Climate Feedback

Obama victory brings new hope for climate policy, dark days for fossil fuels


Following Obama’s landslide victory in the US presidential elections last night, pundits are already speculating on how he will deal with the formidable challenges in his in-tray, not least of which will be reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving the economy into clean-energy mode.

The news that Obama will be the 44th President of the US has been met with jubilation by environmentalists (as reported here and here), who are hopeful that the new administration will come good on promises to protect the planet.

Over on the New York Times’ Green Inc. blog, James Kanter reports that hopes have soared in Europe toward global cooperation on climate change following Obama’s appointment as President-elect. Earlier today, Hans-Gert Pöttering, the president of the European Parliament, welcomed a new start for transatlantic relations on issues including climate change and invited Mr. Obama to address the European Parliament next spring. That would be the first time a U.S. president has spoken at the European Parliament since Ronald Reagan’s address in Strasbourg in 1985, writes Kanter.

Back on the home front, corporate carbon giants are less happy about the potential impacts of an Obama administration. CNNmoney says that companies such as ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Chevron Corp are concerned that policies such as windfall profits tax and market intervention will target the fossil fuel industry unfairly. Some southern utility companies, such as Duke Energy Corp have lobbied against a federal renewable portfolio standard, though some encourage state mandates, writes Ian Talley.

Still, as Keith Johnson reports on WSJ’s Environmental Capital blog, though certain businesses are nervous, new regulations don’t have to be a negative; they can also create new business opportunities. Whether green-energy plans will take precedence over climate-change regulation, as suggested by Bloomberg (h/t Environmental Capital), remains to be seen. Writing in today’s Guardian, Elana Schor thinks not:

The environment is as much a foreign policy issue as a domestic one, given the 13-month deadline for a new UN climate change treaty. Obama has committed to global carbon emissions caps as a means to help China and India come on board the UN pact, but that requires a reliable plan to rein in Big Oil, King Coal, and other fossil-fuel producers with fearsome political clout. If Obama cannot coax Congress into passing a climate bill by summer 2009, expect the young president to fight climate change with one stroke of his pen through new regulations.

Olive Heffernan

Image credit: Obama campaign


  1. Report this comment

    Maurizio Morabito said:

    Personally, I am not too worried.

    Of course, President Obama will talk about climate change, push for some kind of Kyoto-like committment, embrace world leaders at the 2009 Copenhagen Conference, etc etc. That is, he’s bound to go through the motions.

    But then what? I contend that the AGW message (”Humanity is to blame!“) is incompatible with the Obama message (”Change we can believe in!“).

    First of all, one cannot be positive about humanity’s capacity for change and negative about humanity’s role in the planet’s well-being.

    Furthermore, Climate Change has been explicitly presented time and again as “THE challenge for the present generation” by the likes of Al Gore. Well, Barack Obama’s “Change” is enough of a generational challenge in itself, much bigger than Climate Change and perfectly capable to outlive it.

    In all likelihood, it’ll be the President’s outlook on political life that will carry the day. If that’s the case, AGW as we know it will slowly wither away, ironically under an AGWer President just as it kept on growing during the 8 years of an anti-AGW White House Resident.

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    Steven Earl Salmony said:

    This thread is a wonderfully timely and perspicacious idea. Thanks for all you are doing to protect biodiversity from mass extinction, to preserve Earth’s body from wanton dissipation, to halt relentless degradation of the environment and, with a bit of luck and a great deal of work, to save the family of humanity from reckless endangerment as well as to spare the human species from an even worse threat.

    Make no mistake, the blogging world is making a positive difference. Even though the ‘talking heads’ in the mainstream media, the ones who are owned by economic powerbrokers and their bought-and-paid-for politicians, wish all of us would go away, we need to keep going.

    After all, a new day is dawning.

    Steven Earl Salmony

    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,

    established 2001

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    Peter Wood said:

    The key test for Obama will be the US position in the current round of climate negotiations.

    The Obama Campaign’s target of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80% by 2050 is consistent with a stabilization target of 550 ppm or more. It is only consistent with 550 ppm if it is part of a global agreement that is incredibly inequitable towards low per-capita emitters and low income countries. The 550 ppm target has serious risks of very high levels of warming (Stern estimates a likelihood of a 40% chance of over 5 degrees C of warming).

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