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Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

07.11.2012 | 3:25pm
ScienceUS election coverage: will Obama put climate change back on the agenda?
SCIENCE | November 7. 2012. 15:25
US election coverage: will Obama put climate change back on the agenda?

After slipping quietly off the agenda over the last few months, newly re-elected US President Barack Obama hinted that climate change might, in the US at least, return to the fore. Here’s our roundup of the media’s take on what the election means for climate politics.

In his acceptance speech this morning, the president said: “We want our children to live in an America that isn’t […] threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet”.

Before this, Obama had remained quiet on the issue – perhaps, the Huffington Post says, to help win swing states like Ohio, where coal mining still feeds the economy and provides jobs – although the Guardian suggests the president decided to keep quiet on climate three years ago to try and get some traction with Republicans.

But with his place at the top reconfirmed, Tom Chivers in the Telegraph asks if an Obama presidency with no concern over reelection might be able to  finally shine a light on the issue of climate change.

A victory for climate change?

Obama’s victory speech suggests politically divisive issues like climate change could figure on his second-term agenda. But it’s unlikely to be easy – Republicans opposed to stricter climate regulation, who still hold majority in the House of Representatives, look set to fight these initiatives with all their might. Reuters suggests few would support measures like a carbon tax.

Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy – which won him the praise of Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie and the endorsement of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg – may have earned him votes, but China Daily says the disaster has also made it hard the for the president to sidestep climate change in his second term. And CNN has already put climate change in the president’s top five to-do list.

On the energy front, international politics blog The Hill says Obama’s win is good news for wind subsidies, which the president hopes to extend, and bad news for oil companies – whose tax credits he wants to cut.

Climate action

But how to progress? International climate negotiations will also be an important way for Obama to take action on climate change. The success of upcoming negotiations in Doha depend on the world’s biggest economies taking part, and Thompson Reuters service Alertnet reports fears that without the backing of the U.S. administration major players from both developing and developed countries could choose to opt out.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon welcomed the president’s reelection, and said he looked forward to “continuing to work with president Obama and his administration” on many issues including “tackling the challenges posed by climate change”.

But whether or not Obama can convert his climate change ambition into policies, and policies into practice remains to be seen. As BusinessGreen notes, the president will need to work hard to step up the pace after a slow start.

Despite the media’s natural skepticism after a difficult four years, there’s hope that the next term could see a reinvigorated approach to climate in the US.


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