Last week, Thomas Friedman wrote an Op-Ed article in response to President Obama’s climate change speech at Georgetown University in late June. In his speech, Obama announced several executive actions he will take to reduce carbon emissions, increase clean energy generation, and make the United States more resilient to the impacts of climate change. The climate and weather disasters that occurred in 2012 destroyed millions of acres of farmland and cost more than $100 billion in damages. These consequences of inaction reinforce the President’s message that climate change “demands our attention now.”
Friedman’s article touches on an important theme from Obama’s speech; partisan gridlock in Congress, causing executive action to be taken as the last resort. Only in the last several years has climate change become a partisan issue. In 1970s, President Nixon, a Republican, opened the Environmental Protection Agency and signed into law the Clean Air Act. Recently, however, Republican leaders have consistently blocked climate change legislation, claiming that such policies and regulations will hurt the economy and cost jobs.
Friedman notes that a national clean energy standard for electricity generation would be a powerful piece of legislation. This type of policy would allow every utility to use whatever fuel or technology they prefer, as long as its total pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions meet a national standard. The standard would tighten by a small amount each year to ensure that clean energy technologies continue to improve. Friedman believes a policy such as this would help America’s economy, national security, the environment, as well as social well-being.
Featured image courtesy of Michael Reynolds/EPA.