Sunday, April 7, 2013

President Obama's climate change team - not what you'd expect

When analyzing an administration's capacity for tackling an issue like climate change, it is tempting to look at cabinet positions like Director of EPA or Secretary of Energy. And those are all important positions.

But take a look at this line-up:

Secretary of State John Kerry - We all know about Kerry's commitment to dealing with climate change. And in his first speech as Secretary of State, he came out swinging.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel - Many environmentalists were worried about Hagel's nomination. It turns out, their concerns were unwarranted.
In 2005, Hagel declared climate change to be one of his top priorities and introduced a trio of climate-related bills. One had an international focus, calling for the U.S. to help developing countries adopt technologies that would reduce greenhouse-gas intensity. “This bill directs the secretary of state to engage global climate change as a foreign policy issue,” Hagel explained in a speech at the Brookings Institution. The two others were aimed at spurring domestic cleantech development by authorizing billions in government-sponsored loans, incentives, and tax credits for businesses.
That is important partly because it means that the recent efforts of DOD (the largest energy consumer on the planet) to go green will continue. But its way more than that.
...the military has advantages that no other institution can match. It can focus on long-term strategy and take on the large upfront costs of renewable energy. It can single-handedly create a market and drive innovation, as it’s doing with advanced biofuels. And as virtually the only institution left that Americans trust, it can serve as an unmatched champion of the virtues of smart energy. There is nothing happening in the U.S. right now that has anything near the potential impact of this.
Chief of Staff Denis McDonough - Apparently even in his former position as part of the White House National Security Council, McDonough played a key role on climate change issues.
Jason Bordoff, who served as the president’s special assistant for energy and climate change on the National Security Council, wrote in an e-mail to National Journal, “When Denis was deputy national security adviser … we worked together on several energy and climate-related issues. Denis recognizes that climate change is a serious problem, and that strong U.S. leadership and action is needed to address the challenge.”
On the question of why this is significant for a President's Chief of Staff:
If Obama wants to follow through on his 2013 Inaugural Address pledge to make climate change a cornerstone of his legacy, he’ll need to make a series of tough, highly controversial executive decisions. There is almost no chance Congress will pass climate-change legislation in his second term, which means that the White House will have to drive any meaningful policy action.
Because of these people, I believe that movement on the issue of climate change over the next 4 years will come predominantly in the national security arena. From diplomacy to defense, we are poised to see significant developments in the next few years...if we know where to look.


  1. Thank you, smartypants.. I enjoy reading your blog but haven't figured out how to post on it yet. See if this works..

  2. This is very valuable information and I plan to share. I've got a few whiny progressive friends who are forever losing their minds on this and every other made up issue.Thanks for all your hard work!

  3. My gratitude again for your foresight, diligence, thorough research and knowing where to look and connecting the dots....all for us!

    Jeez, what would my life look like without all of the info I can spout and send folks to this site?

    You are definitely an angel already sprouting your wings!