In an interview with Atlantic Monthly, President Barack Obama was asked about his plans in the Middle East and about defeating ISIS. In response, Obama stated that ISIS was not an existential threat to the country and instead shifted focus onto climate change saying that that was the true existential threat that the U.S., and the world, faces. Obama touched on the topic of U.S. leadership, saying that every summit he has attended, the U.S. has been setting the agenda on all fronts including climate change, “whether you’re talking about nuclear security, whether you’re talking about saving the world financial system, whether you’re talking about climate.” Even, he understands that the U.S. has taken a leading role in fighting climate change.
This American leadership, and global strategy against climate change culminated on December 2015, in Paris at the international climate conference. At this conference, 195 different countries entered into the first ever legally binding global climate agreement. The ultimate goal of the Paris agreement is to achieve global climate neutrality before the end of the century and keeping the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels. Some of the terms included in the agreement involve countries meeting again every 5 years to set additional goals, reporting to others and the public their progress, and providing support for these changes to developing countries. The agreement is set to take effect in 2020.
Aside from the Paris summit, and tackling climate change on the international level, the Obama administration has done his fair share advancing The United States climate policy proving just how seriously it is being taken. According to the U.S. State Department, in 2012, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped to their lowest level in two decades and foreign oil imports are at the lowest level in 40 years and still declining. Wind energy production has also tripled and solar energy production has increased tenfold under the Obama administration and solar is projected to have its best year yet in 2016.
Obama has also put forward the United States Climate Action Plan. This plan lays out strategies that will hopefully reduce carbon and methane emissions from power plants and natural gas systems respectively, and HFC’s (hydrofluorocarbons) from cooling systems. This plan is meant to help reach the 2020 commitment for the Paris agreements and ideally set a standard for much of the international community. President Obama is hoping to set the stage for the U.S. to continue its leading role once the Paris summit reconvenes in 2020.
President Obama also proposed various tools to bolster global resilience at the Paris Summit. According to a release from the Whitehouse press secretary, these tools include “improved and extended extreme weather risk outlooks to help avoid loss of life and property; data, tools and services to enable countries to better prepare for the impacts of climate change, including a new release of global elevation data; and an announcement of a new public-private partnership to ensure that the climate data, tools, and products made available by U.S. technical agencies are useful to developing countries.” The same press release also discusses an executive order by Obama that would require federal agencies to include climate resilience in international development programs.
It is nice to see that not only is American energy on the path towards a more renewable and sustainable future, but that we are also taking a fundamental role in getting the rest of the world there as well. While the American public still has a way to go with accepting these changes, with about 63 percent of the public supporting Obamas climate plan, this is definitely a step in the right direction. At least the rest of the world is coming together, on this one issue, to tackle this ever present threat.