Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Climate Change can be mentioned again!

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

Well it probably doesn't need me to tell you that the quote comes from President Obama's second inauguration address, delivered in front of 800,000 people yesterday. Strip away the rhetoric though and two things shine through: a recognition that the effects of climate change are visible and damaging, and a commitment to lead the transition on the path towards sustainable energy sources. This is to be welcomed, although it's not perfect.

Sustainable energy sources are but one half of the solution; arguably managing energy demand is even more important, and can often be achieved quicker and at lower cost. And hidden behind this is often a need for stronger economic signals - of which carbon taxes in one form or another are often most efficient. How refreshing it would have been if President Obama had spoken of being able to revamp America's tax code by not adding taxes to the (not so) broad shoulders of a rising middle class, but instead taxing profligate energy use through a broad carbon tax. But maybe that will come; at least Climate Change is back in the lexicon of the president and I don't have to hide behind the euphemism of "weird weather" when speaking to my US colleagues.

(Oh and as everyone else seems to have been counting words, that's 159 out of 2,137 in the entire address or about 7% devoted to climate change.)