Intersecting Minds: Education, Business and Technology at the North Carolina State Jenkins Graduate School of Management

Obama On Climate Change | September 23, 2009

Following up on my climate change post, I wanted to highlight a few key excerpts from President Barack Obama’s address on the topic yesterday. Obama delivered this speech to the UN Climate Change Summit in New York in advance of the meetings in Copenhagen later this year. After starting the address by recognizing the progress America has made in addressing global warming, Obama gets at the crucial elements of developing a response to the challenge.

First this passage:

Because no one nation can meet this challenge alone, the United States has also engaged more allies and partners in finding a solution than ever before… we have put climate at the top of our diplomatic agenda when it comes to our relationships with countries from China to Brazil; India to Mexico; Africa to Europe.

For almost a decade, America has refused to believe global warming exists. President Bush and his advisers favored a hands off approach to climate change, saying the science wasn’t there to support the dire warnings coming from the environmental community. As a result, America hasn’t been active in combating climate change despite the fact that we emit over 25% of the total carbon emissions produced on Earth. We’ve refused to engage the global community, refused to join Kyoto, and refused to implement any type of sane energy policy regulating carbon emissions. All of that needs to change, and it’s good to see Obama making a start.

In that same vein:

But those rapidly-growing developing nations that will produce nearly all the growth in global carbon emissions in the decades ahead must do their part as well. Some of these nations have already made great strides with the development and deployment of clean energy. Still, they will need to commit to strong measures at home and agree to stand behind those commitments just as the developed nations must stand behind their own. We cannot meet this challenge unless all the largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution act together. There is no other way.

These words come in the same vein as those I highlighted above. The global community must act together to ensure the worst forecasts are prevented. However, two actions must happen for this to succeed. First, achievable, actionable standards must be set and agreed to by the global community, including America, China, Japan, Brazil the EU countries, etc. Each nation has its own agenda in terms of economic development, growth and impact on the global stage. Making compromises and communicating will be hugely important to reaching common standards.

Secondly, these countries will also need to develop tactics to reach those standards. Will the United States be able to pass a cap-and-trade energy policy? How will China plan to cut down gasoline emissions? How will other first world countries be able to wean themselves off coal power? What is India’s approach to managing economic growth vs. environmental sustainability? These are a very small sample of the truly huge questions facing the global community. And they will require specific, coordinated action by all the actors involved.


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