Obama and Angela Merkel
Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, enjoying Berlin’s unseasonably hot weather.
Reuters/Michael Kappeler

President Obama keeps saying bold things about climate change in his big speeches. There was his second inaugural address in January. Then his State of the Union address in February. And today, a high-profile speech in Berlin, Germany, in front of the Brandenburg Gate.

But doing bold things about climate change? Well, that’s a whole different issue. Rumor has it that he will unveil a package of climate initiatives in July. We’ll see. For now, all we have are words.

So let’s look at those words.

“I come here today, Berlin, to say complacency is not the character of great nations,” he said before outlining a number of lofty aspirations, most notably a goal to cut back America’s nuclear arsenal by as much as a third.

Midway through the speech, Obama got to the climate bit:

Peace with justice means refusing to condemn our children to a harsher, less hospitable planet. The effort to slow climate change requires bold action. And on this, Germany and Europe have led.

In the United States, we have recently doubled our renewable energy from clean sources like wind and solar power. We’re doubling fuel efficiency on our cars. Our dangerous carbon emissions have come down. But we know we have to do more — and we will do more.

With a global middle class consuming more energy every day, this must now be an effort of all nations, not just some. For the grim alternative affects all nations — more severe storms, more famine and floods, new waves of refugees, coastlines that vanish, oceans that rise. This is the future we must avert. This is the global threat of our time. And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate before it is too late. That is our job. That is our task. We have to get to work.

Sounds good, right? Now for that “get to work” part …

The setting in Berlin turned out to be just right for speechifying about global warming. From the Associated Press:

Average highs are normally in the 70s in Germany’s capital city in June, but they were in the 90s Wednesday as Obama spoke at the historic Brandenburg Gate nearly 50 years after President John F. Kennedy’s famous cold war speech in West Berlin.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel introduced Obama from a stage with no cover for the bright hot sun. “We’ve chosen the best possible weather to welcome you most warmly, as it were,” she said.

“It’s so warm,” Obama replied, “and I feel so good, that I’m actually going to take off my jacket and anybody else who wants to, feel free to.”

That brought a big round of applause from the sweltering crowd — except for the 104 people being treated by the Red Cross for dehydration and sunburn.