Yogi Berra and Emerging ‘Memes’ Post-Obama Climate Speech

President’s June climate speech gives rise to several widespread ‘memes’ as second-term clock begins soon to wind down. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Legendary Yankees manager Yogi Berra is famous for reportedly having said, among other things, “it gets late early out there.”

The line no doubt occurred to many as they listened to, or later reviewed, President Obama’s June 25 climate change policy address at Georgetown University. Several “memes” — a term in vogue only long after Berra’s heyday — have taken hold since that speech:

  • The President clearly was acting in the face of inevitable and most likely insurmountable political opposition from most Republicans, and also from some coal-state Democrats, on Capitol Hill: in particular from the GOP-controlled House of Representatives…but with no easy lift either in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
  • The President was acting also in the face of repeated shortcomings from the mega-party international “summits” that have been a focus of global climate efforts in past decades. Those are now about as popular as Beta recorders or eight-track cassettes.
  • Already more than six months into his second term, the President and his supporters are aware that the clock is ticking in terms of finalizing major regulatory initiatives before his successor — whoever it is and whichever party he/she represents — takes over. The proverbial second-term eighteen-month “window of opportunity” is well on the way to closing just a year from now.
  • The administration’s conscious linking of “carbon” and “pollution,” consistent with the relevant 5-4 Supreme Court decision opening the way for EPA regulation of carbon dioxide, is seen as striking an important theme (see related posting by Michael Svoboda).
  • Outside observers, at least those generally supportive of this administration and of efforts to ratchet-down on CO2 emissions and concentrations, are urging more attention on what Obama does rather than merely just what he says from the bully pulpit. His actions — they say, and you’ve heard this one before — speak louder than his words.
  • It’s still a tough haul, a daunting challenge, given the magnitude of the obstacles in substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions and concentrations nationally and globally. Obama may be courageous and even bold on the issue compared with his predecessors and his political adversaries; but when measured against what is actually needed in terms of climate well-being, his efforts are seen as scratching the surface. Which is to say that even if fully carried out, the plans announced so far will fall far short of what many say is justified by the scientific evidence.
  • And finally, one more emerging meme: His speech starts anew the clock on getting things done on the issue while he is still in office, and with or without a confirmed Environmental Protection Agency administrator to take the regulatory lead. Tick-tock, tick-tock.
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