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We must take the time to imagine the future(s) we want (that we need) to help figure out how we get there.

With that in mind, imagine this ...


Twenty minutes into the 2013 State of the Union Address, President Obama turns to look to Speaker Boehner.

After a long pause, President Obama begins to  speak forcefully about the nation's need to take climate change science seriously.

The President tells the American people that he has been meeting with scientists and energy experts for the past two months privately.

That these experts have made a forceful case that the climate situation is far more serious than he had realized.

The President explains that they have convinced him not just of the seriousness of the situation but that we still have the opportunity to turn this existential threat into opportunity.

The President speaks to this point for over 15 minutes ... extemporaneously.

Talking about the risks of the Catastrophic Climate Chaos Cliff was not part of the prepared remarks.

This is the President speaking – not a speechwriter not the collective wisdom Sierra Club We can do itof political appointees from across the Administration, but President Obama who evokes his daughters, with tears, in his remarks about the need to protect our grandchildren, our children, and even ourselves.

Before the President is done speaking, the White House sends out a eleven executive orders (on such things as mandates for energy efficiency in all government rented buildings, to setting up a working group (with schedule) for developing an energy policy roadmap to a clean-energy (zero carbon emissions) future, to contracting rules to incorporate energy efficiency standards on all government contractors, to enforceable telecommuting rules to reduce 'white collar' days in the office across the Federal government to ...) that build on Federal energy and climate-related progress during the first term invisible to most Americans. And, at the same time, the EPA releases multiple directives (such as energy standards for federal buildings and for mercury standards on coal facilities) that had been held up within the Office of Management and Budget.

The Republican response to the State of the Union is left flat-footed in the face of this wholesale shift in Obama's approach.

And, the SOTU evening is not a single strike event.

Personnel announcements in the following days show a major revamping of the policy process, from within agencies up through the OMB, strengthening the roles and responsibilities of those advocating 'fully burdened cost and benefit analysis' when it comes to energy and environmental issues with reduced power for those who worked within traditional stove-piped analytical structures.

The President takes the case to the American people.

President Obama ...

  • sits, in the front row, in meetings where leading scientists discuss climate change issues.
  • climbs on top of a Wal-Mart, with Wal-Mart's executive team, to give a speech as to the value streams that derive from cool roofing, day-lighting, and other practices used in Wal-Mart stores to (quite profitably) drive down energy use.  (Well, he also speaks about the need to treat workers fairly and to buy American there, even though the main subject is building energy efficiency.)
  • visits the US Marine Corps' ExFob, learning from Corporals how solar panels in the field made them more effective with an understanding how Energy Smart practices improve military capabilities.
  • visits universities, where he learns that investments in energy efficiency are outperforming (by a factor of two) traditional investments making money for the endowment fund and he sits with student leaders explaining why they are battling to get the university to divest from fossil-fuel related investments.
  • sambutton

Whenever he can, the President asks Americans:
Are you doing your part to create an Energy Smart America?
The Administration initiatives, themselves, add nearly ten percent to the expected reduction in carbon emissions by 2020.

And, in every state of the Union, accelerating a change seen with 2012's extreme weather events, public opinion polling shows an increasing understanding of the linkages between human activities and climate change – overwhelmingly in Democratic and Independent respondents, but notably within Republican ranks.

Voices of Republicans, like former Representative Bob Inglis, who acknowledge climate change science and advocate for action to address contributing factors are becoming increasingly mainstream again.  

With almost each passing day, climate science is becoming 'a given' while the debate focus turns to 'what are the best ways to address the issue': tax policy, government investments, regulatory environment, etc ...

The President's leadership, combined with Executive Branch action and the changing tone/substance of the U.S. political debate, open the door to Chinese willingness to take more aggressive actions to reduce carbon emissions growth in their energy sector.  

The U.S.-PRC cooperation opens the door for serious climate talks by the end of 2013, as the world community moves from mouthing words about preventing a 2C increase in global temperatures to putting in place policies that viably could do this.

When the ball fell to signal the end of 2012, the situation looked bleak when it came to explosive C4: the risks of catastrophic climate change.  

A year later, as the countdown to 2014 finished, hope for a prosperous climate-friendly future dominated the discussion about the coming year.

President-Elect Obama, in 2008, sounded like a climate hawk.  climate_hawk

His political advisors, however, talked him to making climate change a secondary issue and to avoid serious Oval Office discussion of climate change issues.

Significant Democratic Party constituencies disagree(d) with that path (especially, of course, environmental organizations), scientific opinion has become stronger about climate change, and extreme weather events hit the United States hard in 2012.  

President Obama stated, recently, that he was going to start an education campaign on climate issues and build public support for serious action.

This scenario is predicated on the President living up to this statement.

Note that the template for such action exists with the Presidential Climate Action Project's recommendations.

Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 01:56 PM PST.

Also republished by Climate Hawks and DK GreenRoots.

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Comment Preferences

  •  unfortunately, I think it is late in the day (6+ / 0-)

    to hope for a Green Deal from this president, which would include a push for the following items: a stimulus and jobs program for sustainable energy, infrastructure, transportation, and agriculture; the revocation of fossil fuel subsidies; imposition of a revenue-neutral carbon tax; and a concerted effort to produce a binding climate agreement among the industrialized nations.

    Right now the centerpiece of his grand deficit reduction program is to cut taxes a bit on middle-class earners. If you go to the WH website, you will see pages and pages touting the virtues of this modest tax cut.

    That does not give me a lot of confidence in his willingness to think big and take political risks.

    I would, however, love to be surprised.

    "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

    by limpidglass on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 02:11:53 PM PST

  •  If we're going to have "tax cuts," (3+ / 0-)

    why can't they be in the form of incentives for renewable energy investment/use, etc.?

    •  We're not talking about enough (3+ / 0-)

      Prior to the 1986 Tax Reform Act and the Reagan tax cuts:

      Top income rate-70%
      Effective top rate-23%


      -a good 60% of deductions, exemptions and shelters were removed. Many of them were for long term domestic investments. Today that might represent 1.3% to 3% of GDP....200 to 500 billion spent each year.

      People want to talk about repealing the Bush tax cuts and tell me repealing the Reagan tax cuts wont get any traction., then the same person complains we're not moving on climate change.........

      I've written diaries on this, I love your idea, but to be effective we need to go back to 26 brackets, a 70% top rate, and bring back the 86TRA, updated for renewables and renewables storage.

      I mean shit... we got 25 million people looking for full time year round work, 2 trillion in private hands doing nearly nothing, 2 trillion in corporate hands doing nothing.

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:20:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  And then he'll announce (0+ / 0-)

    That we could reverse all the new subsidies for clean energy  and taxes on dirty energy a year later as part of a wider reform of the tax code.....

    Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you:

    by FischFry on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 02:42:53 PM PST

  •  Don't forget (6+ / 0-)

    a big stimulus package to improve electrical transmission so that wind/renewable energy is readily available for almost everywhere, from almost everywhere (for instance wind energy from Texas can power Chicago).

    •  There's plenty of wind closer to Chicago (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, A Siegel
      for instance wind energy from Texas can power Chicago.
      than Texas.  There's a good windy band across the middle of Illinois, another one in northwest Illinois and southwest Wisconsin, and a very windy area in northwest Iowa.  Let Texas send it's excess wind power east to the rest of the ex-Confederate states, most of which are in a terrible "wind desert".  

      Renewable energy brings national global security.     

      by Calamity Jean on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 10:03:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  We need a Climate Change Pearl Harbor (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, John Crapper, Roger Fox

    Something so shocking, so definitive, so clarifying that it ends all the arguments and denials. And then we unite to move forward together.

    Unfortunately, A) we're probably not going to see something like that, and B) if we did, it would be a pretty good indication we'd left things too late by that point.

    Failing that, we need someone to take a stand like the one you describe above, and move on it.

    Given the GOP obsession with taxes and spending, (and uncontrolled vaginas), at some point we're just going to have to go Galt on them and tell them to "get the hell out of our way."

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 03:34:12 PM PST

  •  From your lips to Obama's let's hope (3+ / 0-)

    for this to happen.  These are such obviously logical and sensible steps to take.  Oh yeah - that's the problem these days.  Not much in the beltway happening that is logical and sensible.  Nice message and very reality based in terms of action plan.  Hope this diary makes it to the front page!  

    If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

    by John Crapper on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 04:04:35 PM PST

  •  In this last month's Environmental Sci Tech... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, 6412093

    ...meanwhile, on planet earth, several scientists discussed some stuff about ocean going fleets.

    Here's a link to the article:Greenhouse Gas and Criteria Emission Benefits through Reduction of Vessel Speed at Sea

    The article really caught my eye, and among the 100's of papers I might scan in a day, it stood out.

    Here's one excerpt:

    Marine shipping is the most efficient mode of transporting goods with about 90% of the global merchandise transported by sea utilizing ∼103 000 ocean-going vessels (OGVs).1,2 However, OGVs are significant emitters of criteria pollutants and the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2). Criteria pollutants are those pollutants that are common and found all over United States. Criteria pollutants emitted by OGVs are nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and particulate matter (PM2.5). In international waters, these vessels consume heavy fuel oil (HFO) with a sulfur content of up to3.5% by weight, which upon combustion produces large amounts of  SOx and PM2.5.OGVs navigate near coastlines as they follow the main shipping lanes. According to Corbett et al.,3 70% of ship-related emissions occur within 216 nmi of the coastline. Oftedal4estimated that 74−83% of all vessels are within 200 nmi of land at any given time. Recent studies29,30 have linked PM emissions from OGVs to an increased number of premature deaths.
    But what's a few tens of thousands of "premature deaths" compared to the value of having the President of the United States do advertising for Walmart and it's "greenwashing" of it's predatory overseas policy that is, if the scientists paper is to be believed, a major pollution problem?

    I keep saying this, but it is very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very unlikely that all of the world's solar installations - which according to the data from the EIA produced the equivalent of less than four 1000 MWe power plants in 2010 - will save the equivalent of 1/1000ths of the lives that will be lost from, um, shipping plastic (and other) crap on container ships.

    Personally, I am filled with disgust that this sort of thing would get any attention whatsoever.

    What we learn from this report is that the worst companies on earth can get all kinds of publicity for doing nothing meaningful.

    The reason that nothing meaningful has been done to address climate change - and I'm convinced that nothing will ever be done - is that people keep burning coal and gas to cheer for meaningless stuff.

    At least, Adam, Amory Lovins gets big bucks for praising the environmental disaster represented by Walmart.

    One would hope that you're also not "consulting" for the environmental disaster this company represents.

    (Other fun articles in Environ. Sci.  Tech I recently read talk about the impact of plastic on the ocean (cf, for instance Are we digging our own grave under the ocean?, but no matter.)

    Reading environmental scientific journals is rather like a terminal cancer patient looking at the scans of his tumors.

    I should give it up, but I just have to look.

    If you're praising Walmart for its environmentalism, you're certain to be missing the point, but nothing is surprising anymore.

    Or maybe I'm missing the point:  Maybe I'll drive over to Walmart, as all my local stores have been driven (pardon the pun) out of business, so I can buy some plastic Christmas placemats at Walmart so I'll feel all cheery.

    As of this writing, CO2 levels at Mauna Loa are a more than 2.50 ppm than a year ago.

    If we finish the year in this region this should make 2012 - after 50 years of solar energy miracle making - one of the worst 5 years ever recorded, exceeded only (maybe) by 2002, 2005, and 1998.

    Personally, I'm relieved that the solar PV miracle saved humanity.

    Have a nice week.

    •  Re Walmart ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      radical simplicity

      which I've written about before:

      1. Their business model is incredibly destructive environmentally and to society.

      2. Re environment, they import (crap) from around the world that is purposefully low durability to assure repeat business and, when it comes to electronics, often high energy use for low procurement cost.

      3. Re energy, they use massive amounts of energy for shipping, locate their stores such that only drivers get to them ...

      4.  Etc ...

      Now, the true is that they are doing things in terms of 'building energy efficiency' that are worth emulating, sharing, duplicating, leveraging.  

      For example, cool roofing (being aware that there are complications relative to potentially reducing cloud cover, precipitation) is a rapid path for reduce urban heat island effect -- a high return in terms of building energy efficiency and for reducing general ambient temperature. They do water capture for reuse in building and in watering lawns rather than dump into sewers.  Etc ...  These are good practices worth emulating.

      Note, while you are doing an attack on solar -- the reference to Wal-mart roofing was to white roofs and to their skylighting.

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:47:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Cool roofing" is another "all new stuff"... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Siegel

        approach to climate change.

        One of the things that I have learned in the last decade is that LCA calculations strip away a lot of the bull.

        Paint for instance, contains lots of volatile organic molecules, all of which have significant greenhouse effects and long life times in the atmosphere.

        I would suspect that a real LCA analysis would tell a somewhat different story.

        One of the surprises I got about thermal isolation windows is that they often contain sulfur hexafluoride, SF6 that is more than 22,000 times as great as CO2 in terms of global warming potential.

        But the average Joe, buying, out of a sense of nobility, a thermally insulating window containing SF6 would have no idea that his window, maybe good for a hundred years, would have an opposite effect for hundreds of centuries to come.

        (On the bright side, we'll probably destroy the ozone layer with N2O much sooner than the thousand year lifetime of SF6.   Radiation, even just UV radiation represents the only sink for SF6.

        I am unashamed to admit that I have come to regard the entire solar enterprise as an unmitigated disaster - a money pit that is an altar to the Gods of wishful thinking, on which better things, including the lives of the poor, were sacrificed.

        I suspect that white roofs are pretty much in the same ball park, a Western artifact that has little to do with the realities of greater humanity.

        For the record, where I live, lots of roofs were ripped to pieces recently.   This should give us all a wonderful chance to install white ones in Eco New Jersey.   I haven't heard much about a movement to do that, but you never know...

        I have estimated that somewhere between one and two million large old growth trees all on a ton scale were downed in this small state - based on the reported number of trees cut just to open the roads.   I doubt that all the "cool roofs" in New Jersey that are about to install would weigh very much against those lost trees, each of which will take a century or more to replace.

        The number suggests that New Jersey trees will inject about two to five million tons of carbon into the atmosphere over the next several years.   What is startling is that I recognize that this is nothing.

        All the white roofs on all the Walmarts in the world will not change the albedo of this planet a fraction of the change that will take place this year just from destroyed glaciers.

        Good luck with that albedo change.   It won't do doodly squat, but I admire your enthusiasm for trying.

        •  WalMart is a major benefactor of LCA research (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          A Siegel

          at a major university. I wrote about it a few years back. The head of the department was very 'tight lipped' about the implications of the impact on their work.

          •  .... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            A Siegel
            In the Works: A Global Sustainability Index
            Last Month, Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas announced plans to work with Wal-Mart to develop a Sustainable Product Index for Consumer Products World-Wide. A collaboration of NGOs, universities, businesses and government agencies will work together in the design and development of the index, which will quantify "the sustainable attributes of a product by examining them from raw materials to disposal."
            From the Press Release:
            Walmart officials emphasize that their intention is not to "own" the index and consider its strength in success to be its design as a globally shared and open platform tool. The index will drive innovation, highlight opportunities for cost savings and waste reduction, and create a common playing field for all. Further, The Consortium will be able to track how the index is reducing environmental impacts and driving innovation and green jobs.
            "Developing indices to reliably compare products on their environmental performance, in addition to an open source database to support this, is a key step in the transition to a green economy. The EPA is very interested in this project and will follow it closely," said Clare Lindsay of the
            U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. link
            I emailed Dr. Jonathan Fink, director of the ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS), to ask him about the validity problems related to multinational corporations such as Wal-Mart, Cargill and Monsanto sponsorship of GIOS projects.
            Fink said that although Wal-Mart has been criticized by many for being anti-competitive because of its low prices and its labor practices, "the positive environmental influence of their corporate activities in the past four years or so has resulted in endorsements from most leading environmental and conservation NGOs." The other sponsors, Fink said, are Wal-Mart suppliers.
            "For our part, ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability seeks solutions to sustainability challenges that will have the maximum impact," says Fink. "Wal-Mart’s scale and influence are so huge that positive changes in their practices can affect more consumers and more ecosystems than the actions of virtually any other non-government organization. We feel fortunate that we are able to provide input to the practices of Wal-Mart, and through them to many of their 66,000 suppliers. It is only through this type of leverage that society has a chance of preserving a decent quality of life for future generations."
  •  Got PV on the WH roof yet? (4+ / 0-)

    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:07:34 PM PST

  •  What happened to the share button? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    SO I pasted a link to your diary into FB, just cause

    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:25:03 PM PST

  •  i still have dreams that he will show up in Doha (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, madhaus

    and that the US is actually planning something big come Friday ...

    This was such fun reading. It will be interesting to see how Sheldon Whitehouse's  amendment to include climate change as a national security issue in the Defense Bill Tuesday fares.

    I think a cabinet position would be a great idea.

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