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Can Obama Fight Climate Change and a Recession?

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President-elect Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to addressing climate change this week, asserting that, “[F]ew challenges facing America — and the world — are more urgent.” But the speech was notable for skirting that other urgent challenge facing the world: its tanking economy.

Sandwiched between an American flag and a heavily autographed basketball, Obama sent a videogram (transcript here) to the Governorpalooza summit that California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger is hosting this Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the world’s climate. The message: America’s stance on climate change is about to change.

No, it isn’t new, but it’s probably a welcome message to many, especially with Obama urging leaders at home and abroad to work with him. Gov. Schwarzenegger is hosting his climate summit at the Beverly Hills Hilton (because nothing says conservation quite like Beverly Hills) for U.S. governors as well as leaders from China, the European Union, Brazil and other countries.

Here’s the gist of Obama’s invitation to them:

My presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.

I promise you this: When I am president, any governor who’s willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that’s willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that’s willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States of America.

Not mentioned is how Obama, and other leaders, can manage these changes without adding to a severe recession or slow its likely fragile recovery.

This isn’t to say that addressing climate change will necessarily hurt the economy — the right investments and stimulus can help both goals. Everyone from Al Gore to Thomas Friedman to Van Jones are calling for investment in clean energy sectors to produce green jobs. But there hasn’t been a lot of talk from Obama on how he plans to balance climate policies with the economic recovery. Gov. Schwarzennegger’s summit will hopefully start the conversation.

The recent decades of economic growth has helped hurt the climate, but restoring some of that economic growth can potentially help undo the damage. The question is, which specific actions would work? No one expects the President to have all the answers two months before he even takes office. But it still wouldn’t hurt to hear him think out loud a little on that question.

9 Responses to “Can Obama Fight Climate Change and a Recession?”

  1. Kevin Kelleher


    Thanks for an interesting comment. My experience in entrepreneurial compaies is that, despite all the talk about profits and losses, most decisions there are “political” as well.

    Until this year, the recessions since WWII, a period where the economy was heavily managed by the government, have been relatively mild. Recessions before 1929 (many were called depressions) were not just sharp – they were brutal, like what we’re seeing now. And more frequent.

  2. If climate change needs to be solved (assuming, in fact, that it is a problem) then entrepreneurs in the marketplace can perform the adjustments the most efficiently.

    Politicians cannot calculate via profits & losses…all decisions are “political.”

    The same applies to recessions, prior to Hoover and FDR, recessions were sharp…but short.

    Hoover and FDR broke the tradition of letting the market correct the imbalances and gave us an unprecedented 16 yr. Great Depression.

    So can Obama solve climate change and the recession? All of economic history is stacked against him….and any American who believes that one man is stronger than the market.

  3. The tech sector and climate change is change for the economy, and Obama showed this when using video conferencing for business, rather than travel and emissions. He is a prime example of us moving ahead in economics and green business. Like this company, , using this technology makes our world a better place, business to business.