Saturday, February 5, 2011

Obama's Changing Rhetoric on Climate Change

A recent CNN post explains the rhetorical shift that Barack Obama has undergone in the two years between his time as a candidate and now. One crucial shift is his talk on Climate Change. While he is surely hoping to take action on the issue, his new political circumstances will require him to do so with a bit more stealth: re-framing the issue as one of "job creation" and "energy independence" instead of carbon reduction and environmental integrity. These issues have enormous overlap, but I'm not convinced that addressing the issue as one of job creation or energy independence will spark a reversal of GHG trends sufficient enough to avoid the positive feedback loops projected in the coming decades. While I think the rhetorical shift and ensuing agenda leaves much to be desired (e.g. "clean" coal is FAR from clean), it's probably the best option at the national level now. Here's the excerpt on climate change:

In his first address to Congress, in February of 2009, President Obama said, “I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.”

By his 2011 State of the Union the words “cap,” “carbon” and “pollution” were gone. Instead, Mr. Obama made this call, “I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.”

The push for a much higher level of renewable energy has run throughout candidate and President Obama’s speeches. But note the way he has changed how he describes his goal, talking about the positive “clean energy” and no longer the negative “pollution”.

As for cap-and-trade, the change in Obama speech goes back to the death of the proposal in the Senate last year. Faced with another Congressional roadblock on cap-and-trade, the president is no longer talking much about the idea but he is more quietly pushing for carbon caps to be enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rob, just looking to start a quick conversation on discursive barriers. Please email me on when you have a minute.