The President's Glaring Omission

Obama Must Make Room for Climate Change

Getty Images

By J.J. Goldberg

Published February 03, 2013, issue of February 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Its most startling finding is its estimate of the current death toll worldwide as a direct and indirect result of climate change, including flooding, heat waves, disease, drought and hunger: 5 million per year.

By 2030, at current rates of fossil fuel use, deaths will reach 100 million worldwide, mostly in the developing world. Global economic growth currently loses 1.6% per year from warming. By 2030 that will climb to 3.2% annually.

In the face of all this, Obama seems to be planning a series of regulatory measures that bypass Congress. In his first term the Environmental Protection Agency began regulating carbon dioxide in new power plants. This time they’ll impose limits on already-existing plants. Last term they raised automobile fuel standards; now they’ll raise them higher. They’ll encourage more research and investment in alternative, non-carbon fuels.

A more serious program would squeeze carbon emissions by taxing them or imposing cap-and-trade, but that would require legislation by Congress. Ditto an alternative fuel effort on a scale that matches the need. What’s needed is not mini-grants, but something more like the Manhattan Project or the Apollo Program.

Of course Congress won’t agree. Most Republican lawmakers question the science. Democrats are divided, with coal-state senators worrying about their local economies. A cap-and-trade bill got through the Democratic House in 2009, but it died in the Senate in 2010. That seems to have convinced Obama that it’s a lost cause. Since then he’s talked a lot about pumping more oil, not less.

Compare the White House handling of climate change and gun control. The 26 deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School December 14 sparked national outrage. The president took the lead, appointed a panel under Vice President Biden to draft a plan of action and since then he’s brought the case to the people. Congress won’t give him the gun control he wants, since Republicans and some Democrats flat-out oppose it, but he’s not giving up. Consider, too, that with 300 million guns already in circulation, any new measures will only nibble at the margins. Still, with 30,000 Americans dying from gunfire every year, any progress is better than none. It’s wrong to be silent.

And what of 5 million deaths? Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast just six weeks before Sandy Hook, and it sparked its own national outpouring. A Rasmussen poll shortly afterward found that 68% of Americans believe global warming is a serious problem, up from 46% in 2009. The storm helped re-elect him. Maybe Congress wouldn’t impose a carbon tax and create a new Manhattan Project no matter how many speeches he gave, how many commissions he appointed and summits he convened. But he hasn’t tried.

There’s another reason to speak out. Right now the world’s biggest carbon polluter is China, which overtook America in 2006. By 2030 China’s energy consumption will grow by 60%. India’s consumption will double. They and dozens of smaller countries are moving full-speed to expand their economies to feed their populations. They’ve made it clear that they won’t take emissions cuts seriously if America doesn’t. It’s another case — perhaps the biggest one of all — where American leadership is needed. That starts with the president. He has to make himself heard.

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.