In President Barack Obama’s second-to-last State of the Union (SOTU) address, he talked about a great many things. Although hints from the White House in the days leading up to the address would have had us believe that the environment would be a shining star in the speech, it just wasn’t. Obama spent less than 5 minutes discussing climate change and made no ground-breaking statements. He did, however, admit that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”
Obama confirmed prior news reports that he would use the speech to move past conflicts and call for continued bipartisan cooperation toward the administration’s goals. None of the policies announced really classify as ground-breaking, but the president is making a steady push forward in the hopes of securing his administration’s reputation for being concerned about the declining state of our planet. The only real surprise of the SOTU, in fact, was that Medium released the president’s remarks prior to the beginning of the speech – an unprecedented move.
As the president spoke to a joint session of Congress, he patted his administration on the back for making the right moves toward cleaner energy, wider healthcare coverage, and lower gas prices. Obama pushed the point that he hopes Democrats and Republicans can revel in their past agreements and use those warm, fuzzy feelings to continue to work in cohesion, toward “discoveries that unleash new jobs — converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay.”
Obama took a while to get around to the actual topic of climate change, waiting nearly 45 minutes into his hour-long speech to broach the subject. Referring to the recent findings from NASA and NOAA, the president warned that record high temperatures have convinced him that it’s time to get really, truly serious about combating climate change on “the one planet we’ve got.”
Instead of getting into any specifics about what he wants to do in order to protect this planet of ours, Obama chose to spend the bulk of his podium time hawking rhetoric about his vision of America as a “tight-knit family” that should be prepared to “bounce back” from hard times.
Prior to the speech this evening, many speculated about what Obama’s address might contain, how long the speech would run, and even Vice President Joe Biden’s role in the event. The White House had been fairly open about a number of topics the State of the Union address would cover, such as making community college free, and even adding paid sick leave for workers. Unlike last year’s State of the Union, when the subjects to be covered were mostly kept hush-hush, the Obama administration had been vocal about certain legislation that Obama would announce in his speech tonight, so these things were not exactly breaking news.
Those of us watching the speech with a green mind hoped to learn more about how Obama intends to use his remaining time in office to help heal the environment. Even though these topics didn’t make it into the speech, we’ll be continuing to watch closely as things develop concerning Obama’s recommendations for new methane regulations on the oil and gas industry and the like. It’s clear the Obama legacy will include some great strides in the realms of reduced oil dependence and environmental protections policies, it remains to be seen whether Republicans and Democrats can respond to his plea for cooperation.
Images via Shutterstock (1, 3) and Pew Research Center (2, 4)