Obama Raises Stakes Against GOP Climate Skeptics

The smoke stacks at American Electric Power's (AEP) Mountaineer coal power plant in New Haven, West Virginia, October 30, 2009. In cooperation with AEP, the French company Alstom unveiled the world's largest carbon capture facility at a coal plant, so called 'clean coal,' which will store around 100,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide a year 2,1 kilometers (7,200 feet) underground.
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
May 28, 2014, 8:54 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama’s for­eign policy speech to West Point gradu­ates Wed­nes­day leveled a ser­i­ous charge against Re­pub­lic­ans who deny hu­man-in­duced cli­mate change: You’re threat­en­ing na­tion­al se­cur­ity.

Check out the pro­gres­sion of the few cli­mate sen­tences in Obama’s wide-ran­ging re­marks. He starts by telling the grads that bat­tling glob­al warm­ing re­quires glob­al co­oper­a­tion. Then he says cli­mate change is “a creep­ing na­tion­al se­cur­ity crisis that will help shape your time in uni­form, as we’re called on to re­spond to refugee flows, nat­ur­al dis­asters, and con­flicts over wa­ter and food.”

OK, that’s wor­ri­some, and that se­cur­ity mes­sage sets up Obama’s pitch for try­ing to reach a United Na­tions-brokered cli­mate ac­cord at a make-or-break 2015 meet­ing in Par­is: “That’s why, next year, I in­tend to make sure Amer­ica is out front in a glob­al frame­work to pre­serve our plan­et.”

Then Obama looks at the U.S. role, and here’s where the speech in­cludes what looks like a subtle pitch for im­min­ent EPA reg­u­la­tions to cut power plants’ car­bon emis­sions: “You see, Amer­ic­an in­flu­ence is al­ways stronger when we lead by ex­ample. We can­not ex­empt ourselves from the rules that ap­ply to every­one else,” Obama says.

The re­marks ar­rive just a few days be­fore EPA (and maybe Obama him­self) un­veils first-time car­bon-pol­lu­tion stand­ards for ex­ist­ing power plants. Obama’s “in­flu­ence” line is an­oth­er ver­sion of what Obama told The New York­er months ago about do­mest­ic ac­tion giv­ing the U.S. lever­age with China and In­dia, the world’s largest and third-largest emit­ters (the U.S. is No. 2).

Fi­nally, we get to a thinly veiled jab at the GOP: “We can’t call on oth­ers to make com­mit­ments to com­bat cli­mate change if so many of our polit­ic­al lead­ers deny that it is tak­ing place.”

Run it back­wards: GOP cli­mate skep­ti­cism is a road­b­lock to glob­al co­oper­a­tion on the “creep­ing” na­tion­al se­cur­ity crisis that these gradu­ates will face.

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