3278 Middlebury College Middlebury, VT 05753
November 10, 2008
Senator Barack Obama 713 Hart Senate Office Building District of Columbia 20510-1305
Dear Senator Obama,
First and foremost, I must congratulate you on being elected the next president of the United States of America! My name is Yen Le and I am a student at Middlebury College. I cannot express in words how strongly my peers and I believe that you can create the change that our country needs.
I recognize that the financial crisis is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately. However, with all the attention and focus on stimulating the economy, it is easy to forget about another crisis that continues to worsen everyday -- climate change. As emphasized by prominent NASA scientists and leaders in climate change, such as Bill McKibben, to prevent irreversible changes in climate, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere should not pass 350 parts per million (ppm). Currently, they are at 387 ppm. To ensure the wellbeing of humans, and ultimately of planet earth, we need strong policies to lower carbon dioxide emission levels and to prevent this number from rising. We need change.
If change does not come, an increase in natural disasters, change in precipitation patterns, a decrease in biodiversity, and more breakouts of infectious disease will hurt the United States economy and cause for serious health problems.
To begin taking action and to show our country and the world that you are serious in making the United States a leader in climate change, you should attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland this December to prepare for the Copenhagen talks in 2009. In your acceptance speech you said, “I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century.” Climate change is one of these threats. By attending this conference, you will not only build partnerships with other leaders around the world, but you will also transition the United States into a clean energy future. Working collectively with other leaders and scientists will move the world forward in finding a global warming solution.
After you are inaugurated into office in January, I hope that you will spend your presidential honeymoon and first 100 days implementing the environmental policies that are stated in your New Energy for America plan. These plans are great in that they support green jobs, renewable sources of energy, and a national-cap-and-trade system. To execute these plans, you must look at specific methods and details on how to do so. Different methods work better in different regions, therefore, not all policies on climate change on the national level can have strict guidelines. For example, solar power is more successful in Arizona than it is in Washington.
States are the ones that need to decide which policies to implement depending on the different technologies that would suit their environment. To encourage states to take climate change seriously and to invest in a particular method, federal mandates and other incentives should be used.
In my Global Warming Solutions class, we are in the process of creating a Global Warming Solutions Wiki . Among the things we analyze for each method and solution are: economic costs and benefits, the scale at which the policy should be implemented (individual, local, regional, and national), and geography. In building your own portfolio on global warming solutions, I recommend that you analyze and answer similar questions for all different types of technologies. I also recommend that your portfolio have multiple and varied methods. This will help you decide which methods work best where and which methods would not work in the United States.
Our actions must ultimately lower greenhouse gas emission levels by 80% by 2050. Accomplishing this will be difficult because it requires a change in the way that we live. But everything is possible, and yes we can accomplish this. But to do so, we must start now.