Political Animal


January 21, 2013 1:27 PM Climate Change Out of the Shadows

By Ed Kilgore

Without question, the single most surprising passage—not so much in its existence, but in its length, central placement, and unambiguous language—in the president’s second inaugural address involved climate change:

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.
Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But American cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.
We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries. We must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure, our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

Critics will say Obama wouldn’t have dared utter those words during the 2012 presidential campaign—particularly the final weeks when it sometimes seemed the presidency would be determined almost entirely by the coal counties of Virginia and Ohio. But this is what second terms in office are for, and although we have no particular evidence Obama will (or can) make action on climate change a presidency-defining priority, he’s certainly off to a good start in simple truth-telling.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on January 21, 2013 1:34 PM:


    And yeah, when I heard that, my jaw dropped.

  • Mimikatz on January 21, 2013 2:10 PM:

    I had to rewind the DVR a minute or two to make sure he really said what I thought I heard. It was such a welcome moment. The other one was the very full-throated defense of gay equality. It was a much better speech than it seemed at first and had a real defense of Democratic values, and of the value of government. It looks much better for the future than what I had expected.

    Per MSNBC talking heads Obama is really going to try to mobilize his supporters against the GOP obstruction to try to get his agenda. If he can succeed in involving people past just the election and keep them active through 2014 we may just be able to keep moving forward.

    He really is so much less naive than 4 years ago, like the rest of us. He knows the way forward this time is not the inside game with DC folks. Should be an interesting 4 years.

  • SecularAnimist on January 21, 2013 2:34 PM:

    "But enough of words. Actions speak louder than."
    -- A Clockwork Orange

    Obama has some specific decisions to make, soon -- notably whether or not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline -- that will tell us very clearly whether he's going to take the actions that his words call for.

    Because while he's saying these things, his administration has been pushing very hard to make the United States the world's largest exporter of oil, coal and gas -- and to do so by extracting the WORST, most polluting fossil fuel sources in the world.

    That has to stop -- and that means CONFRONTING the fossil fuel corporations and their stooges in Congress, not COMPROMISING or COLLABORATING with them.