A chance to change the climate

Obama’s leadership will be put to the test in Copenhagen.

Michael Pursell

In 1961, the first American was sent into space just three years after NASA was conceived. That same year, President Kennedy announced his plans to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. Readers will be familiar with the results. The Apollo Program, fueled by a visionary government and a nebulous but deadly threat from abroad, generated numerous technological innovations which have since spawned entire industries. It also united and inspired a war-tired country. The fight to curb global climate change has every potential to become the Apollo Program of this generation. But America needs leadership bold enough to take us there. President ObamaâÄôs flaccid commitment last week to cut U.S. carbon emissions by only 17% of 2005 levels by 2020 falls far short of the leadership this country âÄî and the world âÄî needs so badly on this issue. Though this may seem a bad economic moment for strict new regulations, the administration should have faith in the creativity and resilience of industry. An ambitious emissions cap would arouse American ingenuity and spawn new, homegrown markets and industries for green technology. Many existing companies that have already adopted cleaner, greener technologies have already been able to improve their bottom line and increase efficiency. Such technologies, too, would help wean us off foreign oil. The fact is that we can no longer ignore the imperative evidence of the human role in climate change. Nor can we allow a few corrupt or confounding studies to obscure the overwhelming consensus of the scientific and international communities. Even if we set complex climate science aside, there is nothing ambiguous about ice caps and glaciers vanishing before our eyes. History will show that among the Bush administrationâÄôs most harmful legacies was its promulgation of the false notion that there exists a legitimate scientific debate about whether human emissions are affecting the global environment. In Copenhagen next week, President Obama has a rare opportunity to sweep skeptics under the rug, renew AmericaâÄôs vision and integrity, and earn his Peace Prize. Though the U.S. has exempted itself from this global effort so far, we can still step in and lead the way on emissions policy, to the benefit of all. In the fight against climate change, we must shoot for the moon. Michael Pursell welcomes comments at [email protected]