New Hope for a Planet in Peril

NWF   |   November 5, 2008

110508_polar_bear_in_distress_2 In his victory speech last night, President-elect Barack Obama called on America to defend a "planet in peril" as one of the three great challenges of our time. President-elect Barack Obama is inheriting not just two wars, dangerous energy dependency, crushing debt, and a broken economy, but he is inheriting a climate crisis that is far worse than most Americans know. Obama understands how difficult "remaking this nation" will be. He explicitly expressed this challenge in his acceptance speech: "For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime:two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century."

The good news is that we finally have a leader who gets the urgency of climate change and has the capacity to unite America.

Election Day 2008 will be remembered not only for delivering a new President and a new Congress, but for a clarion call for a new direction to end our dependence on oil, reinvent our energy economy, and to find climate solutions. America must now embrace a new national economy built on a vision of carbon-free, domestically-produced energy. This election was powered by younger voters, including many first-time and previously disaffected voters who are deeply worried about their future. They want dramatic and meaningful change, especially for a new energy economy that will protect the planet while creating domestic jobs. Obama’s bold stimulus package will be driven by new energy investments for clean power and investments in energy efficiency at the community level. In his words: "There’s new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair."

The only way the President-elect solves all of the staggering problems facing us at one time is by bundling them together into a single new energy pathway through the creation of a bold, carbon-free energy stimulus program, a national grid, and a comprehensive energy policy that creates a new pathway forward by capping carbon pollution and stimulating massive public and private investments in building a new energy infrastructure within ten years. Building a new clean energy infrastructure will not be easy or quick. As Obama said last night, "The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may notget there in one year or even in one term… I will ask you to join in the work of the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand."

It’s truly a new day in Washington. I hope it will be a new day for bipartisan cooperation to solve America’s problems. Senator John McCain’s willingness find bipartisan solutions will be needed more now than ever. Our leaders on both sides of the aisle can’t afford to take this new opportunity for granted. Americans want a clean energy economy that moves away from dependence on oil and toward solutions to global warming. They will be looking for results, not more rhetoric. They expect legislation that caps and rapidly reduces U.S. global warming pollution, invests in made-in-America clean energy solutions, and provides funding to protect natural resources from the harmful impacts of global warming. The National Wildlife Federation looks forward to working with President-elect Barack Obama and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in this new political climate to pass strong new energy/global warming legislation. After eight years of denial and delay, we simply cannot afford to wait any longer.

Cross posted from the National Journal’s Energy & Environment Expert blog.

Larry Schweiger

Published: November 5, 2008