Obama and Climate Change: Reflection, Redirection, and Restoration

obama climate changeThere is something within us that allows for certain points in time to act as cleansing or restorative pivots so we can recalibrate and correct where we may have strayed off course. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, they all act as times where we reflect on where we have been and where we are going. This is a very constructive and positive thing. But no one day of the year is more illustrative of this phenomenon than New Year’s Day. Hence the New Year’s resolution, and I want to take this opportunity to implore the president to take this opportunity to reflect and change course as 2014 beckons.

Mr. President, you are killing me, literally and figuratively. I have been one of your most ardent supporters over both of your election campaigns, I have voted for Democrats in every election since 1976, have worked for two Democratic Presidents (Carter and Clinton), two Democratic Governors, two Democratic U.S. Senators, spent six years on the Democratic staff of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee during the Reagan years, and staffed the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a largely Democratic organization during the late 1980′s and early 1990′s. My Democratic bona fides are deep and strong. But my democratic bona fides are stronger and you are tearing them apart.

During your first administration I penned over 85 articles in Huffington Post supporting the unenviable predicament you inherited upon your election. I never criticized, even though there were some things that made me particularly uncomfortable, i.e. abandonment of the public option and single payer health care ideal. And though I thought your economic stimulus proposal was clearly a half-measure I rationalized the difficulties you encountered in assembling the requisite majority to pass it as the best you could get.

But now that you have been resoundingly reelected, the opportunity for a full-throated pronouncement of your vision for the country is in order. The specter of half a loaf turned into quarter loaf or less solutions to the monumental problems confronting the nation and the world is simply not acceptable. Nowhere is this more apparent and significant than in your total capitulation on the issue of climate change. Your “all of the above” energy platform is the most reckless and dangerous affront to good science and sophisticated policy analysis as there could possibly be.

In graduate school I studied under a brilliant political scientist, Dr. Peter Bachrach, who formulated the theory of “non-decision-making.” Contrary to intuitive sense, it does not mean the art of not making decisions; rather it is the act of making a conscious decision not to make a decision. And your promulgation of what cynically passes for an energy policy is non-decision-making with an exclamation point. I realize that you are confronted with life and death decisions on a daily basis, but no issue has so persistently been underrepresented in the policy-making calculus as the future of energy since President Carter declared it the “moral equivalent of war” in his 1977 national address. And absent a drastic change in course now history will rightly judge contemporary leaders as war criminals.

Well that was nearly 37 years ago and here we are staring right down the barrel, no pun intended, of a crisis that will dictate the quality of life for the planet for all the generations that will follow. Your children and mine are being asked to bear the sacrifices that this generation of leaders so casually impose like a life sentence on them and dare I say that our collective inability to confront this crisis is the height of irresponsibility and immorality.

If we do not forthrightly commit to the moral imperative of changing the energy and economic paradigm from one based on fossil fuel consumption to one based on renewable resources immediately we condemn the world to a future of environmental violence. “All of the above” in the short run is strategically conciliatory and therefore cowardly; in the long run it is devoid of either vision or wisdom which defines courage and statesmanship.

I do not know how much empirical scientific evidence is required to convince either you or your staff that “all of the above” is a prescription for disaster and making things worse. And while scientific validity is important, you were selected to lead this nation largely on the promise of intellectual thought (hope) and the courage to transform the direction of our society and world (change). You are the leader of the free world and I admire and respect you, but on this one issue you are simply missing in action, and this one issue may be the most preeminent issue of our time.

So to conclude, Mr. President, please restore my faith in your ability to defy conventional wisdom and do the right thing. The bully pulpit is the most potent weapon in your arsenal of inspiration. And what better time than now to inspire the nation and the world! Over the past two weeks we have somberly been reintroduced to the inspiration that our stricken President JFK brought to the world stage, we have also sadly celebrated the life of a truly inspirational South African leader, Nelson Mandela, who exuded the value of sacrifice in the struggle for freedom, and we are in awe of the exhortation of Pope Francis to reexamine what it means to be compassionate human beings and a just society.

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Mr. President, seize the moment to share your vision of a peaceful, just, and sustainable world by charting the course to a future where future generations will inhabit a planet that is inhabitable. Use your considerable oratory skills to outline a bold, ambitious, and radical redirection that immediately switches from reliance upon “fuels from hell” to one predicated upon “” (Friedman, Hot, Flat and Crowded).

In the process you will restore faith in the power of inspirational leaders to move the world forward to a more promising future and you will join the list of those mentioned above as having been great men who were not afraid to be remembered as profiles in courage.

Lance Simmens
Huffington Post

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Comments

  1. JoeWeinstein says

    Precisely as Simmens says, Obama’s ‘all of the above’ energy policy is a
    prescription for climate disaster. And for that very reason, contra
    Simmens’ hypothesis, that policy is not merely a deliberately non-decisive decision that merely kicks the can down the road. Given the limited time available, it’s a straight bad decision.

    This is but one of many decisions which, to my reckoning, Obama has made which were obviously and directly bad for our future or at best wantonly and needlessly subverted opportunities for doing good for our future. To explain these decisions I have long posited that Obama probably is either (1) a naive fool or (2) a rational and knowledgable knave, or (3) doesn’t really care what he’s doing or deciding so long as he can get through to his post-presidential perks. That is, either he cares but NAIVELY DOES NOT REALIZE what his decisions are doing – or he cares and SHREWDLY DOES REALIZE what they are doing and he actually endorses the likely results, or he simply really DOES NOT CARE about the long-term at all. But in my ignorance, I do not know which of these plausible alternatives is closest to the truth overall or in any particular instance.

    I sympathize utterly with Simmens’ plea to Obama to look hard and utterly break with his ‘all the above’ energy policy, but the above three plausible possibilities offer scant hope that he will do so. Either (1) he sincerely will never be able to grasp (other than in his made-up rhetoric) what’s really at stake, or (2) he knowingly wants the results and rewards of his promotion of climate chaos, or (3) he really doesn’t care.

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