Nial Rele

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Dear President-elect Obama,

It is common belief that the change that this world needs resounds with the masses and the main difficulty lies in bringing it to the forefront. It is by listening to the cry of the masses and by fighting that upslope battle that change makes its way into becoming reality- into political policy and legislation and finally into the hands of those in need of that change.

Your election to the Whitehouse is an embodiment of this spirit. Your election to office through the most fundamental of democratic systems is an embodiment of the idea that change does not change tradition; it strengthens it.[1]

But sometimes the change that the world really needs may require you, as the President of the United States of America, to take unpopular and even risky decisions - decisions that may force you to question whether your popularity is more important or your responsibilities to the global community. All positive change requires sacrifice.

Today’s climate crisis needs policies and actions that have the potential of being very unpopular. The pertinent policies may come under immense fire, even if implemented correctly. But we yet have changes to make and traditions to strengthen whatever may be in our way. Recently Dr. Rajendra Pachauri of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that if fundamental changes in the political and economic systems of this world did not occur by 2012, then the delicate balance of the natural climate system would be too damaged to adequately repair. It would be too late.[2]

Although responsible practical changes in one’s lifestyle towards living greener lives would have its own benefits, it would not be sufficient. Change needs to come from above - from authority. The United States if responsible for close to quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, we have reached a stage at which the United States must lead the global economy into a phase where greenhouse gas emission from production comes with a price tag. It is naïve to believe that this price on emissions will not be transferred down to the consumers.

The common man will feel the pinch of the raised prices. At this stage it would be the government’s role to make sure that the common man is cognizant of the sacrifices he is making and to what avail. Another supplementary system to the carbon tax is the use of the cap-and-trade system which would further limit the ability of the economic sector to emit more greenhouse gases.[3]

At the same time, the money that can be collected as carbon tax and from the auction of emission-permits can be redistributed to the country’s population. This measure will not entirely eliminate the displeasure of yet another tax during the current financial crisis. But, such measures will naturally push companies to invest in greener and more efficient methods of production.

With regards to the financial crisis, some may claim that such dire economic circumstances need immediate fixing and that we shouldn’t get distracted by ‘secondary’ issues like climate change. But it is fundamentally vital that the United States grows out of the financial crisis into a reformed economy which is supportive of alternate renewable energy resources like wind and solar power and the creation of green jobs. Thus such policies need to start falling into place now, alongside other measures aimed at pulling the United States out of a recession.

As the President of the United States, your responsibilities towards solving the climate crisis span the globe. As the name suggests, global warming is a truly global phenomenon and without the United States on the scene, it is virtually impossible to even come close to solving the climate crisis. Thus unlike your predecessor, you must champion the movement on the global front and show that you care about the crisis by attending, cooperating with and contributing in person to international conferences on climate change at the upcoming meetings in Poland and next year in Copenhagen

You hold the fate and faith of billions in your hands. There is no way that I may emphasize this better than to let the words spell themselves out in their entirety and immensity. The road can be unclear and our futures can be uncertain, but yes, we can- you can. You can lead us out of this mess, President Obama.

Thank you for your time,

Nial Rele

  1. Prince Phillip of England- Quote.
  2. Dr. Rajendra Pachauri.
  3. Stern, Nicholas "Stern Review Executive Summary: The Economics of Climate Change". New Economics Foundation(2006).