Obama to unveil climate change plan

Monday, June 24, 2013

President Obama is expected to unveil his second-term plan to address climate change tomorrow.  In a video released this past weekend, President Obama announced that he will speak at Georgetown University on Tuesday to present his plan "for the steps we need to take to prepare our country for the impacts of climate change and lead the global effort to fight it."  While the details of his plan are not yet public, its scope and specifics may have a significant impact on both the environment and the economy.

The U.S. House of Representatives.

This is not the first time President Obama has spoken about climate change.  In his second inaugural address, he vowed to "respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."  Similarly, in his 2013 State of the Union address, he asked Congress to develop a market-based solution, but vowed to take executive action if necessary.

Potential elements of his plan range in scope and impact.  President Obama has already issued an executive order promoting industrial energy efficiency; increasing support for energy efficiency is relatively likely to garner widespread support.  Potentially more impactful -- both in terms of potential to reduce carbon emissions and to increase costs -- are proposals to revise the rules for carbon emissions from existing power plants.  Some Republican Congressional leaders, like House Speaker John Boehner, have already called the climate change plans "absolutely crazy" and certain to increase the cost of energy, driving manufacturing and jobs overseas.

Tomorrow's speech will give us a better sense of Obama's policy direction on carbon emissions and climate change.  It is certain to be followed up a significant dialogue about both the importance of issue and the balancing of costs and benefits that is fundamental to policymaking.  Whether Congress acts, the president uses his executive powers to change policy, or both, remains to be seen.

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