Will Barack Obama’s victory bring about changes to the US environmental policy?

A change in leadership usually results in changes in policies or at least in some policies; it’s only natural as a new leader will surely aspire to improve on his/her predecessor’s achievements and try to succeed where he/she failed. According to an article in the Guardian, Obama is no different; his advisors told the Guardian that he will ‘shred the Bush administration’s energy policies and introduce a major climate change bill in an attempt to bring the US back into the international environment’. Read on to find out about some of his plans with regard to the environment and his expected cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

An 80% reduction in GHG by 2050 is planned through a cap-and-trade system with carbon permits auctioned off to industries to encourage them to reduce emissions (see Obama’s report here). Interestingly, this is also Britain’s target (80% by 2050) and would also see the US overtake Europe, which is only committed to cutting 60% of GHG emissions by then. His energy representatives will no doubt be actively involved in the UN’s climate change talks in Poznan, Poland in less than three weeks time.

We all remember Al Gore’s alarming report on global warming, but according to Dr. Steve Chu (Nobel prize-winning professor of physics and molecular biology and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) things are worse. Professor Chu has re-directed his research career so as to address climate change; he finds it disturbing that, despite the release of the IPCC report in 2007, the public’s perception of the crisis seems weak. He said in a conversation with the Copenhagen Climate Council that we underestimate the risk and ignore the fact that the planet is threatened with ‘sudden, unpredictable, and irreversible disaster’. He added that the 4th and most recent IPCC report concluded there’s a 90% chance that the global warming we are observing is caused by humans. Dr. Chu feels we must focus the public’s attention on the regional and local impacts of climate change, because these are the changes that will affect their lives. This suggests Obama’s plan has a chance to be effective, as it’s aiming at starting with local issues. An analysis by Obama’s Senior Energy and Environment advisor Professor Dan Kammen, from the Energy and Resources Group, at the University of California, Berkeley, says the energy plan Obama put forward during the election campaign aims to create a clean energy sector which will create 5 million new ‘cleantech’ jobs, one million hybrid cars and the economy-wide cap-and-trade programme mentioned above.

I think when a Nobel prize-winning physics professor is alarmed about what is happening to the planet and the newly-elected US president’s advisor made sure the US will start to seriously address the climate crisis, we should be too. At CABI we are very aware of these changes and have created THE Environment Impact database, which includes the latest research results on the subject.

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