Saturday, December 6, 2008

Terrific post on Obama, transport, and climate at Reality-Based Community

Michael O'Hare:

I think Mark is cutting Obama far too much slack on global warming. Habitability of the planet is not a lagniappe that might spiff up an economic stimulus. It's a very big deal, at least if you care about your grandchildren, not to mention the hundreds of millions of Bangla Deshis who will be on the road looking for a place to live in a crowded neighborhood, and sooner than we thought last year or the year before. Think this is bad?: imagine it in Dacca, and not for a day, but permanently.

Surely we can wait on something so big and so slow while we fix the economy, right? Nope; we already did that (wait), since the early eighties. Now it's an emergency. Expensive, though, right? Yup, we spent it for nothing in Iraq and frittered it away in stupid finance tricks, but Obama has to play the hand he was dealt, not the hand he deserves.

I have occasionally worried that for all his many merits, our new president is a senator from a corn state and a senator from a coal state. Not for long, and he didn't grow up there, but unfortunately simply ending the unspeakable irresponsibility of the Bush administration about climate is not enough. In particular, talking about roads and bridges in an infrastructure speech without a mention of transit or land use policy isn't in the ball park: it isn't "could be better"; it's flat-out wrong. We have a lot of bad infrastructure that makes us drive a lot of bad cars too much. We don't need to spend a penny on roads or anything to do with squeezing another few years out of the gasoline commuter lifestyle; we need to spend billions on undoing the damage it's already done, and now. Those unemployed hardhats can lay track and pave bike paths just as well as they can pour lane-miles.

I'm sorry to say, Obama has, on the whole, dropped the ball on climate change; he's not anti-science or anti-environment, but he's failing a big test here. I've wallowed in the pleasure of anticipating leadership from a basically serious person with his heart in the right place up to now, like the rest of us, but I am declaring the honeymoon over. From now on he needs to start saying what we need to hear on the biggest issue of the next couple of decades. "Better than Bush" encompasses a range from A down to D-, and on the environment, we need A- leadership, not a Band-Aid or a headpat. And we especially don't need enabling of a catastrophic carbon addiction, whether implicit or explicit.

All together now, and you too, Barack: