Huffpost Green
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Aiko Stevenson Headshot

The White House Steps Up its Fight Against Climate Change

Posted: Updated:

Stepping up its efforts to fight climate change, the White House is now trying to court TV Meteorologists to help communicate the link between America's recent string of extreme weather, and the science behind global warming. Barack Obama warned NBC's Today show forecaster, Al Roker on Tuesday:

We want to emphasize that this is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now. Whether it means increased flooding, greater vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires -- all these things are having an impact on Americans as we speak.

The news came as the U.S. president prepares to push through his signature climate rescue plan, cutting carbon emissions from existing power plants: they are responsible for most of the country's noxious greenhouse gases.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will unveil the president's more stringent set of rules next month.

Obama's success very much depends on how much support he can garner from the American public who elected him into power, twice. According to a recent Gallop poll, although most people in the U.S. believe that climate change is real, they do not regard it as a pressing issue.

The president's latest move came as the White House launched its most recent climate report this week. The most definitive account on what climate change means for America in years, the 1,300-page study by over 300 scientists concludes that global warming is no longer some distant threat: it's a real and present danger. Said John Holdren, the administration's science advisor:

I think this National Climate Assessment is the loudest and clearest alarm bell to date signaling the need to take urgent action to combat the threats to Americans from climate change.

According to White House official John Podesta, no region, nor economic sector will escape unscathed.

Defending the findings, Obama will square off with Republicans, and the huge oil and gas lobby who continue to deny the science behind climate change. "We've got a challenging context on Capitol Hill. Hopefully this information will begin to change some minds up there and climate deniers will recede," said Podesta.

But, according to recent documents seen by the Guardian, the White House may have quite a fight on its hands.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group of state legislators funded by Big Oil and Coal, have allegedly embarked on a new campaign to block the EPA's upcoming efforts. In a bid to torpedo the new rules before they even see the light of day, ALEC has already launched several lawsuits across the country.

Fighting back, the Obama administration is now asking TV weather forecasters to join them in their fight against the deniers and help spread the truth about climate change.

According to a Pew research report, over 60 percent of the public trust TV weather anchors over climate scientists.

But, the White House may face an uphill battle on that front as less than a fifth of these reporters accept the science behind global warming. According to Mashable's climate writer Andrew Freedman:

Many TV meteorologists remain climate change sceptics, in part because they are skilled at forecasting weather over short time periods, which can make them doubt long-range projections from climate science computer models.

The news comes a few days after Ban Ki Moon, the head of the United Nations, urged world leaders to fire up their efforts against climate change.

His clarion call for action came two months after the UN released its most sobering account on the state of our climate yet: "Things are worse than we had predicted. We are going to see more impacts, faster and sooner than we had anticipated," said Saleemul Huq from the Independent University in Bangladesh.

That brutal assessment came six months after the Nobel Peace prize-winning body revealed that our planet is warming much faster than expected: temperatures may now breach the upper safe limit of warming within the next 30 years.

Calls for greater climate justice have increased since the UN's latest trilogy of reports.

Last month, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell together with 70 other major companies, called on world leaders to lay down a timeline, and strategy to achieve zero net carbon emissions before the end of this century.

And just last week, the U.S. and China stepped up their efforts to spearhead a new global treaty to rein in emissions by 2020. With emissions that match nearly the rest of the world's combined, Washington and Beijing have now started tackling the most contentious part of the problem: laying down their carbon emission targets.

According to the UN's latest report, emissions must peak within the next few years if the planet is to avoid the worst effects of catastrophic warming.

This September, heads of state will gather in New York to draw up a blueprint for next year's Paris treaty. A truly global problem, global warming can only be solved if each and every nation commits to the cuts.

Responsible for most of the warming this century, China is still reluctant to make its emission goals binding: millions of its people live on less than $400 a year.

But, as it eclipses America to become the world's largest superpower later this year, it must show more global leadership on the issue.

In a country of 1.3 billion people, the Chinese leadership is naturally concerned about instability. And, although pollution is currently the leading source of social discontent, the government will have a much graver problem on its hands once the ravaging effects of climate change start to ripple across the continent.

According to the head of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim, warming temperatures will usher in conflicts over food and water within the next five to 10 years: "There's just no question about it."

As Winston Churchill once said:

One ought to never turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will only double the danger. But, if you meet it promptly, without flinching, you will reduce it by half.

With a steep temperature rise sitting on our collective horizon, which will only worsen the longer that we ignore it, those words couldn't ring more true.

From Our Partners