As much as this week's bone-chilling temperatures might offer "cold" comfort to those who deny its existence, the threat of climate change earned a prominent spot in President
For those who missed it, President Obama pledged to "respond" to climate change for the sake of future generations. He acknowledged that some still deny the "overwhelming judgment of science" but also noted its more obvious effects of recent years — raging fires, crippling droughts and more-powerful storms.
As he has in the past, he then framed the issue in terms of the economic opportunity of green energy, the need for government investment in alternatives, the high-paying jobs that would be created and the importance of becoming a global leader in the field. "That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways; our croplands and snow-capped peaks," he told the crowd. "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."
Administration officials have already warned that this doesn't mean Mr. Obama will go back to
That is the correct strategy because it is the only one that has any chance for success. Until more
A recent report by the
Even so, it's not hard to predict where the political conversation will go. One of the most important efforts will be for the
Meanwhile, Mr. Obama will have to champion numerous incremental measures to control greenhouse gas emissions, from reducing the size of the government's own carbon footprint to pushing for higher energy-efficiency standards for a variety of consumer products. He will also have to engage and educate the public on the subject and boost private investment in green energy, conservation and other efforts to moderate the worst effects of climate change. And he will have to be a more forceful presence on the international stage, where the latest follow-up to the Kyoto accords, the UN-sponsored talks in Doha, Qatar, produced little progress.
Perhaps once these things are accomplished, the public will be ready to consider a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system to allow for market-driven solutions that could truly drive down U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. But until that day comes, we need pragmatism and public engagement, things Mr. Obama is fully capable of providing.