Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Obama and Climate Change -- What about Conservation?

President Obama, climate change, biodiversity crisis
Obama's Climate Speech (Reuters)

Yesterday, President Obama finally addressed the problem of climate change in a 45-minute speech at Georgetown University in Washington DC. He began with an impressive summary of the facts of climate change, calling carbon “pollution”, stating that twelve of the last fifteen years have been the warmest on record, that arctic ice has diminished to its smallest size on record and that the ocean temperatures have reached record highs. He also mentioned last week’s heat wave in Alaska and the drought and heavy rains of the Midwest.
            From there, he discussed how these effects have costs for all of us and said that, because the science was sound, we had to act. He wondered if we had the courage to act before it’s too late.
            To his credit, he proposed limits on pollution from power plants and mentioned ending fossil fuel subsidies. However, though he still did not come out against the Keystone Pipeline and instead left himself some wiggle room, saying that it would only be approved if it was in the nation’s best interests.
            It was a speech that was heavy on new technologies, as if renewable energies can solve our problems. Unfortunately, though he talked about using energy more efficiently and wasting less energy, he made no mention of actually using less energy, which also needs to be part of the solution. If we’re to transition off fossil fuels to 100% renewables, we simply can’t keep consuming energy the way we have been. Either that, or we’ll have to give up pristine wilderness and public lands for wind farms. I’m all for wind power, but not at any cost.
            Factoring consumption into the equation is also important to bring home the message that we are over-consuming the environment. One of the main causes of species loss is habitat destruction, usually from land converted to agriculture (typically cattle). In fact, if we developed a silver bullet and solved our energy problems tomorrow, we would still have the biodiversity crisis to solve.
            Obama said, “We all share a responsibility for keeping the planet habitable,” and this means we’re going to need to do more than transfer to renewable energies. We have to examine our entire environmental footprint and reduce it.

See the complete transcript of Obama's speech here, and a discussion of the impacts of climate change on biodiversity here

1 comment:

  1. Very glad to see this side of the story addressed. You might find my commentary on this noteworthy: