Is the Climate Silence Over?
Though global climate barely came up during the 2012 election season, President Barack Obama took the opportunity to mention the issue during his victory speech after winning re-election on Tuesday.
“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet,” he said.
Millennial Americans, those 18-29, have pushed the pundits as well as the candidates to address an issue that remains of central importance to young American voters and activists, an issue that could determine the security of their future quite literally.
Exit polls released by CBS News indicate that Superstorm Sandy changed the political game in President Obama’s favor, with his response becoming a crucial factor for two out of every five voters. Hurricane Sandy, now, has even the mainstream media connecting the dots between global climate change and extreme weather events.
Many climate scientists are linking the storm to ongoing Arctic ice melt. The ice hit its lowest level on record in the Arctic this September, with the accompanying sea level rise providing additional fodder to fuel superstorms like Sandy with storm surges riding in about a foot higher than average.
But the question still remains as to whether or not the president will truly rein in the climate problem. Some have speculated the president could have more sway on the issue in his second term, without the worry of re-election.
Still, President Obama's “all of the above” energy strategy includes destructive forms of energy extraction such as mountaintop removal strip mining for coal as well as hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. The process of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for gas releases large amounts of methane into the atmosphere, a stronger greenhouse gas than carbon.
Another issue the president will have to address is the battle over the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas. The president rejected the permit for the cross-border segment of the pipeline in the fall of 2011, citing problems with the environmental review process.
But the company responsible for a pipeline project that has been called “game over for the climate” by one of NASA’s leading climate scientists has begun construction on its southern leg of the pipeline running from Cushing, Okla. to Texas despite an ongoing blockade movement launched to stop it with nonviolent direct action. That company, TransCanada has reapplied for a permit for its northern section and the president will have to prove just how serious he is about the slowing global climate change by either approving or denying the permit.
It’s time the president show how serious he is about the climate by drawing the line on fossil fuels somewhere, and thousands of young activists agree that it should be at the tar sands, the dirtiest form of fossil fuel energy.
Candice Bernd is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @CandiceBernd.