smoke screen."

It's so effective, not one of you has even mentioned it yet in this thread.

"Pay no attention to the Obama that wants to spy on you, look at the Obama that pretends he's socially liberal."
posted by Iknowno_one at 9:24 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pathetic (except you, Weather Channel)

(see also: CNN's coverage during the Davis filibuster)
posted by Eideteker at 9:47 AM on June 26, 2013


I can use it up before you can!
posted by telstar at 12:53 PM on June 26, 2013


Big Oil's Big Lies About Alternative Energy: As President Obama calls for greater investments in alternatives, the biggest energy companies are doubling down on riskier, more destructive oil sources
posted by homunculus at 1:18 PM on June 26, 2013


"A brutal and potentially historic heat wave is in store for the West as parts of Nevada, Arizona and California may get dangerously hot temperatures this weekend and into next week. In fact, by the end of the heat wave, we may see a record tied or broken for the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth."
posted by stbalbach at 12:00 AM on June 27, 2013


You want to advocate solutions for climate change, fucking advocate solutions for climate change! Carbon taxes. Real cape-and-trade. Real supports for renewable energy. One stupid pipeline isn't going to make a goddamn difference.

I agree with your sentiment and most of your points. But those big steps you mention have been *extremely* difficult to make progress on so far whereas Keystone is more manageable and on the docket already. Every little victory helps, and at the beginning they will likely be of the smaller variety.
posted by nowhere man at 6:12 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Climate change actions:
1. Draw up comprehensive, specific, measurable climate plan (with room for adjustment/tolerances, but those must be explicit and documented)
2. Sweeping and brutal sanctions against non-conforming countries, and anyone doing business with those countries (so long, China! Hello, "Made in the USA"). Expect brutal repercussions but less brutal than direct climateological crisis effects.
3. End all subsidies for non-renewable/non-carbon-negative (is neutral even enough anymore?) energy.
4. Stringent economic penalties for people who have children or livestock. Meat becomes almost prohibitively expensive (though research into vat-grown meats fluorishes!). No more tax breaks for having children, sorry.

Those are for starters.
posted by Eideteker at 12:18 PM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


A brutal and potentially historic heat wave is in store for the West as parts of Nevada, Arizona and California may get dangerously hot temperatures this weekend and into next week.

Speaking of heat waves: Manmade Emissions Led to the Heat Wave That Baked Australia
posted by homunculus at 1:59 PM on June 27, 2013


No oil from them guys.
I can light my garden hose.
Frack it. Just Frack it.
posted by mule98J at 11:07 AM on June 28, 2013


If it goes through it will only reduce US pollution by 2-3%.

This is the "big break through."

Kill your idols.
posted by blankdawn at 11:31 AM on June 28, 2013


Brain-eating amoebas thrive in US lakes as global warming heats waterways
posted by homunculus at 11:33 AM on June 28, 2013


Climate change is happening, humans are the cause, and a shocking number — more than 65 percent — of congressional Republicans refuse to accept it.

155 elected representatives from the 113th Congress have taken over $51 million from the fossil fuel industry that is the driving force behind the carbon emissions that cause climate change. They deny what over 97 percent of climate scientists say is happening — current human activity creates the greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat within the atmosphere and cause climate change. And their constituents are paying the price, with Americans across the nation suffering 368 climate-related national disaster declarations since 2011.
posted by kliuless at 2:56 PM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kill your idols.

How about we kill their idols first: greed, exploitation, rapacity, egoism, commercialism?
posted by No Robots at 3:11 PM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bill Nye Teaches “Climate 101”
posted by homunculus at 1:21 PM on July 16, 2013


People Are Baffled And Angry At Google's Fundraiser For A Climate Change Denier
posted by homunculus at 10:49 AM on July 23, 2013


Wow, that's baffling. Google fundraiser for ... James Inhofe?

Inhofe has enjoyed the attention he's gotten from the Google event. He sent an email that says, "Apparently this upset a few liberals ... Join our fundraiser and upset the environmentalists by donating $25."

Just lovely, Google. Great work there.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:34 PM on July 23, 2013


NOT BEING EVIL ALL UP IN THIS.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:04 PM on July 23, 2013


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