Dear Mr. President,
You promised, days after you were re-elected, that you would lead a national conversation about climate change during your second term. Well, here’s your chance, sir. Yesterday your own administration’s scientists have announced that 2012 was the hottest year on record for the Lower 48 states. This disturbing news provides all the opening you need.
As much as the record itself, what raised scientists’ eyebrows was the margin by which it was set: average temperatures in 2012 were a full degree Fahrenheit hotter than in 1998, the previous high mark. “That we beat the record by one degree is quite a big deal,” Jake Crouch, a scientist with the National Climatic Data Center, told The New York Times. In basketball, it would be akin to one team blowing out another team by twenty points. Equally alarming, this record heat helped to trigger enough extreme weather—the hottest July on record, the worst drought in fifty years, the deadly storm surges of Hurricane Sandy and much more—to make 2012 the second worst year ever on the government’s Climate Extremes Index.
If ever there was a time for a president to lead a national conversation on climate change—to connect the dots between these destructive weather events and the government, corporate and consumer practices that need to change if our children are to inherit a livable planet, that time is… well, it’s come and gone numerous times already. You had a golden opportunity to make the case last year, when this nasty weather was actually taking place, tormenting Americans from Boston to Biloxi, Dallas to Des Moines. Unfortunately, you remained all but silent about climate change throughout the 2012 campaign. That grievous error, however, is all the more reason for you to honor your pledge and put the full force of your presidency behind this mission, starting now.
Do you remember what you said about why we needed a national conversation on climate change? You were answering a question during your first press conference after winning re-election. A reporter reminded you that Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, had endorsed you for president shortly after Hurricane Sandy devastated his city because he believed that you would do more about climate change than your opponent, Republican Mitt Romney. You told the reporter, “I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.”
Soon after, when Time asked you about how your daughters have affected your thinking as president, you singled out climate change. Urging “this country, and the world, to ask some serious questions about what are we leaving behind,” you said you didn’t want your kids “dealing with stuff that is the result of you [as a parent] making bad choices.”