“Roll back the specter of a warming planet”

NWF   |   January 21, 2009

In his inaugural speech, Barack Obama made no less than three separate mentions of the climate crisis, noting that as president he will lead the nation to "roll back the specter of a warming planet."

Now that we're in the first few days of a new administration, there are several events coming up in the next few months intended to bring students together against global warming, the soonest of which is the National Teach-In, which includes a webcast kick-off, a teach-in on February 5th, and a live web interface with members of Congress. It'sGettingHotInHere reports that so far 140 schools have signed up to plan events on campus, engage with their legislators, and unite around concrete policy recommendations in the First 100 Days.

Certainly, as Eban Goodstein points out in a recent Inside Higher Ed piece, we can't assume that university and college students and faculty bear the full weight here, particularly when it comes to advocacy. The National Teach-In was never intended to create or support the "perfect climate bill," or strong-arm politicians into voting for a particular piece of legislation. Rather, it is intended to get the youth who will likely face the greatest consequences of climate change working on solutions.

Scientists tell us that we have waited too long, that for thirty years they have searched for a plausible explanation of climate change that isn't based largely on CO2 emissions. They haven't found one. And in order to stabilize the climate at a level to which we can adapt, without serious damage to the planet, we must act within the next 2 or 3 years.

Goodstein says, "The science is clear; the solutions are not. Political action is needed
to lower the risks of catastrophic consequences, but what kind of
action? How much mitigation and how soon? How much adaptation and what
kind? Can we insure a “just transition”, protecting low income people
from higher energy prices, and compensating workers who might lose
their jobs?"

Doing such calculations is really the work of universities. If not there, where? After yesterday's inauguration, how is your campus going to address Obama's appeals to "restore science to its rightful place"?