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Obama’s climate initiative – too little too late

Written By: - Date published: 11:39 am, August 5th, 2015 - 48 comments
Categories: climate change, global warming, us politics - Tags: , , ,

Far too late in his presidency Obama is taking important action on climate change:

Obama unveils sweeping cuts to power plant emissions: ‘We have to get going’

‘We are the last generation that can do something’ about climate change says president in announcing requirement of 32% reduction on 2005 levels by 2030

Six years after first promising to “roll back the spectre of a warming planet”, Barack Obama finally committed the US to unprecedented action against climate change on Monday, with sweeping new curbs on carbon emissions from power plants that are equivalent to taking 70% of American cars off the road.

The culmination of his long-fought battle against coal industry lobbyists and climate change sceptics in Congress was greeted with jubilation by many environmentalists who described the tougher-than-expected regulations as a “game-changer”.

Describing it as “the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against climate change”, Obama warned it was almost too late: pointing out that 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have already fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

“Climate change is no longer about protecting the world for our children and grandchildren, it is about the reality that we are living with right now,” said Obama in a speech announcing the plan. “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.”

Credit to Obama for this action, it was desperately needed and is a cause for hope. But. But he’s wrong to warn that it is “almost too late”. It is already too late. Cutting emissions is no longer enough to prevent temperature rises above the already dangerous 2 degree limit. We must do more:

Two degree climate target not possible without ‘negative emissions’, scientists warn

All of our options for keeping warming below 2C above pre-industrial temperatures now involve capturing carbon dioxide and storing it underground – a technology that doesn’t yet exist on a large scale, according to new research.

The study , published today in Nature Communications, argues that ‘negative emissions’ alone, in the absence of conventional mitigation, are unlikely to achieve the 2C goal.

And in all but the most optimistic cases, staying below 2C requires capturing and storing carbon in amounts that exceed the capabilities of current technology, say the researchers.

Even if the technology did exist yet at a useful scale I doubt that governments would be lining up to adopt it. We are going to drive headlong off this cliff. As a short term measure – and as something anyone can do – plant more trees. We need to plant a lot more trees…

48 comments on “Obama’s climate initiative – too little too late ”

  1. Bill 1

    Any announcement by any government that doesn’t take us down the path to achieve zero emissions from fossil fuels by 2050 is bullshit.

    Was just reading yesterday that coal, gas and petroleum is in line for global subsidises in excess of US$ 5 trillion this year.

    And I wondered:- “What could ~ US$ 5 trillion per year do in terms of retrofitting/upgrading infrastructure to deal with worst case +4 degrees C?”

    edit Should add that any announcement that does aim at zero by 50, but that relies on buying credits (as NZ cuts do) is also, obviously, bullshit. There ain’t no credits available in a world that must hit zero.

    • adam 1.1

      Capitalism must now pay the despoilers to give the appearance the system works. It is a very sad joke.

      My guess is Gosman will come up some inane comment at this point to prove the market is the only solution. Sheesh when will right wing libertarians realise your preciousness market was robbed from you when this lot got into power? The market does not exist – that subsidy alone proves it.

      I do have to laugh though, that the most stark betrayal in politics for the last 15 years, is the stabbing in the back by the oligarchs, of right-wing libertarians .

      We on the left know we been always shafted by the oligarchs, Obama was no hope and proven what I always though of him – he is just another Clintonesk, foe liberal. He can speak all the words of the left, he can feel the pain (so to speak) – but never delivers on anything.

      This emissions deal is just another example of foe liberalism in practice. To little, to late, and missing the whole point – then pouts when any body criticises it.

    • David 1.2

      “Was just reading yesterday that coal, gas and petroleum is in line for global subsidises in excess of US$ 5 trillion this year.”

      You do realise this isn’t an actual subsidy don’t you? Where do you think that $5tillion comes from exactly, or do you really think 30% of US GDP is spent subsidizing fossil fuels?

      • Bill 1.2.1

        Fuck me dead. You want a debate about when a subsidy isn’t an actual subsidy? Go talk to the IMF who produced the figures.

        But if you’re merely referring to the externalities (health costs etc) being costed back in, then yes, I’m aware the figure includes those.

        You can link to the full report from one of the links contained in the following piece.

        • David

          The point is very simple, there isn’t $5 trillion to spend on ‘upgrading infrastructure’.

          The subsidies, when they actually occur, are almost entirely consumer subsidies on fuels in the third world and oil producing nations. Iran is the largest of these, spending $100bn each year on fuel subsidies.

          In western nations it’s almost negligible.

          • weka

            What could US$100 billion+ per year do in terms of retrofitting/upgrading infrastructure to deal with worst case +4 degrees C?

          • Draco T Bastard

            The point is very simple, there isn’t $5 trillion to spend on ‘upgrading infrastructure’.

            Incorrect. All that needs to be done is that the governments of the world print the money and spend it on renewables and, BAM!!!, we have 5 trillion dollars spent on renewables.

            And, yes, that would actually work. Take NZ for instance. The government prints enough money to train enough people to build wind turbines and place them offshore. They also ensure that there’s enough mining going on in NZ to produce the rare earth metals and other metals needed as well as producing enough resin (probably from growing hemp) to produce those wind turbines. Taxes would be properly adjusted and none of this would be done through private enterprise as we can’t afford the dead-weight loss of profit on it.

            All we’d be doing is utilising our own resources.

            The subsidies, when they actually occur, are almost entirely consumer subsidies on fuels in the third world and oil producing nations

            You are, of course, referring to the fact that oil producing nations only charge what it costs to produce the oil rather than what oil importing nations have to pay for it as a subsidy which is, of course, BS. The difference in price isn’t a subsidy but the profit that the oil producing nations get from selling offshore.

            In western nations it’s almost negligible.

            In Western Nations it’s about ensuring that the full costs aren’t placed upon the use of fossil fuels and other sources of CO2. The NZ example is how National have fucked round with the ETS so that cows are no longer included in it and by giving huge amounts of free carbon credits to businesses.

            • David

              “You are, of course, referring to the fact that oil producing nations only charge what it costs to produce the oil rather than what oil importing nations have to pay for it as a subsidy which is, of course, BS. ”

              Not correct, Iran and quite a few nations sell fuel at far below the cost to produce. Diesel, for example, was sold for 6c/gallon until very recently. Iran has a goal of raising prices to the cost of production, but that will take years.

          • Bill

            Every man, woman and child in NZ subsidisies to the tune of somewhere in the region of $2 per day, every day.

            That’s about $8million a day or about $3000 million a year. Hardly small cheese.

            It’s in the report’s spread sheet if you care to read it and correct my ‘from memory’ $2 figure.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    As a short term measure – and as something anyone can do – plant more trees. We need to plant a lot more trees…

    Something I’ve been thinking of lately is that we should limit land used for agricultural purpose in NZ to ~15% of NZ. It’s presently at 54% and provides enough calories to feed ~20 million people and so limiting it to 15% would still provide enough land to feed ourselves.

    We also need to limit city land to it’s present amount and thus no more sprawl. The rest of the land is then returned to it’s native (Planting lots of trees) and natural state and allowed to evolve.

    Then we need to work on shutting down our fossil fuelled power generation and building renewable power generation. Also, get rid of cars.

  3. johnm 3

    Game over for Homo Stupidus and Greedus and breed like there’s no tomorrow us, well, folks there won’t be a tomorrow! 🙁 Oh Sorry! that’s not a positive message Oops!

  4. Corokia 4

    Plant trees with edible crops. Multi layered permaculture plantings urban and rural.

  5. Molly 5

    Unfortunately Obama’s solution seems to be to crank up the fracking of natural gas in the US, still impacting on the climate and destroying communities, environment and water tables while he is at it.

    Too many advisors with limited vision giving possible solutions.

    • Colonial Rawshark 5.1

      Too many advisors with strong backgrounds and ties to the energy and financial sectors

  6. Bill 6

    – sigh – On the ‘techno-fix’ front…

    German researchers have demonstrated once again that the best way to limit climate change is to stop burning fossil fuels now.

    In a “thought experiment” they tried another option: the future dramatic removal of huge volumes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This would, they concluded, return the atmosphere to the greenhouse gas concentrations that existed for most of human history – but it wouldn’t save the oceans.

    That is, the oceans would stay warmer, and more acidic, for thousands of years, and the consequences for marine life could be catastrophic.


  7. maui 7

    A 32% reduction on 2005 levels.. or what about a limit to a 6000% increase on 1880 levels… or a 100% reduction on CO2 levels currently on Mars. Insert your madeup meaningless target here.

  8. feijoa 8

    The whole thing is overwhelmingly depressing. I despair for my children’s future. the only way I can rationalise it, is to do what I can on a personal level, and I am resigned to our fate, which will be exactly what mankind deserves.

    • maui 8.1

      I was overwhelmed with the whole idea a few months ago that we are going to burn up the planet and there’s not much hope. But, looking at the peak oil scenario where we’ve hit the peak in world oil production and we’re starting on a massive slide in oil production. I wonder if in a couple of years the more immediate crisis will be oil shortages, something unimaginable right now. Of course climate change isn’t going to go away, but there are hard limits to what we can suck out of the ground. Look at where we have to drill for oil now – the arctic and deep water off our own coast, the last places you want to look for oil. I just don’t think it’s viable that we will burn our way into oblivion if these are the measures we’re going to currently. This theory makes me sleep easier anyway.

      To go along with that I realise civilisations rise and fall, and ours has just had exponential growth, to counteract that there has to be a resulting crash to balance everything out. Humans will go on I believe.

  9. Ad 9

    Anthony you have got to be kidding me.

    Obama has gone to the limits of his Presidential executive powers, knowing that nothing good is going to pass either the House or Senate under Republican rule.

    And still we comlpain when he acts. Sorry he ain’t saving the world.
    He’s getting done what he can, and that’s the limits of politics.

    • adam 9.1

      You understand what a foe liberal is Ad?

      • JanMeyer 9.1.1

        A liberal’s foe is a faux liberal

        • adam

          I prefer foe liberal, rather than faux liberal – implies they are a 5th column.

          • Ad

            Clearly you have no idea who your allies are anyway.

            The progressive side of politics is going backwards electorally in every English-speaking nation. And yet no one wants to celebrate a win when it’s handed to them.

            If Pacific Rim countries cannot agree on something as concrete as their economic and commercial interests with TPPA, why would anyone think that the entire world is going to agree on something as nebulous, depressing, non-televisual and unlikely to affect as climate change? Best of luck if they do.

            If you really want to go Yah Boo Sucks to Obama for getting a massive climate change victory, while commenting from a country doing far far less and is on a per capita basis far more damaging to the planet, then you clearly have lost all political perspective.

            Obama sure ain’t perfect, but he is sticking his neck way out in the US, and on multiple fronts. Obama is going to be remembered as an effective liberal beacon compared to Hilary Clinton or Jeb Bush. Just watch 2016.

            • Bill

              Last time I checked, English was spoken in Scotland and…SNP.
              English is also spoken in England and…Jeremy Corbyn.

              A progressive party winning electoral landslides and a progressive politician pulling audiences that overflow the booked venues.

              In both instances, ‘the (liberal) establishment’ is expressing a certain impotent apoplexy 😉

              • Ad

                Scotland is part of the UK, you moron, by popular democratic choice.
                And the UK is ruled by the Conservatives. By massive democratic choice.
                Just snap out of the fantasy.

                • adam

                  Is this the argument now is it – when we defened socialism, were the wankers – Thanks for the heads up Ad. Always nice to see a foe liberal in action.

  10. JanMeyer 10

    Doom and bloody gloom! This is why the more extreme perspectives on climate change are a complete turn off to the average punter (read ‘voter’). Let’s just throw in the towel and burn away as your premise seems to be that we’re totally stuffed whatever we do.

    • adam 10.1

      If western people faced they fact we need to consume less – we would be OK – as you put it. The doom and gloom part is the fact we see no movement on the consumption front by the west. That is the doom and gloom – the people who need to do something are not, indeed they are consuming more.

      • Colonial Rawshark 10.1.1

        austerity is involuntarily forcing the bottom 50% in western countries to consume much less

    • One Anonymous Bloke 10.2

      Oh noes, if mainstream scientific opinion is a turn-off for the poor wilting little babes just wait ’til they get a load of 2°.

      The biggest problem is fuckwits pretending that informed opinion is a “perspective”.

      • JanMeyer 10.2.1

        Whilst there’s a consensus among the scientists about global warming, there sure as hell ain’t a consensus about what to do about it.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Yes, because of the aforementioned fuckwits.

        • Bill

          The general drift in the scientific community is for zero fossil by 50 and to do whatever can be done on land use (agriculture etc).

          Then cross fingers and pray to a god if that’s your thing.

          The problem is political will, not science.

          • JanMeyer

            Correct. And in terms of politics Obama gave a master class.

          • Colonial Rawshark

            I rather suspect that many countries of the world will be burning zero fossil fuels by 2050: not by choice of course.

  11. Macro 11

    Climate Change is already estimated to be killing 5 million people per year – Cancer kills about 7.6 million.

  12. Dear ladies and gentlemen
    Do you want to contribute something to solve the biggest problem of humankind? Then sign our petition under the world’s largest platform change.org:
    The German physicist, aerospace physician, writer and television presenter Heinz Haber wrote in 1973 that a planet the size of our Earth should not be populated with more than 500 million human beings in order to maintain a harmonious balance between human beings and nature. Today (June 2013 ) we have, with (officially listed ) 7.2 billion human beings, reached more than 14 times this guideline value, and an end of this population growth is not in sight! A huge mass of unemployment and the collapse of our prosperity will be further consequences. A worldwide, mandatory birth control for all countries of Earth is urgent, if we want the impending climate catastrophe to weaken somewhat.
    Even the UN IPCC has recognised the danger in its fifth World Climate Report, but played it down by only predicting a higher sea level rise than previously prognosticated. The world however is in store for an unprecedented climate catastrophe which will bring us human beings – even in Europe! – primeval conditions. According to a current campaign at the world’s largest petition platform “change.org”, the reasons for this are obvious, but are ignored and tabooed as a result of ignorance, cowardice and lust for might.
    Quote from a proponent of the petition:
    “The overpopulation of Earth is a huge disaster and shows the picture of an egoistical thinking human being who doesn’t care the slightest bit about his/her environment and who has raised the fulfilment of his/her desires to be the supreme principle of his/her life. The quality of the future life of all human beings is inseparably connected with the state of nature. The unrestrained plundering, exploitation and the therewith accompanying destruction, devastation and poisoning of the soil, air and water, caused by the huge demand for foodstuffs and goods of all kind of a still explosively growing population, presents the human beings with unsolvable problems. Overpopulation is not a taboo word, rather the exact term for an excessive number of human beings brought about by an irrational and irresponsible procreation of children, and which nature can no longer cope with. There should only be as many human beings living in a country as it can also sustain from its own resources. In addition the fauna and flora must also have enough space to expand in order to fulfil their vital functions in a good functioning ecosystem. This shows that all countries of Earth are overpopulated and need to do something about it. The control of the overpopulation does not mean that human beings have to leave, and it also has nothing to do with racism, but rather it demands of the human being, regardless of his/her colour, that a reasonable birth regulation must be strongly striven for and carried out for the benefit of all human beings and all life on our planet.”

    • Colonial Rawshark 12.1

      Robert, you are doing something pro-active and activist like here, what has happened. I rather suspect that human population will be back under 1B by 2200 anyways…

  13. johnm 13

    Basically we have destroyed the protection and sacred balance of Gaia. The unleashed climate monster will boot human butts into eternity. But sadly millions of innocent species flora and fauna will die with this stupid arrogant ahole species. That is the truth! If you don’t believe arrogant, consider all the crazy wars we’ve fought since so called civilisation began.

    • Ad 13.1

      so we should wait for Gaia to save itself. as a monster. or something.
      Are you an extra from an Indiana Jones movie?

      • johnm 13.1.1

        Hi AD 🙂
        Heh Heh Heh LOL Good one!

        To explain my extraordinary statement we now know that climate change has been the main agent of mass extinctions in Earth’s history. Gaia is the Planetry community of all life that has adjusted chemically the atmosphere and maintains its stability to facilitate life to its maximum potential. Man’s pollution of the atmosphere and destruction of the forests and other climate stabilisers has kicked off rapid climate change this has the potential to destroy our habitat mainly our ability to grow food.

        The Revenge of Gaia by James E. Lovelock

        Last Hours

        If only it were Indiana Jones! 🙂

        Some people are angry that we were stupid enough to do this 🙁

        A mass extinction of life forms is already underway I suggest you google the subject and see for yourself

        • Ad

          are you saying climate change will save the earth through killing everything off, so then life will start again ?

          what evidence of climate change doing that ?

          • johnm

            Hi AD

            What we really mean by “Earth” is the community of life on this Planet of which we are a part plus the chemical balances in atmosphere and oceans that have been created by Gaia to support life. Therefore CC will destroy most of this. Re: Lovelock he’s not sure that Gaia will recover as the Planet is very old now, but sadly the miraculous plenitude and bounty of Earth now is becoming extinct. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocene_extinction
            Basically we’re likely to go extinct too as food habitat disappears!

  14. johnm 14

    Radical Predictions
    Should we fear near-term human extinction?
    By Ted Taylor


    ” Most of us have figured out by now that we are toast: Humanity will be wiped out by an asteroid, supernova, massive volcanic eruptions, global axis shift, some untreatable virus, nuclear war or climate change. Our sun is going supernova. We’ve seen the disaster movies, read the books and laughed at the cartoons.

    But how quickly?

    University of Arizona emeritus natural resources professor Guy McPherson, author of Extinction Dialogs: How to Live with Death in Mind, which he co-authored with Carolyn Baker, recently spoke at a Unitarian Universalist Church in Eugene, Oregon, offering dire, even shocking predictions.

    In his talk, McPherson figures the sixth extinction in Earth’s geologic history is already under way. We could see massive die-offs of humans and other species in as little as 18 months, and humanity has at best 10 to 20 years. “I could be wrong,” he admits. “

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