President Obama is being awfully chatty about climate change these days. He dedicated his latest weekly video address to the topic, and used it to announce that he’ll visit Florida this Wednesday, Earth Day, to talk about climate some more.
“[T]oday, there’s no greater threat to our planet than climate change,” he said in his address on Saturday. “[O]n Earth Day, I’m going to visit the Florida Everglades to talk about the way that climate change threatens our economy. The Everglades is one of the most special places in our country. But it’s also one of the most fragile. Rising sea levels are putting a national treasure — and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry — at risk.”
Florida is a great place to make the point that climate change is already happening and causing havoc. It is also a great place to score a few political points in the process. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and his administration have been widely mocked in recent weeks after it was revealed that they had an unwritten policy banning state officials from even using the words “climate change.” And Florida is home to two of the three most viable GOP presidential contenders: Marco Rubio, a climate denier, and Jeb Bush, a former climate denier who now seems to be shifting his position to something more muddled — not denying climate science but just criticizing climate solutions. Florida Republicans, like many Republicans nationally, are clearly feeling awkward about the issue, and Obama’s visit will highlight that awkwardness.
Obama also used his weekly address to push for a strong U.N. climate deal to be hammered out in Paris this December. Because the U.S. and China reached a bilateral agreement on climate pollution last fall, the president said, “there’s new hope that, with American leadership, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it’s too late.”
His address on Saturday was just the latest in a notable string of climate comments and commitments. In the last month alone, Obama has:
• formally submitted a plan to the U.N. for cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions
• launched a solar job-training program
• highlighted the human health threats posed by climate change and announced new initiatives to strengthen the healthcare system to deal with them
Obama wants to make climate action a major part of his legacy, which he nodded to on Saturday when he said, “This is an issue that’s bigger and longer-lasting than my presidency. … And years from now, I want to be able to look our children and grandchildren in the eye and tell them that we did everything we could to protect it.”
There are some serious shortcomings in Obama’s climate and energy policies, but he is standing strong behind his administration’s plans to crack down on CO2 pollution from power plants, and he continues to roll out smaller initiatives, and he’s making good use of his bully pulpit. He also keeps saying disparaging things about Keystone XL. If he does nix the pipeline this year, and helps craft a decent global climate deal in Paris, that might start amounting to a legacy worth bragging about.