Obama interviewed on climate

Rolling Stone recently printed a remarkably forthright interview with President Barack Obama, covering topics including Afghanistan, financial regulation, and climate change. The interview doesn’t pull punches, confronting Obama with the accusation that “the regulation of Wall Street — especially the closing down of all the derivatives trading that was really at the heart of the financial meltdown — seems to have been eviscerated” and that “by every index we know of, there seems to be no part of the Afghanistan strategy that is working.” Jann Wenner, the interviewer, also asked Obama whether he agreed with climatologist James Hansen’s view that “climate change is the predominant moral issue of the 21st century, comparable to slavery faced by Lincoln and the response to Nazism faced by Churchill.”

Obama argues that his effort at climate change legislation was blocked in the senate, and that his administration “may end up having to do [climate change policy] in chunks.” He suggests that economic weakness has been a major cause of inaction on climate, since unemployment and lack of access to credit for businesses strike most people as more pressing problems. Obama goes on to claim that if he gets a second term, the policies he has already implemented on fuel efficiency and those that are planned for buildings will be sufficient to achieve a 17 percent reduction in American greenhouse gas emissions, using 2005 as a baseline.

Unfortunately, Obama chooses not to comment on climate change as a moral issue. He acknowledges that “climate change has the potential to have devastating effects on people around the globe, and we’ve got to do something about it” but he doesn’t answer the question of whether the moral impetus that arises from what we know about the impact of human activity on climate rises to the level of the fight against slavery or Nazism. In the end, however, the fact that Obama hasn’t made the issue his top priority probably shows that he doesn’t take the moral implications of the risk of catastrophic or runaway climate change sufficiently seriously.

Grist has some analysis of Obama’s answer.

2 thoughts on “Obama interviewed on climate

  1. .

    Emanuel’s Replacement Might Calm the Climate Debate

    With White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s departure, President Obama is turning to the journeyman sage who helped acquaint him with the nuances of energy policy as a new senator in Washington. Now he might steer a splintered debate on climate.

    Pete Rouse is part strategist, part Buddha, say those who know him. As incoming chief of staff, his well-worn relationships in Congress and relaxed attitude could be valuable for a president facing a larger force of Republican lawmakers following midterm elections, according to former colleagues.

    This is the second time Rouse will lead Obama’s team. In 2004, when he signed on as Obama’s Senate chief of staff, Rouse helped coordinate energy roundtables to get the rookie senator up to speed, one former Senate energy adviser said. Obama was briefed by experts on energy security and on fuels and their impacts on the atmosphere.

    “In terms of people who understand energy policy in the West Wing, he is very knowledgeable in the area and has a good sense of Congress,” the adviser said.

  2. .

    This year’s candidates have not made such a robust effort. They should; it might prove fruitful. Mr Dimock points out that a big difference between the youth vote and other age categories is that a majority of young Americans still have faith in government to fix things.

    And young voters remain bullish about Mr Obama. He passed student-loan reform earlier this year, and his health-care plan now lets people stay on their parents’ health-care insurance until they are 26. But Mr Obama is not, of course, running in 2010, although he has recently stepped up his efforts to rally the students, making speeches at a series of universities and even taking to the pages of Rolling Stone to scold apathetic liberals.

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