President Barack Obama’s first Earth Day proclamation in 2009 was an urgent call to address global warming. This year? The word “climate” didn’t even get a mention.
Four years ago, Obama and his opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), both ran on implementing a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions. Obama still mentions climate change in some speeches. For example, he’ll make a push to extend clean energy tax breaks Thursday. Still, the White House has soft-pedaled the way it talks about it heading into a tough election in which the economy trumps all.
Gone are the urgent statements warning of melting glaciers and rising sea levels. Indeed, the energy and environment page at WhiteHouse.gov now shows a photo of the president walking in front of segments of oil pipeline, and the White House never neglects an opportunity to tout its support for domestic oil and natural gas drilling. In briefings on background, senior administration officials now talk about exporting fracking technology, which has caused natural gas production to boom and prices to fall.
Obama himself still mentions cap-and-trade, but mainly to point to how far the Republicans have moved to the right relative to McCain.
He did tell Rolling Stone magazine last month that climate change would remain a priority. “I suspect that over the next six months, this is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way,” Obama said. “There’s a way to do it that is entirely compatible with strong economic growth and job creation.”
But scientists such as NASA’s James Hansen have taken the president to task for not making climate change a higher priority.
The White House strongly defends Obama’s record on climate change in the face of Congressional inaction. His biggest calling card is the deal his administration cut with the auto industry to double mileage standards. Obama’s Earth Day proclamation this year touted that policy, noting it will cut greenhouse gases while saving drivers at the pump.
“The President has made clear that we need an all of the above approach that relies on a broad range of domestic energy sources, with a focus on decreasing harmful emissions, including carbon pollution, and increasing our nation’s share of clean energy,” White House spokesman Clark Stevens said. “That is why in the last two State of the Union Addresses the President has proposed a bold but achievable goal of generating 80 percent of energy from clean sources by 2035, including renewables like wind and solar, as well as natural gas, nuclear power, and clean coal.”