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Has President Obama Turned the Corner on Climate Change?

Analysts have noted a change in the president on climate change in his second term. Call it a "message shift". Rather than addressing it in terms of the need for clean energy and renewables, he now speaks directly to the perils of climate change.
July 11, 2013, 8am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Ben German writes that it was the June 25, Georgetown University speech that caused many to take notice - on both sides of the issue, though the subtle transformation was noticed "(a) week earlier in Germany, on June 19, (when he) called climate change 'the global threat of our time,'" as well as his strong, earlier assertions in the State of the Union speech on Feb. 12 and the second inaugural speech on Jan. 21. 

Some referred to the Georgetown University event as the transition from the politically safe, 'A' speech on clean energy to the riskier 'B' version fraught with "planetary risk and economic peril of climate change". 

The president packed last week’s big climate speech with calls to heed scientists’ warnings, a strong attack on climate skeptics, and full-throated claims that the planetary stakes are immense.

“I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing,” he said at Georgetown University.

Washington Post analyst Ezra Klein explains the risk. “There is a worrying sort of polling conclusion they have come to, that the actual problems – climate change and global warming – don’t poll well enough to talk about..."

Illustrating the political risks, Trip Gabriel of The New York Times describes the political gains the GOP hopes to make "in the belief they had been handed a powerful issue to use against Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections in energy-rich states from Texas to Minnesota." 

The change has inspired his supporters on the left. "Joe Romm of the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund, writing on his blog in late June, was delighted that Obama “went full climate hawk" while conservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer called it "a grandiloquent speech" in his column, "Obama’s global-warming folly".

Chris Mooney of Grist writes about the same theme in his July 09 blog, "Whatever happened to Green Jobs"?

While German didn't address the president's unscripted comments on the Keystone XL pipeline, John Broder of The New York Times devoted his July 5 news analysis to it.

Mr. Obama said he would approve the remaining portion of the 1,700-mile pipeline from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries only if it would not “significantly exacerbate” the problem of carbon pollution. He added that the pipeline’s net effects on the climate would be “absolutely critical” to his decision whether to allow it to proceed.

Broder writes, "Just weeks ago, the smart money in Washington had President Obama approving the cross-border oil pipeline later this year, perhaps balanced with a package of unrelated climate change measures". Now it would seem that all bets are off.

Full Story:
Published on Saturday, July 6, 2013 in The Hill
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