As part of a blitz of last minute legislation, Barack Obama has placed enormous parts of the American Arctic and North Atlantic off limits for oil exploration in concert with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Obama took advantage of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, a law passed in 1953 which gives the Secratary of the Interior authority over leasing the waters adjacent to federal land to oil companies for exploration. In theory, or at least according to the President and his legal team, the ban will be permanent and the Trump administration will not be able to rescind it
The usual suspects have of course come out strongly against the ban even though drilling in Arctic waters does not appear to be profitable given the current and projected oil price. Regardless of the final outcome, the New York Times believes the move will create an important legal precedent and it will take the Republicans years in the courts to overturn it.
Barack the Green
This last piece of administrative legislation caps the last few years in which Barack Obama has shown himself to be not only have a deep commitment to the environment but also be willing to go very close to the line on his constitutional powers in order to everything possible to enshrine its protection in U.S. law.
Besides protecting natural habitats, the administration has helped broker and then adhered to the climate agreement in Paris, reached an historic agreement with China, promoted alternative energy and energy conservation in the U.S. and also used the EPA to oblige the States to phase out coal fired power plants in the next 10-20 years.
Trump the Chump
While Obama clearly became convinced during his presidency that not only was climate change real but it was actually possible to take steps to address it and that american leadership on this issue was good for the country and would provide hundreds of thousands of jobs, the President Elect still doesn’t get it. Trump has allowed himself to be surrounded by lobbyists and politicians who are loyal to o¡the oil and gas and coal industries who do understand that they are fighting for economic survival.
In a post a few weeks ago, I explained how Al Gore is convinced that we are already in the middle of an energy revolution and that the value of traditional energy companies are grossly over valued. By betting their money on Trump they hope to save their balance sheets and their own jobs and situations.
Beyond Politics ?
Back in 2003, two United States senators, Republican John McCain and Democrat, Joe Lieberman sponsored the Climate Stewardship Act showing the start of a bi-partisan consensus on fixing the root causes of climate change.
I understand that enough people are upset about the changing world to have voted in the UK and the US for demagogic and populist politicians who have told them what they want to believe. I can even see, but not condone, the twisted logic of these politicians who will say or do almost anything to get elected including targeting entire groups of people based on race, ethnicity or their religious views.
What I do not understand is why they throw the future of the planet under the bus of their blind ambition. Looking far ahead we, as a society, will be able to heal the wounds that people like Donald Trump, Marie Le Pen, and Geert Wilders and their followers will inflict on Civil Society.
The longer we wait to take action on climate change, however, the hard it will be to heal the planet.