Here. Now.

Please watch it. Watch the whole thing.

35 responses to “Here. Now.

  1. Superb speech… everyone should hear.. (or read – there is a transcript) And worth contrasting with Republican positions on global warming as collected by CBS

  2. That was a nice summary of some main points.

    He referred to a positive feedback loop as a negative feedback loop, which while technically inaccurate is probably more contextually accurate. Many people hear “positive feedback” (more warming = more CO2 released = more warming), and the take-away message is positive = good.

    I tend not to use the words “positive feedback” for that reason, but I could be all wrong here and just seeing problems that don’t exist.

  3. However, it seems very hypocritical of Obama to give this speech after signing a deal with Shell to drill in the Arctic.

    [Response: The president of the United States makes the strongest statement about the need for climate action that I’ve heard since Al Gore, not long after releasing the “Clean Power Plan” to put some real teeth into taking action, and all you can come up with is criticism? Seems to me, you’re not helping.]

    • “…and all you can come up with is criticism? Seems to me, you’re not helping.”
      (see tl;dr at end)
      You could be right, Tamino, I may not be helping. Obama has made an extraordinarily strong statement, which I can’t recall any other political figure making, and definitely he should receive high praise for that. It was a good speech, and sounded a bit like something I’d hear from an AGU talk. Even more important is that since he’s leaving office he wasn’t just making talking points for campaigning purposes. As I mentioned in my first comment, it was nice summary of important points–a good take home message.

      I just find the disconnect between words and actions very jarring as (to me) it is the fruit of someone’s actions, not their words, that tells me what I need to know about them….but that is how I work—I am horrible at reading social cues or intent when people talk (like colours to a colour blind person) so my entire life have had to rely on peoples’ actions to know what they are really like. No doubt that misleads me at times, but I know no other way to do this.

      Incidentally, I am getting better in my old age—10 (five?) years ago I would have taken your “not helping” statement literally and would have asked several earnest questions that likely would have got me banned as an annoying concern troll–strangely enough I’ve learned more proper behaviour/correct responses in the past 15 years of online interaction than I did in the past 30 years of face-to-face interactions….and am even getting glimmers of understanding that guide my actions rather than relying on (what seemed to me) arbitrary rules for each situation (e.g. at event X, do A, do B, but don’t do C, unless D, or if A combines with C, etc Usually, I just keep my mouth shut at any social event I’m forced to go to–much easier).

      tl;dr: I’m sorry for how I framed my comment….I can now see how other commenters have reframed things much better (and 10 years ago I wouldn’t have been able to recognize how that was better). So sincere apologies.

      (great, now I’ve got a nagging feeling I’m still misreading and responding inappropriately somehow, but I’m used to that).

      • Horatio Algeranon


        I don’t think you need to apologize or even ‘explain yourself” for pointing out the disconnect between a great climate speech and recent White House actions: granting a permit to Shell to drill in the arctic.

        I think the one who owes us an explanation — if not an apology — is President Obama.

        But then I also believe that actions speak louder than words, especially for politicians.

        IMHO, the day that we can’t criticize a politician — especially the President –for his actions (for whatever reason) is the day our democracy ceases to function.

        Tamino: I have a great deal of respect and admiration for what you have done on this blog. I can only imagine the amount of time it has taken.

        I think I probably agree with you on most things related to climate, but I think you are wrong to chastise Dan in this case. Dan was merely pointing out an uncomfortable truth — indeed, what certainly appears to be hypocrisy.

        FWIW, Bill McKibben does not find it “unhelpful” to point out the bad as well as the good with regard to Presidential words and actions. He recently wrote a piece in which he chastised president Obama for attempting to “compromise with physics”.

        And I think he knows a thing or two about getting people (public, Congress and even the President) to take note on the climate issue. He has been very effective at doing just that — perhaps more effective than other other single person in the US.

        And no, I am not (and never was) under any delusions that Obama would be able to do everything that is needed on climate change (or anything else). I fully understand the hostile environment he is working under, but on some issues (eg, arctic permits and keystone pipeline) he simply does not need Republican support. So he has no excuse for acting in a way that contradicts his climate policy.

        [Response: Don’t you think there’s such a thing as the *right time* and *right place* to do so? If you were a football coach, and one of your players had just made a great play and scored a 4th-quarter touchdown, would you choose that moment, when he comes running off the field, as that the right time to hurl invective at him for his fumbles in the 1st quarter? Is that going to motivate him to work harder? Will that boost team morale?

        I find the idea that harping on criticism in response to someone doing something really good, is the opposite of helpful.

        It seems to me that when you have nothing but criticism to offer, even when someone does something really good, you’re just indulging your personal anger. You’re not helping either.]

      • Horatio Algeranon

        There was a time — and it is now long past

        But I am curious, what is your evidence that I have nothing but criticism for Obama?.

        [Response: Your having nothing but criticism for Obama isn’t the subject at hand. It’s the appropriateness of kicking someone because you’re pissed off, when that someone is trying to do something good.

        Dan Andrews recognized that. You couldn’t. Too bad for you.]

      • There’s an old saying that pretty much sums up this criticism of Obama:
        “Perfect is the enemy of good.”

  4. One can only open up so many fronts in the face of a relentlessly hostile opposition. Coal and pipelines and fracking and North Slope oil and China… how many balls can an administration keep in the air in its last 15 months facing a Republican majority in both Houses, while still preparing for the upcoming COP21 talks in Paris?

    If you want to think cynically, Shell has jumped through the hoops and regulations currently in place, after an embarrassing and expensive failure in the winter of 2012-13, and there is no justification to block it. However, another technical failure, an accident or a dry or disappointing hole might put a damper on Beaufort Sea drilling for years to come, particularly with low or unpredictable oil prices in place.

    • There’s also the point that it’s an exploratory exercise, and that there’s no immediate prospect of Arctic oil being economically recoverable. I suspect that the President has made the calculation that he can economize on political capital at no real cost in emissions, by not picking this particular fight. (Though at the cost of occasional accusations of hypocrisy.)

      • You make an important point: now *is* the time to grant these permits, because there is absolutely no way they will lead to significant drilling in the near future. Yet, it gains him enormous political capital and allow him to push forward on other issues. A very carefully-timed pair of decisions, if you ask me.

      • Doc here’s the thing:

        ”I suspect that the President has made the calculation that he can economize on political capital at no real cost in emissions, by not picking this particular fight”.

        But what was the calculation made when he acquiesced on this expansion of the status quo, namely drilling in the Atlantic off the coast of the southeastern US or in the Gulf of Mexico:

  5. I was critical of Obama’s drilling approval. Now I’m glad to see he’s again stepping up to the plate and making a poignant call for stronger and stronger climate action.

    We have so much work to do. And this is exactly the kind of leadership and honest talk we need from our President. We need so many strong policies to face this challenge and support for the policies we need come from making moral calls to action as we see here. Obama does not just talk on climate change. He has put forward the strongest climate policies this nation has ever seen. And for that he should be celebrated. In addition, he’s all too right in recognizing that we haven’t done anywhere near enough. That we need to work very hard to confront this challenge.

  6. Four more years!

  7. I agree with Tamino that such a strong statement is very helpful to the cause. Obama will never be able to be perfect, but this is a good start. If enough people start to support his efforts the Republicans will have to come along. They no longer deny climate change, they just oppose any effort to change.

    Already opinion polls show much more concern from the public. If 2015 and then 2016 set heat records it will change more minds. Encourage newspapers to relate problems like wildfires and the three hurricanes in the central Pacific to climate change in their stories so people begin to make the link.

  8. Regarding the Arctic drilling approval, I am hopeful that Obama has taken another “long game” view of the situation as is his general modus operandi. With the price of oil as low as it is (and as it seems it will be for a while), it is prohibitively expensive and dangerous for any company to go looking for oil in one of the most inhospitable climate zones on the planet. I think he knows this and that he bought himself some political cover with the decision. It does seem hypocritical, but I think he’s taking a calculated risk.

    I was also amazed by the speech in that he didn’t seem to be reading from a teleprompter or set of notes but was able to rattle off accurate fact after accurate fact.

    [Response: What surprised, and pleased, me is that he so often referred to trends and “trend lines,” and talked about the drastic consequences if they continue. He really seemed keyed in on that crucial point. I almost wondered whether or not he’s been reading this blog..]

    • Andy Lee Robinson

      Tamino, “I almost wondered whether or not he’s been reading this blog..”
      Quite probably – check your weblogs for .gov!

  9. This year in Paris has to be the year…

    Oh, yeah.

  10. He made two fluffs in a 23 minute speech that was off the cuff (the other was that sea level is “reduced” – 3:41). Inconsequential in the force of the whole. I’ve never seen such an unequivocal oration on global warming from the leader of a heavy-hitting nation in an international forum. This is what leadership looks like.

    • One of the fluffs I noticed (and I was listening to it in the background) was at 8:46 when Obama refers to a “negative feedback loop” where I think he meant a positive one.

  11. I know that some liberals hoped that Obama would single-handedly dismantle the entire creaking edifice of corruption in America. I think they were delusional. A bomb-thrower could never get elected, and a bomb-thrower who happened to be black wouldn’t stand a chance.

    Obama is a centrist–both by training as a politician and by nature. He has sometimes disappointed, but I have to admire the perseverance he has shown in confronting the entire racist, insular Washington, DC establishment. I think, indeed I allow myself to hope, that now he is starting to understand the power of the Presidency. It is a power that is great, but extremely unwieldy, and few occupants of the office have ever really understood it. I hope he can use his office to make his last year and a half extremely uncomfortable for the shills in Congress.

    • Agreed. I’ve been disappointed in the President at various times, too, even writing about it. (No point linking to that piece just now, I think–though subsequent events have cast it in a different light.)

      But I’ve also always recalled Colin Powell’s endorsement of him as having “a magnificent temperament”–meaning, mostly, that he is really outstanding at remaining calm and focussed, and so remaining effective even under very difficult circumstances. (Kind of the anti-Trump in that regard.)

      Jimmy Carter has set the bar for the most effective and outstanding post-Presidency, in my opinion. Now it looks as if Mr. Obama is doing similarly for Presidents in the ‘lame duck’ period they must all go through as they reach the ends of their final terms.

  12. I’m not that concerned about Shell Drilling in the Arctic* or the KXL pipeline. Where we really need to tackle fossil fuel use is on the demand side. If we reduce demand enough those projects become white elephants. As long as there is strong enough demand someone will supply it until the supply runs out.

    *I am concerned about the possibility of an oil spill in the Arctic but I’m pretty sure Shell doesn’t want that black eye either.

  13. An excellent speech, made more so by the lack of autocue or notes; like he is not simply well advised but has a genuine understanding. That and some heartfelt passion – which is a natural consequence of that understanding imo. With low(er) emissions energy starting to stand on it’s own feet I think we will see more high profile political players willing to go in to bat for climate action. If Obama makes it something to stand up for rather than talk around he will leave a great legacy.

  14. I particularly glad that he observed that critics and deniers are off on their own on an ever dwindling island.

    And even more strongly, that leaders who fail to take this issue seriously “aren’t fit to lead”.

    As the President of the U.S., that’s a very strong statement indeed. I hope he continues to maintain this strain and pull on the global consciousness so that the upcoming Paris conference will result in some real action and cooperation among the various countries.

    • I also noted that there was spontaneous applause at that point, the only point during the speech. The deniers really should be shown to be bereft of any science.

    • I like to think that Obama’s comment about those who “aren’t fit to lead” was a particular swipe at Australia’s Tony Abbott and his rabidly right-wing government, and their enthusiastic denial of the science and the severity of the problem.

      There’s certainly been a bit of sentiment in the social media that this was a palpable hit on Abbott – I hope that its targetting of Abbott as an “unift” leader is kept front and centre in the minds of Australians.

  15. I watched and listened to the Glacier Conference while I was in Juneau last week. It felt emotional. It had been over 30 years since my last visit to Juneau. Mendehall Glacier, Sawyer North and South glaciers are beautiful and retreating rapidly.There were some big bergs from the Tracy Arm Fiord glaciers that we cruised by that dwarfed the 60ft vessel. I saw a small section cleave and heard several cracks from the North Sawyer glacier but kept expecting a big face to cleave. The barren rock walls on the sides of the glacier provide testimony to recent retreats. On my flight out I had an excellent overhead view of the glaciers and realization that this is changing way to fast.

  16. The President is a pragmatist, going for the possible in such a way that his actions cannot easily be undone. From what I have read, the Arctic leases have been in place for years and the President and Department of Interior are under legal constraints. I have heard it said that we will burn all of the easily-extractable oil and that we should focus on coal and fuels like tar sands.

    We should we wary, though, is some major league ratfcking in anticipation of the Paris talks. Whether it’s stolen e-mails, O’Keefe videos (think Planned Parenthood) or some other dirty trick, there are powers that want to derail international cooperation to reduce carbon emissions.

  17. Tamino great on interpreting numbers. Politics not so good.

  18. This came from a friend who looked into the business. I think it’s important to know the facts before one makes assumptions:

    “the drilling permits were based on leases set by George W. Bush for which Shell already paid $2.1 billion. Done deal. Permits were signed by government agencies, not the President. That’s why articles carefully say “Obama Administration” rather than “Obama.” Specifically, the Dept. Of the Interior and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued the approvals. All Obama could have done, theoretically, was delay the drilling then get into heavy, expensive litigation over it that precedent shows would LOSE – “any moratorium would likely be challenged in court immediately, and the legal burden would be on the Obama administration to prove that the area should not be drilled. The precedent for such a thing would not be in the administration’s favor: in 2011, a New Orleans judge found the Obama administration acted in contempt by continuing its deepwater drilling moratorium following the BP oil spill, the worst oil spill in U.S. history.” Also, if they delayed drilling, “whatever administration follows Obama could reopen the area to drilling, and wouldn’t necessarily be as inclined to include the limitations and regulations Obama claims his administration is requiring.””

  19. Susan,

    “the drilling permits were based on leases set by George W. Bush for which Shell already paid $2.1 billion. Done deal. Permits were signed by government agencies, not the President. That’s why articles carefully say “Obama Administration” rather than “Obama.” Specifically, the Dept. Of the Interior and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued the approvals.”

    What you (or your friend) are suggesting, at least on the face of it, is ridiculous. Obama has full responsibility for the approvals of his administration and their consequences. Even he doesn’t deny that:

    It was not a done deal. The permits did not have to be approved.
    The rest of the “facts” presented in your post are simply a rationalization of Obama’s acquiescence to the oil companies, acquiescence being a trait he is famous for at this point of his administration on any number of issues Kestone XL not withstanding. So heavy expensive litigation is the show stopper? Hey Susan climate change is already very expensive but I guess your friend’s cost-to-benefits analysis shows that acquiescing one more time is the cheaper way to go on this one. So “it’s not in their favor”, “they’re gonna lose”, etc etc all excuses why not to confront. But hey, perhaps given the state of political leadership in this nation at this time it might be the rational approach.

    But speaking of assumptions, to me the only assumption we should operate under is this: the oil companies will not relent until every drop of profit is squeezed from the earth. After that then maybe climate change becomes an issue for them.