Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Barack Obama

Barack Obama’s position on Climate Change is clearly outlined on his official website (http://www.barackobama.com/issues/environment/); “Barack Obama believes we have a moral, environmental, economic, and security imperative to address our dependence on foreign oil and tackle climate change in a serious, sustainable manner.” Obama’s website cites several current and possible future consequences of global warming as support for his position, for example the melting of the ice caps and more.

In order to address the problem of global warming, Obama promises to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 using cap-and-trade programs instead of a carbon tax. These programs establish an overall cap on carbon emissions that is divided into “allowances that represent the permission to emit that amount,” which companies are free to buy and sell. Some of the money generated from these allowances will go towards the development of clean energy and will help “lower-income Americans afford their energy bills by expanding the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, expanding weatherization grants for low-income individuals to make their homes more energy efficient, and establishing a dedicated fund to assist low-income Americans afford higher electricity and energy bills.”

Obama believes that the path to “achieving the necessary revolution toward low carbon energy production” includes “increased investment in basic research and human capital” by doubling science and research funding for the development of clean energy and by using funds from the cap-and-trade auction program to train workers on clean technology and development; “investment in key technology development” by creating a “Clean Technologies Development Venture Capital Fund;” and “setting standards to allow the market to invest and innovate” through a national low carbon fuel standard.

Obama also believes that “improving energy efficiency is the fastest, cheapest most cost-effective method to reducing greenhouse gas emissions…” Obama plans to make the federal government the leader in saving electricity, ensuring that new federal buildings are at zero-emissions by 2025, by making federal buildings more efficient and by overhauling federal efficiency codes. Obama also plans to make all new buildings carbon neutral by 2030, to eliminate the use of traditional incandescent light bulbs by 2014, and to invest in a “digital smart grid.”

Barack Obama also plans to make America energy independent, reducing oil consumption by 35% by 2030. To do this, Obama will “increase fuel economy standards,” “invest in developing advanced vehicles,” “build biofuel distribution infrastructure,” and “build more livable and sustainable communities.”

In addition to and as a consequence of these numerous domestic changes, Obama will “make the U.S. a leader in combating climate change around the world.” Overall, Obama’s Climate Change policy is ambitious and impressive. However, I did find myself wishing he had outlined the intended environmental impact of his plans in more detail and with more scientific basis instead of just providing a laundry list of projects without a description of exactly what effect each project is intended to have. So, overall, I give Barack Obama an A-.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mountaineerpics/1218476612/. This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

-Fiona Kirkpatrick, Cornell University Student


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