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"All of the Above" Fails in Face of Climate Change

yuccas on fire
David McNew/Getty Images

In recent weeks we have continued to experience extreme and destructive forest fires, droughts, and floods. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached new and dangerous levels.

Despite this, President Obama’s pledge to address climate change with meaningful actions has stalled. Since the stirring words of his Inauguration and State of the Union speeches, the EPA has missed its deadline for setting limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. Even simple, non-controversial actions like strengthening the efficiency standards for new refrigerators are marooned inside the White House. This failure to act is completely inconsistent with the president’s promise to lead on climate.

Equally troubling is the president’s continued support for expansive and extreme development of new fossil fuel sources. Drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean, fracking across our public lands, expanding coal mines for export to Asia, and importing dirty, carbon-intensive oil from Canada’s tar sands will all drive climate change to even more destructive levels and will destroy ecosystems and damage people’s health in the meantime.

The president wraps his energy policy in the words “all of the above,” a phrase that he cleverly appropriated from his political opponents. Every time he says that our energy policy is “all of the above,” the president misuses his bully pulpit and educates people in the wrong direction, communicating that fossil fuel development is a sensible and responsible path for the country. Instead, the president needs to stop talking as though all energy sources were created equal and are equally desirable. He should make the case forcefully that we need to transition away from fossil fuels as rapidly as we can, and his actions should match those words.

There is a better path. Here at Earthjustice we are doing all we can to prevent Arctic drilling, to retire old carbon-polluting coal plants and prevent the coal companies from shifting to export, to use the power of the law to drive us toward a clean energy future and a healthy planet.

Mr. President, if you stop talking about “all of the above” and actually lead on climate, our country will be stronger and our world will be safer.  We stand ready to help.