President Obama’s second inaugural speech featured climate change more prominently than did his first inaugural address. As Greenwire (subscription required) observed:
Gone was Obama’s roundabout reference to climate change through “the specter of a warming planet” from four years ago. This time, the president put the issue front and center.
Will that make any difference legislatively? Probably not. In the House, Republicans opposed to cap-and-trade, EPA regulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs), and carbon taxes are still in charge.
Is the President’s renewed emphasis on climate change just a sop to his environmentalist base? Doubtful. As a second termer, Obama has less reason politically to restrain his ‘progressive’ impulses. Several regulatory options are now in play:
- The Department of Interior could list more species as threatened or endangered based on climate change concerns.
- The President could finally veto the Keystone XL pipeline — a key objective of the climate alarm movement.
- The EPA could issue GHG performance standards for existing (as distinct from new or modified) coal power plants, as well as GHG performance standards for other industrial categories (refineries, cement production facilities, steel mills, paper mills, etc.).
- The EPA could finally act on petitions pending from the Bush administration to set GHG emission standards for marine vessels, aircraft, and non-road vehicles.
- The EPA could finally act on a December 2009 petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and 350.Org to establish national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHGs.
I’ll make one prediction: If Obama does not veto the Keystone XL Pipeline after talking the talk on climate change, green groups will go ballistic (even though, Cato Institute scholar Chip Knappenberger calculates, full-throttle operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline would add an inconsequential 0.0001°C/yr to global temperatures). My colleague Myron Ebell reasonably speculates that Obama’s tough talk on climate was a signal to green groups to organize the biggest anti-Keystone protest ever.