As President Obama embarks on his second term, many are already discussing his legacy. Will he be the president who stood by while the climate crisis unfolded? Or will he be our generation’s Abraham Lincoln, rallying the nation to tackle the fundamental moral challenge of our time?
The president sounded all the right notes on Monday:
We will respond to the threat of climate change … knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.
But he still hasn’t told us what he plans to do. And if we’ve learned anything about this president, we need to make him do it. Over 10,000 members of Forecast the Facts have signed our petition to President Obama:
Our Petition: History will judge your presidency by whether or not you acted on climate change. Please deliver on your recent pledge to make climate change a top second term priority by outlining a detailed plan for curbing fossil fuel pollution in your upcoming State of the Union address.
President Obama has been courting Lincoln comparisons from even before he was elected. Obama announced his 2008 candidacy on the steps of the Illinois State House, where Lincoln began his political career. He used Lincoln’s bible when being sworn in for his first term. And he is even giving this year’s State of the Union on Lincoln’s birthday.
Despite the evident ambition, Obama’s climate legacy thus far is muddled. The president is at serious risk of shirking from the central challenge of our time, even as the fields of Kansas burn and the shores of Staten Island flood.
We know President Obama is capable of bold leadership, particularly if current events provide the necessary push. When dozens of children and teachers recently died in the horrible Newtown school shooting, the president rallied the nation and presented a comprehensive plan to address gun violence, urging Congress to pass sweeping legislation, and outlining 23 executive actions he will undertake to reduce gun deaths.
But while scores of Americans died in Hurricane Sandy, while climate disasters continue to rage across the U.S. and the world, while report after report foretells massive societal disruption from fossil-fueled climate change, the president has done little to turn those tragedies and warnings into political will. His stirring Inaugural address was funded with $260,000 from Exxon Mobil. He has still not made a final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. One of his first acts after winning re-election was to sign legislation blocking climate regulations for airlines. It’s time for that to end.
One of President Obama’s favorite refrains is to call on citizens to “make him do it,” to demand action on the issues we care about. Now is our time to make him take action on climate change — by demonstrating that we understand the moral urgency of the climate crisis. Please join us in calling on the president to lay out an ambitious climate agenda in his upcoming State of the Union, and leave no uncertain terms that he plans to lead our country away from the tyranny of fossil fuels.
P.S. for David Roberts: Forecast the Facts members have also been challenging Congress to act and holding their representatives accountable for betraying their future.