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What About the State of Our Planet, Mr. President?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our Politics and Democracy page.
In his state of the union address this week, President Obama talked about the American promise -  the promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.

"The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive," he said. "No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important."

Climate scientists might beg to differ.

Most of the President's speech focused on economic reforms. He proposed energy reforms almost exclusively in the context of adding jobs and growing the economy.

But what good is a healthy economy on a planet too sick to sustain human life?

The state of our union may be weak or strong, depending on which economist or politician is doing the talking.

But the state of our planet is dismal. 

Last  November, the International Energy Agency warned again that the world is accelerating toward irreversible climate change. If we don't take bold action to sharply reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the next five years, the agency said, it will be too late.

That's fewer than 1800 days. And counting.

For years - and again in the President's speech - we've heard calls for more investment in green energy. For years, leaders of the energy reform movement have called for cap and trade, a carbon tax, a ban on coal and tar sands, stronger emissions standards, more energy efficiency. The failed climate conferences in Kyoto, Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban concentrated most of their energy and effort on fossil fuel emissions.

None of this would be surprising - or troubling - except for this one fact: Recent research and reports conclude that factory farming in the U.S. is responsible for more GHG emissions than the entire transportation and industrial sector combined; including cars, trucks, buses, airplanes, trains, boats, and factories.

Yet when was the last - or even the first - time you heard the call for agricultural and food policy reform as a means to reduce GHG emissions - and save the planet? 

Of course we need more environmentally responsible energy choices and we should push for those choices as soon as possible.

But we must - and we can - do much more. 


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