December 15, 2008
WASHINGTON (AP) – When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, global warming was a slow-moving environmental problem that was easy to ignore. Now it is a ticking time bomb that President-elect Barack Obama can’t avoid.
Since Clinton’s inauguration, summer Arctic sea ice has lost the equivalent of Alaska, California and Texas. The 10 hottest years on record have occurred since Clinton’s second inauguration. Global warming is accelerating. Time is close to running out, and Obama knows it.
“The time for delay is over; the time for denial is over,” he said on Tuesday after meeting with former Vice President Al Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming. “We all believe what the scientists have been telling us for years now that this is a matter of urgency and national security and it has to be dealt with in a serious way.”
But there are powerful political and economic realities that must be quickly overcome for Obama to succeed. Despite the urgency he expresses, it’s not at all clear that he and Congress will agree on an approach during a worldwide financial crisis in time to meet some of the more crucial deadlines.
Obama is pushing changes in the way Americans use energy, and produce greenhouse gases, as part of what will be a massive economic stimulus. He called it an opportunity “to re-power America.”
After years of inaction on global warming, 2009 might be different. Obama replaces a president who opposed mandatory cuts of greenhouse gas pollution and it appears he will have a willing Congress. Also, next year, diplomats will try to agree on a major new international treaty to curb the gases that promote global warming.