Many people were frustrated with the lack of discussion about the environment before and during the 2012 election – there wasn’t a single mention of climate change during the presidential debates (a first since 1984). Now that President Obama has been reelected, will the biggest issue facing the planet today cease to be a political taboo? With the election behind us and a Hurricane Sandy serving as a stark reminder of the destructive power of climate change, many hope that this is the case.
Particularly promising was the mention of global warming in President Obama’s acceptance speech. “We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet,” he said. Green groups are hoping that Obama continues to build on this narrative, pressing for increased action by the government.
Some question whether Obama will be able to surmount his greatest obstacle: a divided congress. Without a super-majority in the Senate and a Republican-controlled House, passing legislation may prove difficult. Additionally, as the second largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, many hope that the US will step up to the plate in driving change. A spokesman for the United Nations stated that UN Secretary Ban-Ki Moon looks forward to “tackling the challenges posed by climate change.”
In the meantime, we can expect the Environmental Protection Agency to move forward with regulations that have been withheld during the election cycle. Yesterday, the Institute for Energy Research issued a statement predicting that “within a few days, we can expect the EPA and other agencies to start issuing the regulations they have been withholding until after the election. These regulations will drive up the price of oil, coal, and natural gas by making their exploration, production, transportation and consumption more costly and uncertain.”
But the EPA is not without its own challenges. As congress begins to tackle the budget, the EPA could see a budget reduction, which would impact research, monitoring and infrastructure. Whatever happens, we are hopeful that – unlike in the past – climate change will at least be a part of the discussion going forward.