10/25/2010 04:32 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Climate Action: Part 1 - The Situation

There will come a time when governments are forced to act on global climate change. Its impacts will be increasingly devastating and undeniable. Its costs will swell like a tsunami. We will see many more Katrinas with victims stranded not because governments are incompetent, but because they are overwhelmed.

When that time comes, politicians' careers will depend on taking action. Clearly, that moment hasn't yet arrived.

In the foreseeable future, it appears advocates of climate action will play defense rather than offense on Capitol Hill and in state capitols. They'll try to maintain the climate and clean energy policies already put in place by Congress and states. All but one of the Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate deny climate change or its anthropogenic roots. Of the 37 Republicans running for governor in the Nov. 2 election, 22 reportedly reject climate science.

Nearly half the local government officials recently surveyed by the International City County Managers Association responded that climate change is "not a priority". Only 11.4 percent said they are limiting carbon emissions in government operations; fewer than 2 percent are limiting emissions from residential buildings.

So is there any hope for progress on climate mitigation and adaptation over the next few years? Or for making the transition to a clean energy economy? For us eternal optimists, the answer is yes. There is evidence the cutting edge of economic transformation will come not from Congress, but from the business sector; consumers and investors; and a legacy conscious Barack Obama. I'll explain in the next installments of this five-part post.