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Why I Wouldn’t Want To Be President Obama

June 10, 2009

Obama 2008

In my fraternity there are many biology, biochemistry, and chemistry majors. They often chide me for majoring in political science. “It’s not really a science. And it’s not nearly as hard! We have to take lab finals and still get the same among of credit as you!” While I think a question of which major is harder will result in a predictable debate, today I thought of the difficult job both scientists and policy-makers have in the arena of climate change. At the Oceans side-event, I stood up to ask the first question.

Seeing the science and knowing how hard it is politically to get things done, I do not envy negotiators or heads of states. Which do you think is harder, to research the science and provide solutions for fighting climate change or–noting the struggle in the U.S. over a cap and trade system and Japan’s unambitious 8% reduction target announced today–for delegates and heads of states in developed countries to find the political will to make decisions that line up with the science?”

The first two panelists avoided my question by responding that science and policy-making go hand in hand. Then the moderator stepped in and asked my question directly: which do you think is harder? The next two panelists didn’t answer either. They essentially said the same as the first two.

I was trying to point out that the challenge for President Obama to sign a strong commitment in Copenhagen is much greater than for researchers to prove an impending disaster. While the science is fundamental to establishing the problem, we already have enough data from the 4th IPCC assesment to act. What we need is the political will to do so.

Right now President Obama has critics in the U.S. on every issue from nuclear proliferation to what type of vegetables he should grow in the Whitehouse garden.  He’s watching a bill go through Congress that is millions of light years ahead of where we’ve been the last 8 years, but doesn’t come close to the 25-40% reductions below 1990 levels called for by the IPCC as a 2020 target. While he knows this, he must allow the compromises and sign a bill before mid-term elections get any closer (because scare tactics will come out in greater force than Halloween).

President Obama is taking a political risk by making climate change a priority in his administration. Healthcare and education are easy sells. Climate change? The primary constituency is the younger generations who will have to live with the consequences of whatever decisions are made today. Still, NGOs and the youth delegation here argue that while Obama has done a good job, the work is not done. They argue that Copenhagen must be the primary issue through December. Their expectations for Obama are demanding. I wouldn’t switch places with him for all the tax dollars in the world.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike permalink
    June 18, 2009 6:12 pm

    Haha it would be nice if healthcare and education were easy sells.


  2. Phil permalink
    July 26, 2009 6:18 am

    Anthony, your question is very good!!! The answers are predictable in the “political science” world. Check with Mike. He’s got it and get’s it.

    If you have been following the mainstream media, or even the speciality
    media, you will see that the discussions are at the highest level. This is not that what you are witnessing is not important and significant. It is very much both. The politics and economics are critical.

    Now, any answers to my “barbershop” questions. “Joe the plumber” and “Jane lunch bucket” would like to know your take.


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