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How Would Obama Address Climate Change?

Exclusive reply to Scientific American points to reduced oil dependence and clean-energy investments



U.S. Department of Defense

President Barack Obama made a poignant comment about the need to address climate change, during his inauguration speech on Monday. Commentators everywhere noted how the remark stood out, and also asked what specific measures the second-term President might actually recommend. Scientific American has some answers, based on an exclusive written response that Obama’s campaign sent to us just before the November 2012 election.

Working with ScienceDebate.org, which developed the questions, Scientific American published 14 top science questions for Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney, as well as the candidates' answers. One question was about climate change, and another was about energy supply, which Obama always seems to mention as an integral part of any effort to address climate change. The full reply by Obama to each of those questions is below. The responses by him and Romney to all 14 questions (including space exploration and Internet security) can be found at www.ScientificAmerican.com/nov2012/candidates or at www.sciencedebate.org/debate12.

Question on Climate Change. The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes and other policies proposed to address global climate change—and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?

Barack Obama: Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits. Since taking office I have established historic standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history. My administration has made unprecedented investments in clean energy, proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants and reduced carbon emissions within the Federal Government. Since I took office, the U.S. is importing an average of 3 million fewer barrels of oil every day, and our dependence on foreign oil is at a 20-year low. We are also showing international leadership on climate change, reaching historic agreements to set emission limits in unison with all major developed and developing nations. There is still more to be done to address this global problem. I will continue efforts to reduce our dependence on oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating an economy built to last.

Question on Energy. Many policymakers and scientists say energy security and sustainability are major problems facing the United States this century. What policies would you support to meet the demand for energy while ensuring an economically and environmentally sustainable future?

Barack Obama: Since taking office, I have supported an all-of-the-above energy approach that will allow us to take control of our energy future, one where we safely and responsibly develop America’s many energy resources – including natural gas, wind, solar, oil, clean coal, and biofuels – while investing in clean energy and increasing fuel efficiency standards to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the global economy in the 21st century. That’s why I have made the largest investment in clean energy and energy efficiency in American history and proposed an ambitious Clean Energy Standard to generate 80 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources like wind, solar, clean coal, and natural gas by 2035. Since taking office, electricity production from wind and solar sources has already more than doubled in the United States. We are boosting our use of cleaner fuels, including increasing the level of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline and implementing a new Renewable Fuel Standard that will save nearly 14 billion gallons of petroleum-based gasoline in 2022. America has regained its position as the world’s leading producer of natural gas. My administration is promoting the safe, responsible development of America’s near 100-year supply of natural gas that will help support more than 600,000 jobs. Because of these actions, we are positioning ourselves to have cleaner and cheaper sources of fuel that make us more energy secure and position the U.S. as a world leader in the clean energy economy.

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