In his press conference yesterday, when President Obama talked about tackling climate change he said it would involve making some “tough political choices.” He didn’t say what those would be. Indeed, the agenda he’s apparently willing to support has to be one that reverses climate change while boosting American prosperity (as defined by economic growth). We can save the planet and get rich in the process. In other words, Obama wants to tackle climate change but only if he can do so without making any tough political choices.
Good on the President for repeatedly asserting the scientifically correct fact that the planet is indeed warming and that human activity is causing it—although it’s a bit sad that this is the state of discussion regarding climate in the United States that simply admitting the issue exists deserves kudos.
And good on the President for increasing fuel efficiency standards. Indeed it’s one his genuine environmental victories of his first term in office.
But it all goes downhill from there, quickly.
The President makes a huge rhetorical mistake in repeating and therefore reinforcing the erroneous notion that combatting climate change will cost jobs.
He also makes the intellectual mistake of continuing the fetishization of the universal good of economic growth, when the evidence is solidly on the side of, using renowned ecological economist Herman Daly’s words, future expansion of the scale of the economy is actual uneconomic growth—in other words, it actually does more harm than good. More economic growth, if defined as increased consumption of natural resources, is itself the problem of the century, of which climate change is but a subset, albeit perhaps the most dramatic one.