Obama Makes Climate Change a Priority in Inaugural Address

President Obama days before the election as he toured the region hit by Hurricane Sandy. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


President Obama made the news for his silence on climate change for much of the 2012 presidential campaign. That changed in his inaugural address on Monday. In a move that heartened many environmentalists, he said that climate change is not a subject he can ignore in his second term.

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Obama said. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

Al Gore in a statement for his remarks and urged him to reject the tar sands pipeline and “hold polluters accountable."

Obama’s reference to “more powerful storms” brought to mind Hurricane Sandy, which made political waves with its visit the week before the election. But the 2012 campaign in general was notably lacking in discourse on climate change; it was not mentioned in a single presidential debate. Obama did call climate change “one of the biggest issues of this generation” during the campaign, but he was vague in laying out his plans for dealing with it.

Environmentalists hope that Obama’s reference to climate change at the inauguration is merely a precursor to a more serious discussion, and new regulations.

According to The New York Times, Obama has low hopes for putting legislation through Congress to limit emissions, as he tried to do unsuccessfully in 2010. Rather, he will use his administrative powers to set standards for household appliance and building efficiency, continue his move to more strictly regulate coal-burning power plant emissions, and make the federal government’s own operations greener. 

Obama’s often touts green jobs and the program for financing alternative energy he enacted in his first term. He referenced the need to develop new sustainable technologies in the inaugural address. “We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries—we must claim its promise,” he said. “That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure—our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks.”