President Obama should lead in talking about the consequences of inaction on climate change


We talked with Grist, The Daily Climate, and KPFA-FM in Berkeley, CA about the June 16 release of Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States and the role of the White House under two administrations.

See our June 16 and June 17 posts:

US climate change impact report shows immediate need for action – White House must lead in preparing

Video link and key quotes from White House briefing on Global Climate Change Impacts report

From a June 16 article (“White House hopes new climate report is a game-changer)” in Grist (and the June 20 UK Guardian) by reporter Kate Sheppard:

Grist caught up with Rick Piltz, who was a senior associate with the U.S. Global Change Research Program for ten years before leaving in March 2005 amid Bush-era censorship of climate reports. Piltz was on hand for Tuesday’s announcement, noting it was his first visit back to the White House grounds since he resigned. While the new administration is light years ahead on science and a stated desire to address climate change, he’s still concerned about how the White House is maneuvering on global warming legislation.

It seems to me that so far the White House has adopted a messaging strategy on climate that very heavily emphasizes green jobs and clean energy, which is crucial, but that doesn’t have much of a vocabulary for impacts, said Piltz, who now runs Climate Science Watch. It seems to me that you’re really taking one of your weapons off the table if you never talk about why it’s so important to do something [about climate change]. What are the consequences of not doing something?

Obama will say everybody knows we need to do something about this, he said. Well, everybody doesn’t know, he continued. The public is not that alert and could use some presidential leadership.

From a June 16 article (“Obama targets U.S. public with call for climate action”) in The Daily Climate, a good online news source, by editor Douglas Fischer:

The Obama Administration on Tuesday released a report showing climate disruption is already leaving deep imprints on every sector of the environment and that the consequences of these changes will grow steadily worse in coming decades….

Green groups praised the report and the Obama Administration’s elevation of it on Tuesday.

A coalition of 16 science and environmental groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, issued a joint statement praising the assessment, while others said it provided much-needed context for sticky debates on Capitol Hill and in statehouses across the land.

“I have not seen the administration talking much about climate change impacts. I see them messaging the climate change legislation in terms of green jobs and green energy and the need to reduce emissions. But why? Why is it so urgent?” asked Rick Piltz, director of Climate Science Watch, a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy watchdog.

“This makes the case.”

From a June 16 interview with the KPFA-FM (Berkeley, CA) Evening News.  Archived (full hour broadcast, climate story starts at 29:34) at

The Obama administration has released a sweeping new assessment of the impacts of climate change in the United States.  The report is blunt: it says there is no question that our climate is changing, that people are causing it, and that it’s going to get worse…

The 196-page report is the first national climate assessment since 2000, when government scientists issued a report they had been drafting under the Clinton administration.  They then saw it suppressed by Bush administration officials.

Rick Piltz is currently the director of Climate Science Watch. Before that he worked in the coordination office of the U.S. climate research program from 1995 until 2005:

“They directed the federal agencies, don’t use this report, don’t refer to the existence of this report, don’t do any follow-on work from this report.  This report essentially was made to vanish.”

And when the government didn’t issue a follow-up report, environmental groups sued and won a court order requiring the government to produce an updated assessment….

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