In his State of the Union address on January 28th, President Barack Obama addressed the reality of climate change, but not the fact that progress to reverse its effects is under threat. In his address, the President stated, “Climate change is a fact and when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”
In spite of those politicians who still deny the existence of climate change and human responsibility for it, the President made sure to drive home his call to action in favor of renewable energy this year. So, why are all homes not equipped with wind turbines yet? Where is this Brave Green World that has been lingering on the horizon since President Obama’s election?
Under the surface, a series of hurdles have been preventing the progress of climate change activism and threatening its steady ascent. Public denouncements of environmental collapse have been swirling around the media for years, but Americans may not know about some of the smaller ways in which the President’s environmental goals are being undermined and delayed.
While public opinion has been widely unanimous on the subject for years, Congress is less eager to address the state of the environment. Sadly, the reason behind the delay is money– and the money is coming from oil companies. Fossil fuels are still heavily subsidized, making them cheaper to use than all alternative energies (excluding wind). But fossil fuels emit greenhouse gases and do not take into account the costs incurred by those damages. Congress keeps fossil fuels in power at the detriment to the environment and our desire to improve it. Congress did pass the Omnibus Spending Bill in January which will increase funding for alternative energy research from last year’s $1.95 billion to $2.05 billion in 2014, but, again, they failed by giving fossil fuels a greater marginal increase in funding.
Another reason everyone is not driving a car powered by the sun yet is because the U.S. is making fewer clean energy investments; American investments in renewable energy have actually been declining since 2011. To be fair, the United States is not the only country that is investing less; China and Europe have also been reticent to spend money on clean energy the past few years. Japan is one of the few countries that has actually increased its spending, determined to develop new energy sources after the collapse of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011.
So why are Americans spending less on clean energy alternatives when most people believe that climate change is a serious and pressing threat? Research done by Bloomberg New Energy Finance cites a decline in new wind capacity, the fall of solar panel prices and a drop in venture capital investments in these new energy sources as likely causes for the decrease in financial support.
In his State of the Union address, the President emphasized the importance of finding new replacements for fossil fuels in turning the tide on the impending climate collapse. It is very clear that undermining the power of the fossil fuel industry will be imperative in ultimately saving the planet. In the meantime, Americans can show their support by making changes in their homes, their workplaces and their wallets to continue to make progress under the threat of a changing climate.
by Lauren Martin