Obama talked about climate change like a man itching for a ferocious battle

This is going to be a hot one.
This is going to be a hot one.
Image: Reuters/Larry Downing
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President Barack Obama today unleashed a robust plan to rein in carbon pollution, and a stinging broadside against those who would oppose him.

In 2009, Obama came into office promising a law that established a system of carbon reduction known as “cap and trade,” in which emitters essentially paid for the right to pollute. Passage seemed almost certain. Instead, under a strong lobbying attack by industry, the legislation died in the Senate in 2010.

Today, speaking at Georgetown University, in Washington, DC, Obama struck an evangelistic, defiant and single-minded tone as he said that, given Congress’s refusal to act, he will take executive action to usher in a sharp cut in carbon pollution from vehicles and electric turbines. He said that the US will no longer fund coal plants abroad unless they are equipped with equipment that captures emitted carbon. (The full text of the plan is at the bottom of this post.)

And, in the most ringing tone of all, he challenged his listeners to “invest, divest”—which, to a lot of folks on Twitter, sounded like a call to put money into zero-carbon technology companies, and pull it out of companies contributing to carbon pollution.

Obama said he had “no patience” for those who deny that climate change reflects a monumental challenge to the country—a reference to the Republican Party position that scorns the science of global warming. “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat-Earth Society,” he said.

Obama’s take-no-prisoners attitude suggested an invitation to a ferocious legal battle with industry lawyers, who are likely to oppose any executive action he takes on climate change. Industry groups immediately pounced on the speech. “President Obama is hostile to affordable energy sources and will use the full force of government to punish the millions of American men and women who work in these industries,” the pro-industry Institute for Energy Research said in a statement.

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