With no hope of getting Congress to do anything, President Obama will announce his plans to address climate change in an address at Georgetown University this afternoon. In doing so, he will create some stresses in the Democratic coalition. Traditionally, the Democrats have relied for their power in the Senate on having seats in energy-producing states like Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia. Those senators don’t like to hear things like this:
Daniel P. Schrag, a geochemist who is the head of Harvard University’s Center for the Environment and a member of a presidential science panel that has helped advise the White House on climate change, said he hoped the presidential speech would mark a turning point in the national debate on climate change.
“Everybody is waiting for action,” he said. “The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”
Our form of government is uniquely ill-suited to tackle climate change because small energy-producing states have disproportionate power in the Senate and because Senate rules give the minority effective veto power. This leaves the president with few options, but you’ll be surprised by how much he can do unilaterally as the head of the executive branch. Before his reelection, he couldn’t afford to divide his own caucus, and it still comes with potentially enormous costs to his ability to hold the party together and keep control of the Senate past 2014.
The left is distracted right now, as they always seem to be in the aftermath of a successful election, but we need to have the president’s back on this because it’s so vitally important and such a threat to our cohesion.