The US Presidential campaigns covered a wide range of issues but, much to the consternation of environmentalists, there was a marked lack of commitment in respect of climate change. Now, perhaps thanks to Superstorm Sandy, climate change is very much back on the US agenda.
It is usual for any victory speech to be greeted with applause but one of the loudest cheers occurred when in his election victory speech President Obama said “We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened up by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”
With the next round of UN Climate Change talks due in a few weeks, environmental groups have seized on President Obama’s comments and are issuing multiple calls for the USA to take a more active role in climate change negotiations. The president of the World Resources Institute, Andrew Steer, went so far as to say that President Obama now has “the opportunity to make an ambitious international climate agreement part of his legacy”.
Whether President Obama will succeed in moving the US economy towards a greener outlook will depend in part on him persuading the Republican majority in the US House of Representatives to vote in favour of some of his climate change measures. These are predicted to include a carbon tax, an extension of the wind energy tax credit and a tightening on greenhouse gas emissions.
Even without Superstorm Sandy, the USA had already seen the effects of an increasingly volatile climate on crop yields. In a year in which more corn was planted than at any time since 1937, the effects of widespread drought has resulted in an estimated loss of around one third of the crop, amounting to more than four billion bushels of corn. The drought effect was seen across America with counties in 38 states being declared “disaster areas”.
How successful President Obama will be in overcoming the big business lobbies and imposing climate action programmes remains to be seen. His first chance will come at the forthcoming Climate Change talks when the world will be looking for a stronger US lead on climate issues. The Green Organisation will be watching the outcome of these talks with great interest and will bring you any developments in the meantime via our twitter feeds or in the news section of our website.