This afternoon, in a speech at Georgetown University, President Obama will lay out a barrage of energy and climate policies to tackle global climate change, based almost entirely on the use of executive power. When he ran for office in 2008, the president made climate change a core tenant of his campaign, but neither he nor the rest of the country could have predicted that cooperation from Congress on an issue as vital as this would be pretty much impossible to get. So, there is no grand strategy anymore to tackle global climate change, and Obama’s administration has given up trying to make one. A grand strategy needs one crucial element: Congress. Essentially, the president will lay out a plan of action that will take advantage of whatever executive power he has to solve the climate change dilemma little by little.
What is the climate change dilemma? Last year global carbon dioxide emissions rose to record levels, and the World Bank sent out a report warning everyone that the Earth is on a trajectory to heat up possibly as much as 4°C (7.2°F). Here’s how far behind the U.S. is in meeting Obama’s climate goals set out as part of the Copenhagen Accord a few years ago:
So what can we expect from this executive-lead proposal of energy and climate policies? Brad Plumer did the digging:
The Environmental Protection Agency will craft rules to limit carbon pollution from new and existing power plants. The Department of Interior will try to accelerate the development of renewable power on public lands. And the Energy Department will ratchet up efficiency standards for appliances. The overarching goal is to reduce U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
For Obama, it seems like acting without Congress — mainly meaning without Republicans — is really the only option left if any headway is to be made on tackling climate change. There are some red-state Democrats, like Joe Manchin, who are equally guilty for standing in the way of climate policy, but while these outliers exist on the left, they would just be one of the herd on the right. Jonathan Cohn notes this morning that Republicans are already crafting strategies for attacking their Democratic adversaries in 2014 for this new climate plan.
(Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight…)