The PJ Tatler

Obama's Top 7 Lines from UN Climate Speech, Plus Unhelpful Private Responses

U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly, and Leonardo DiCaprio, Tuesday on the topic of climate change. Much of the speech was devoted to cataloging what the U.S. has done (and will do) to reduce carbon emissions, to aid developing countries, and to prepare for the inevitable impacts of short-term weather disasters and long-term temperature escalation. He challenged the rest of the world, often referring to China obliquely, to emulate the U.S., which he blamed for much of the problem.

Obama also made the argument that climate-sensitive development is consistent with economic growth and enhanced quality of life — creating jobs, while reducing consumer prices and pollution. But then he said that nations reluctant to do more to stop climate change, fearing it will put them at a competitive disadvantage, need to lead anyway — implying that they should be willing to accept the hit to their economies for the good of the world.

Here’s my subjective list of the president’s Top 7 quotes from the speech, followed by my bracketed italicized remarks of the sort that are not helpful…not helpful at all.

1. “For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week — terrorism, instability, inequality, disease — there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other…and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.” [I’ve always said, I’d rather die, eviscerated and decapitated by a hail of fire and ball bearings, than drown at the rate of 3.2 millimeters per year.]

2. “In our heartland, farms have been parched by the worst drought in generations and drenched by the wettest Spring in our history.” [Yes, but it’s a dry wet.]

3. “The alarms bells keep ringing. Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call.” [Coincidentally, ‘The Peoples Climate March’ and ‘Flood Wall Street’ events happened just hours before Obama’s U.N. appearance. What are the odds of that?]

4.  “As one of America’s governors [Jay Inslee, Democrat, Washington] has said, ‘We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it’.” [Gov. Inslee also once said, ““We’ve got the most precious environment in the history of the solar system.” Oct. 2, 2012 Yakima debate. This all seems inherently unfair to this generation, and to all of the other planets.]

[In video below, Obama speech starts around minute 41.]

5. “Yes, this is hard. But there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem. We embrace our responsibility to combat it.” [If only our country had not juiced the industrial revolution and spawned the information age and thus generated the world’s best scientists and technology, then we could blame someone else, and hope that they could fix it. But, I suppose it’s our bad.]

6. “We can only succeed if we are joined by every nation, developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass.” [If Burkina Faso refuses, we’re doomed.]

7. “We have to set aside the old divides. We have to raise our collective ambitions — each of us doing what we can to confront this global challenge.” [There comes a time when we heed a certain call; when the world must come together as one. There are people dying. And it’s time to lend a hand to life, the greatest gift of all. From each according to his ability. To each according to his need.]