In a very broad way, climate specialists have laid down a target for climate mitigation: keep global warming below two degrees centigrade and we have a decent chance at avoiding catastrophic climate change.
It will take cool heads to prevail in a heating world, however, and one quick path to disaster could be that, too caught up in the intensity of this struggle, we ignore the necessity of the near-term strategy as well.
If we listen to the top climate scientists, we should leave the tar sands where they are, underground. But others will still insist we are going to keep burning oil for years to come, so aren't we better off using Canadian oil rather than Middle Eastern oil? No.
A line has to be drawn somewhere. A line that says we will no longer permit America's energy decisions to jeopardize future generations. A line that says we have to curtail greenhouse emissions while we still have a chance to save the planet.
Whether you are convinced our weather is undoubtedly affected by anthropogenic climate change, or feel that conclusion is a bit too emphatic, would you say rolling the dice with our climate is a good gamble? After all, you should never bet that which you can't afford to lose.
We're in trouble. If we don't act -- quickly -- the consequences could be devastating. But the good news is that President Obama has extremely powerful existing tools to fight climate change right now -- if only he would use them.