President-elect Obama’s phone has been ringing off the hook. Democrat leaders call to congratulate, world leaders want to talk policy, and special interest groups hope that Obama will pay better attention to their cause than the Bush administration did. One group seeking Obama’s ear is the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP).
PCAP is a team of scientists, businesspeople, and politicians intent on jumpstarting Obama’s climate change policy by providing him with an outline that details exactly how to take the nation from an era powered by fossil fuels and an ethic of dominating nature to one powered by renewable resources that embraces stewardship.
“You can’t back away from problems like peak oil and climate change,” says PCAP Executive Director Bill Becker, a former newspaperman who helped build the nation’s first “solar village” in Wisconsin. “These issues won’t wait for us to get our house in order.”
In a 17-page document available online, PCAP suggests the president take action like establishing goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, setting up a carbon trading system and convening a panel of governors and mayors to coordinate a climate change response that involves all three levels of government. In the past few years, without federal leadership on climate change, state and local governments have picked up the slack. “Their action has been a silver lining,” said Becker.
PCAP’s advice runs beyond the bounds of what is typically advocated by climate change groups. The project calls for a weatherization assistance program to help low-income families insulate their homes better and lower energy bills and urges congress to support a Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act which would aim to conserve species and habitats most impacted by climate change.
Other PCAP suggestions include directing federal agencies to inventory resources and ecosystem services, declaring the atmosphere a public commons owned by all and creating new federal institutions like an Earth Systems Sciences Agency or a Department of Oceans.
“The time for these notions has come,” said Becker. “Species are disappearing, forests are disappearing and farmland and freshwater are being degraded. We can’t call this the tenth on a list of priorities; these are things we must do right now.”
And just how closely is Obama listening to PCAP?
“President Obama will be philosophically quite different than the Bush administration,” Becker said. “I think there is a lot of promise that the federal government is finally going to get off their butts and tackle these problems.”