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Barack Obama yesterday announced a wide-range of reforms to tackle climate change to make himself the most committed president to challenging growing ecological problems.
From cutting carbon emissions to developing renewable energy, the demands from the President demonstrate an acceptance that climate change is a real problem that needs to be tackled. However, is his speech simply a demonstration of rhetoric, or is there something to look forward to?
The President of the United States released his plans to the public yesterday via a document and a speech at Georgetown University, and he makes some very promising points. His commitment to reducing carbon pollution in America, following on from mercury and arsenic, is a particularly important step, making the world a safer and more sustainable place for generations beyond us and the wider animal kingdom and their habitats. Furthermore, by doing this, he is committing to developing more renewable energies, which is not only good for the environment, but it also increases employment opportunities and helps to strengthen the economy. Obama positively suggests that this can be carried out alongside keeping the economy growing.
He also addressed the problem of natural disasters that climate change has caused, by announcing plans to protect people from the adverse effects of severe weather. This is perhaps where the UK can learn a lesson. With flooding increasing in recent years, it is certain that we need to tackle the problem at its source, but also increase flood defences, strengthen bridges and protect people’s homes to ensure that people are not made homeless and lose their possessions over and over again.
However, despite Obama’s great intentions, his announcements fall short. His continued commitment to nuclear energy and fracking allow cause for great concern. Both of these energy sources are dangerous to the population, with scientists proving that the latter has been linked to rare earthquakes in the UK. It also relies on a limited amount of shale gas resources and involves the destruction of habitats and the environment in the search and extraction of it. In addition to these concerns, he neglected to make any indication as to his decision on the Keystone tar sands pipeline, only stating that climate implications would be considered before making his decision. He also failed to mention any way of combating those who emit too much carbon and pollution, such as a tax or a penalty charge. Whilst the capitalist system allows for companies to exploit the environment with no consequences, we are unlikely to see any real change from such big industries.
Unfortunately for him and environmentalists, the US political system works in such a way that the President can’t just get what he demands and anything Obama wishes to push through must first go through Congress. So, was his speech yesterday another display of rhetoric, or a real commitment to making sure the progress starts during his administration? After all, we’ve seen his previous promises about Guantanamo Bay and no real action has been made on that front.
Nevertheless, the announcements made by the President push thought on climate change in the right direction; the problem needs to be addressed and tackled before it is too late. It is hopefully a step that his citizens will climb on board with, and one that nations around the world will learn from. To tackle climate change, everyone needs to be in it together.