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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Obama's Climate Challenge

"I think the president understands the climate crisis intellectually, but he has not had the 'holy shit' moment you arrive at when you think about this deeply enough," says a leading climate advocate who has had private conversations with Obama about global warming. Instead of talking about the risks of climate change during the campaign, Obama touted an "all of the above" energy plan that was a soft-porn version of "drill, baby, drill." Under Obama, in fact, oil and gas production have soared: Last year, U.S. oil production grew by 766,000 barrels a day, the largest jump ever, and domestic oil production is at its highest level in 15 years.

Obama, who prides himself on his pragmatism and willingness to compromise, may also be ill-suited to address such an urgent and unyielding crisis – especially because it would mean taking on the climate-denying Republican majority in the House. "Climate is the toughest issue to get any cooperation from Republicans on," says Podesta. In fact, House Republicans see climate change as a wedge issue, the atmospheric equivalent to abortion, which allows them to collect mountains of cash from oil-industry magnates like the Koch brothers while painting themselves as defenders of free enterprise.

"You can't continue with business as usual and pretend you are dealing with the problem," says former Sen. Tim Wirth, who now heads the United Nations Foundation. "It requires a fundamental realignment of how you think about everything, from national security to agriculture to economic investment. Climate change is not one of those issues you can deal with in a few tactical moves."

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