Obama: “Climate change is not a joke”

By Ed King

US President Barack Obama gave hope to climate activists around the world with a strong defence of his green policies during his main speech at the Democrat Convention on Thursday night.

Hitting back at claims from many Republicans that the origins of global warming are unknown, Obama said the science on climate change was settled and that the time to act is now.

“My plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet – because climate change is not a hoax,” he said.

“More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.”

July was the hottest month in US history. Soaring temperatures and a lack of rain have hit wheat, corn and soy farmers – driving up prices on the global futures’ markets.

Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney mocked the current administration’s attempts to deal with the climate change during his own main speech last week.

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet…my promise…is to help you and your family,” he said.

This speech was not a promise to drastically slash US CO2 emissions. Obama has adopted an ‘all of the above’ policy when it comes to energy, backing domestic fossil-fuel production, including the exploitation of shale gas.

But he argued his approach is more independent and less reliant on the major oil and gas companies – many of whom have backed huge campaigns in the past to tarnish the reputations and findings of climate scientists.

“Unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan, or endanger our coastlines, or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayer,” he said.

“We’re offering a better path – a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks; where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy; where we develop a hundred year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet.

“If you choose this path, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.”

Hopes for a global climate deal

Despite these positive comments, there is still deep mistrust over US motives at the UN climate negotiations.

The country refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, despite being involved in its creation, and has consistently demanded that other high emitters such as China and India adopt targets before it will commit to limit its own carbon emissions.

Last week US delegate Jonathan Pershing was accused of undermining the UN climate talks after calling for a new treaty to be ‘flexible’ and ‘dynamic’ rather than legally binding, as was agreed at the end of the COP17 Durban talks in 2011.

Pershing argued a new deal should learn from what he termed the mistakes of the Kyoto Protocol, claiming that what he described as Protocol’s inflexibility guaranteed its failure.

And lead US negotiator Todd Stern angered many of his peers last month with a call for the target of keeping global warming below 2C to be dropped – claiming it would lead to deadlock.

Stern later said he had been misunderstood, but emphasised the need for talks to be ‘flexible’.

VIDEO: Watch Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in full

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