Climate Change: The View From Washington – Chuck McCutcheon


Last year, we shared with you our Q & A with journalist and author Chuck McCutcheon on “Climate Change Advice and Your Kids.” After President Obama’s inauguration address, where the President put our children and addressing climate change “up front and center,” we were thrilled when Chuck reached out to us and offered to share his View from Washington, on what the President’s comments on climate change mean and how he sees President Obama moving forward on policies and actions to address climate change.

This guest post is for our Climate Mamas and Papas so you can get an insiders view on “what happens” next. Chuck also has some amazing advice on how to talk to your kids on global warming and climate change, and we would highly recommend his book: What Are Global Warming and Climate Change? Answers for Young Readers as climate change becomes a much more talked about issues in our country and in your home town.


Of all the subjects Obama promised to tackle in his speech, climate change was perhaps the most surprising. He paid little attention to the issue during the 2012 campaign, no doubt wanting to avoid the harsh criticism of the “cap and trade” bill that squeaked through the House during his first year in office but never made it through the Senate. But the news that temperatures in the United States last year were the hottest on record – coupled with the massive devastation that Sandy inflicted on the East Coast — appears to have changed his mind.

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” he said to applause. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.” 

The consensus in Washington is that Obama will rely on executive action to bypass a hostile Congress. The Environmental Protection Agency – with the Supreme Court’s backing — is required to issue an air quality regulation that would force existing industrial polluters, such as coal-fired power plants and oil refineries, to sharply reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

But it remains possible that Congress will act, though not in a sweeping fashion with the enactment of a cap-and-trade bill (which stands zero chance of getting through a Republican-controlled House). Instead, Congress could take up bills that aren’t “climate legislation” per se, but that accomplish several different goals, including a reduction of greenhouse gases. Alternative energy, transportation and farming legislation fall into this category.

As one Democratic senator who meets regularly with colleagues to discuss climate issues recently told me: “My selling point will be, ‘Maybe we can’t pass a climate-change bill, but can we pass an energy bill, a transportation bill?’ We won’t call it a climate bill, but we think we can still make progress on that issue.”

Much of this will lead Republicans to erupt in opposition, but evidence exists that the public wants action. Yale University’s Project on Climate Change Communication said in a report last September that large majorities of undecided voters and likely Obama voters say that the president (64% and 61% respectively) and Congress (72% and 78%) should be doing more about global warming.

And at least some Republicans are changing their tune. Former South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis is leading an effort to make a free-market case for climate change, and is joined by other similar groups. “It’s not conservative to waste stuff,” Inglis told National Public Radio, “and to cause somebody else’s kids to go on the sands of the Middle East to fight for that stuff that we’re wasting.”

Chuck McCutcheon is a Washington, D.C. journalist and the author of What Are Global Warming and Climate Change? Answers for Young Readers. His website is: What are Global Warming and Climate Change.

Book Cover photo: Used with permission of author

Obama photo credit: ViaMoi via photopin cc

US Congress photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

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