Inspired to “lead by example,” U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order on March 19 that would cut the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent over the next decade. This is the president’s most recent step in his climate-change agenda. Given the federal government’s already-low emission rates, this attests to the president’s intentions in normalizing sustainable, environmentally friendly alternatives.
“We’re proving that it is possible to grow our economy robustly while at the same time doing the right thing for our government and tackling climate change in a serious way,” he said in a speech at the U.S. Department of Energy.
The order, however, prompted partisan backlash with Republicans uneasy about yet another “attempt to satisfy environmental groups who have been pushing Obama to make climate change an even bigger priority.”
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and infamously known for bringing a snowball to the Senate floor as a confirmation of the hoax that is global warming, characterized the order as “an optics tactic to appease environmental extremists with no realistic goal to reduce emissions,” The Washington Times reported.
The president, however, was not fazed. In an interview with VICE just two days before signing the executive order, Obama glazed over climate-change deniers and guaranteed that “the Republican party will have to change its approach to climate change, because voters will insist upon it.”
The hardest thing to do in politics, according to Obama, is to “make sacrifices for a long-term payoff.” But through his daughters, Sasha and Malia, he sees a much more sophisticated understanding of climate change, which convinces him that the denial is generational.
With that, the president has invested in incremental change. “If I can change how the country thinks about this [climate change] as a serious, immediate threat and not some distant and vague thing … if I can encourage and gain commitments from the Chinese to put forward a serious plan to start curbing their greenhouse gases, that then allows us to leverage the entire world … when I’m done, we’re still going to have a heck of a problem, but we will have made enough progress that the next president, and the next generation, can start building on them and we can start getting momentum,” he said in the VICE interview.
And he is working toward that progress. By leading by example, Obama has encouraged federal suppliers to reduce their carbon emissions by 5 million metric tons over the next decade.
“Taken together, the government and private-sector proposals would cut overall U.S. emissions by 26 million tons by 2025, the equivalent of taking nearly 5.5 million cars off the road for a year,” The Washington Post reported. The plan is also believed to save $18 billion, in addition to the $1.8 billion saved via renewable energy since Obama took office.
It may be the hardest thing to do in politics, but the long-term pay off secures an economically and environmentally sustainable future.