November 17, 2012

Barack Obama Believes Climate Change is Real

After an expensive and thoroughly negative campaign that failed to mention climate change at all, Barack Obama has been voted another four year term in charge of a nation that pumps a lot of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere.  According to the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL for short):

Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) increased by 3% in 2011, reaching an all-time high of 34 billion tonnes in 2011. With a decrease in 2008 and a 5% surge in 2010, the past decade saw an average annual increase of 2.7%. The top 5 emitters are China (29%), the United States (16%), the European Union (EU27) (11%), India (6%) and the Russian Federation (5%), followed by Japan (4%). These figures exclude emissions from biomass burning, such as forest fires, as the occurrence of which is uncertain.

On a per capita basis, rather than per country, the PBL further state that:

In 2011, China’s average per capita carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased by 9% to 7.2 tonnes CO2. This is similar to the per capita emissions in the European Union of 7.5 tonnes in 2011. In comparison, in 2011, the United States was still one of the largest emitters of CO2, with 17.3 tonnes in per capita emissions, after a steep decline mainly caused by the recession in 2008-2009, high oil prices compared to low fuel taxes and an increased share of natural gas.

Here's PBL's picture summarising that rather depressing set of statistics:

PBL/EC summary of global carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 to 2011

PBL/EC summary of global carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 to 2011

Here at we've been wondering for quite some time what Mr. Obama intends to do about reducing the United States' 17.3 tonnes per person contribution to global emissions over the next 4 years. First let's take a look at how CNN reported his post election trip to Super Storm Sandy ravaged New York City, along with some "climate change" comments the President made at the White House:

As you can see, CNN said that:

President Obama was accompanied on his visit to New York City by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who endorsed him for President because of his stand on global warming, and New York Governor  Andrew Cuomo.

Barack Obama said that:

There's still a lot of cleanup to do. People still need emergency help. They still need power, and they still need food.

whereas Andrew Cuomo said that:

We must rethink and redesign for the long term, because extreme weather, as we have learned, is the new normal.

whilst Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute said that:

I think the President put the climate change issue to rest by saying that we've got to focus on job creation first, and economic recovery. Clearly that's where the American people are, and energy plays a key role in that. We can create thousands of jobs by producing America's oil and natural gas, providing affordable reliable energy to our citizens.

Now let's take a look at exactly what President Obama did say at The White House when asked:

What specifically do you plan to do in a second term to tackle the issue of climate change?

As you can see, after a considerable pause for thought Mr. Obama actually said that:

We can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change. What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago. We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago. We do know that there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.

I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions, and as a consequence I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it…..

We haven’t done as much as we need to.

Mr. Obama then goes on to discuss a number of "conversations" he intends to have, without mentioning any explicit "actions". CNN's conclusion is that Barack Obama has his:

Focus on jobs, not climate change

What's your conclusion? In amongst all the spin, are you at all hopeful that those 17.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year will be reducing real fast, real soon now? I'm afraid I have considerable doubts that's how things will eventually turn out. I have even bigger doubts that "America's oil and natural gas provides affordable reliable energy", when you take all the costs into account.

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