From Words to Deeds

How to push Obama toward climate action.

Barack Obama/Flickr

The bloom is back on the rose. Since President Obama’s strong words on climate in his inaugural speech, Facebook and the blogosphere have been abuzz with climate hopefuls. The consensus is that Obama has always really wanted to act on climate and has simply been stymied by opposition forces. This time around, though, the gloves are off. The executive branch is back in action. Forward climate action!

Before we break out the champagne, though, I think our community needs to remember something: Barack Obama is a politician. He is facing a second term where climate will not be on Congress’ agenda. He knows that the environmental community worked itself into a frenzy over his perceived failure to lead during his first term. The words of a speech cost no more than the air. The inaugural address is an opportunity to pacify angry constituents by recognizing their concerns. Just as Obama included representatives of key communities in the inauguration ceremonies, he recognized another group of discontented supporters — i.e. climate activists — in his speech.

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The Climate Desk is a journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. The partners are The Atlantic, Center for Investigative Reporting, Grist, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Slate, and Wired.