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November 09, 2012
Climate Change Action in Obama's Second Term?
    by Robert Kropp

After an election campaign during which climate change was barely mentioned, sustainable investors and other advocates hold out hope for effective action in the next four years.

Climate change is the single most important sustainability issue confronting us today, and that it was barely mentioned by the Presidential candidates during the recently completed election campaign defies reason. Yet despite the silence of the candidates on the subject, and despite insufficient attention to it during the first term of the Obama administration, at least the candidate who won doesn't waffle over whether human agency has anything to do with global warming and extreme weather events.

Furthermore, during Obama's first term ambitious fuel economy goals have been established, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established new rules for mercury emissions and greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting from the largest emitters. Obama's 2009 economic stimulus provided an estimated $90 billion for renewable energy technologies, and wind energy in particular has accounted for a significant portion of new energy installations since then.

It wasn't enough, and the intransigence of US negotiators at climate talks in South Africa and Brazil prevented meaningful action on climate change from being accomplished. Nevertheless, with the election certifying a second term for Obama, sustainable investors and other advocates remain hopeful that necessary steps, such as binding international agreements and a price on carbon, might yet occur.

At Ceres, President Mindy Lubber stated, "Ceres calls on President Obama and Congress to expand clean energy with the goal of 20% renewable energy by 2020 and 30% by 2030; reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels that avoid the worst impacts of climate change; and build the resilience of our communities as they prepare for more pronounced extreme weather, such as last week's devastating Hurricane Sandy."

"We cannot afford more delays," Lubber continued. "We need action now."

Frances Beinecke, president of the
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), was effusive in her praise, stating, "President Obama's reelection is a victory for all Americans who want to breathe clean air, drink safe water, and protect treasured landscapes. And it is a setback for the fossil fuel companies that invested so heavily in this election and have so little to show for it."

"But we must do still more," she continued. "We need carbon limits on existing power plants. We need to extend incentives for wind energy and spur investment in clean energy research. And we need to promote energy efficiency standards for buildings and appliances."

survey conducted in September found that the percentage of Americans who believe that climate change is real increased by 13% over a two-year period, and is now 70%. More than half of the respondents believe that human activity is the primary cause.

But the question remains, how do you sell solutions at the scale needed to a citizenry battered by years of economic recession. In a
Guide for Engaging and Winning on Climate Change & Clean Energy, political strategist Betsy Taylor wrote, "Stepping up to the climate challenge is the right and responsible thing to do…We can't allow Big Oil to continue to rig the system in Washington and block clean energy solutions."

"We owe it to our kids and grandkids to protect them and that means addressing climate change before it becomes irreversible," Taylor wrote. "We already have the energy technologies to run our economy cleanly and affordably."


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