Historical Hope for Climate Change

If you found President Obama's Oval Office address a bit disappointing, as I and many others did, it's worth reading this item by Charles Homans at Foreign Policy, which adds some useful historical context for environmental types frustrated that the president didn't commit to passing a cap-and-trade bill. The take-away: Earlier man-made environmental disasters--Homans cites the deadly Bhopal chemical leak in 1984--eventually spurred major legislation of the sort that Obama seems to be flinching from:

The BP spill has certainly recast public opinion on oil drilling, but its implications for broader environmental policy, particularly a future energy and climate change bill, are far from clear. ... But keep an eye on what comes out of today's hearing. [Henry] Waxman and his House colleagues are less central to the future of a climate bill than their opposites in the Senate, or the president. Still, the guy knows how to make use of a disaster.

Sure enough, at just about the time Homans posted this item, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) was apologizing to BP for making them pay for the oil spill. Barton's astonishing actions certainly could shift the debate in the direction of stronger legislation. We'll have to see. But Homans's post, and the Barton episode, are a reminder that not all policy derives from the words and actions of the guy sitting in the Oval Office.


Presented by

Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Politics

Just In