Barack Obama’s Climate Speech: A counter-article

Author:  Sébastien Burgess, born in Paris in 1989. Graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Conservation and Resources Studies. Lives in Mexico City where he works as a cartographer on local environmental projects and sports commentator. Has been involved in environmental activism since his college years and is a proud member of CliMates since its creation in 2011.
Follow me on Twitter @BurgessSeb

Barack Obama’s speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday, June 25th marked an anticipated political event and set important guidelines for climate change legislation for the United States moving forward. Barack Obama has been dealt a very difficult hand since becoming President of the United States in January 2009th. An economic crisis of unprecedented proportion and a science-denying, climato-septic Republican-led Congress has made his political margin of maneuver to deal with climate change policy extremely limited.

In 2009, the American Clean Energy  and Security Act of 2009 which would have established an ambitious cap and trade system for the United States passed the House of Representatives but died on the Senate floor. Everything went downhill from there, the 2010 Republican Legislative victory temporarily sealed the fate of significant greenhouse reductions legislation to be passed in Congress. In fact, in 2011,the House of Representatives was deemed to be the « most anti-environmental house in the History of Congress »[1] as House Republicans voted a record 191 times to weaken environmental regulations including 27 votes to block action on climate change legislation and this in a year which saw record drought, flooding and wildfires.  The only way Obama could possibly influence climate policy was through direct executive action during that span such as setting limit on car exhaust for US car manufacturers to produce cars that average of 35.5mpg by 2016 for example[2]. Good-willed but woefully inadequate political initiatives for a country that contributes to close to 20% of worldwide Co2 emissions annually  and whose citizens emit around 17.2 tons of Co2 per capita per year.

Fast forwarding to June 25th speech now, which despite its clear benevolence, perspired of political opportunism,  as Obama had carefully avoided the slippery slopes of climate change talks for the past two year yeas, a politically dangerous topic in the United States that Obama was electorally « wise » enough to avoid during his election year. Now comfortably settled into a second term with nothing to lose moving forward and after 4 years of climate inaction, the 44rth U.S. president could courageously roll up his sleeves and attack the most serious topic our generation and our children will face this coming century.

Obama’s speech in some ways was a milestone and establishes coherent guidelines in terms of reducing greenhouse gases and launching a war on coal, the urgency of elaborating climate adaptation plans in the United States and the importance of re-imitating climate talks at the UN level.  It is a necessary document which hopefully will launch the country into a new dynamic of increased renewable energy use, cleaner consumption and increased awareness about the impending climate threat. However, upon further study, it falls well short of the mark and of launching a necessary global impulsion, a push that the United States could and should embrace to lead the way into a cleaner and more sustainable 21st century. Lire la suite

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Climate Change: Think Globally and Act Locally

Author: Deepak Raj Joshi
Bachelor in Agriculture Science (B.Sc.Ag)
Participating in CliMates research project on Water Vulnerability
Agriculture Program Officer WOREC-Nepal 
Action Partner (OXFAM International Youth Partnership 2010-2013)
Global Environmental Advocacy and Production Association (GEAPA)

On February 22nd, a one-day climate academy was organized by Plant for the Planet, at Janata high school, Phapharbari, Makawanpur (Nepal).  Phapharbari is a remote part of this district about 45 kilometers from the main city, it is mostly inhabited by the marginalized Tamang community. 75 students and teachers from eight schools participated in the program. Pariwartan Nepal, a local NGO, was the local supporter of the academy.

The main objective of the program was to teach students about climate science and motivate them to live a green life. Students learned many new things from the academy, it was the very first program of this kind in this remote area. Sumitra Rai, a 13 year-old student shares: “I have never watched such a presentation in my life. It was even my first experience with a laptop. It is really great to learn so many things about climate change and how it is impacting our life”. Similarly, another student Santosh B.K, 14, adds: “I’m now sure that I’ll  do something in my school. I’m very excited to talk about climate change to my community and at school; I hope everyone will support me in the coming days as well”.Climate academy 7

School teacher Rina Lama explains that the day was not only designed for students: “This academy also trains us, the teachers. We learned many things about how to motivate students to act about environmental issues, or how developed countries bear the responsibility Lire la suite