26 January 2011

Change Comes Fast

Last night President Obama outlined a far more oblique strategy related to climate that one might have countenanced as recently even just months ago, proving that politicians are far more adept at pivoting when reality intercedes than are advocates and pundits.

Here are a few observers having a hard time with the new political reality:

Joe Romm:
The President could not bring himself to utter the words “climate change” or “global warming.”  These omissions were depressingly predictable
Andy Revkin:
It’s one thing to cave to a wave of naysaying climate rhetoric and build a new American energy conversation on points of agreement rather than clear ideological flash points like global warming.

It’s another to duck and cover entirely on climate, as President Obama did in his State of the Union message.
Bryan Walsh:
[T]here's no avoiding the fact that a candidate who spoke of climate change as an existential threat on the 2008 campaign trail—and whose diplomats were still promising to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 as recently as last month in Cancun—didn't mention the term "climate change," nor "global warming," nor "carbon."
David Roberts:
Obama said ... nothing about climate change. It didn't come up.

This is a failure on Obama's part. A moral failure, a failure of leadership, but also, I would argue, a political failure.
Buck up guys. Sometimes you have to take an indirect path to where you want to go -- here is a blurb from John Kay's neat little book, Obliquity:
If you want to go in one direction, the best route may involve going in another. This is the concept of ‘obliquity’: paradoxical as it sounds, many goals are more likely to be achieved when pursued indirectly. Whether overcoming geographical obstacles, winning decisive battles or meeting sales targets, history shows that oblique approaches are the most successful, especially in difficult terrain.

Obliquity is necessary because we live in an world of uncertainty and complexity; the problems we encounter aren’t always clear – and we often can’t pinpoint what our goals are anyway; circumstances change; people change – and are infuriatingly hard to predict; and direct approaches are often arrogant and unimaginative.
I am amazed to see views that have been espoused by The Breakthrough Institute, in The Hartwell Paper and The Climate Fix go from being outside the mainstream perspective on climate policy to being highly consistent with the approach now being advocated by the US President.  This is good news for climate policy and politics, even if it is hard for some to accept.