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Environment

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Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJanuary 26, 2011 6:34 PM

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If presidential State of the Union addresses are a political barometer of sorts, then check this out for historical perspective: Here's President Clinton in 1998

Our overriding environmental challenge tonight is the worldwide problem of climate change,global warming, the gathering crisis that requires worldwide action. The vast majority of scientists have concluded unequivocally that if we do not reduce the emission of greenhouse gases at some point in the next century, we will disrupt our climate and put our children and grandchildren at risk...We have always found a way to clean the environment and grow the economy at the same time. And when it comes to global warming, we will do it again.

That's pretty assertive and unequivocal, wouldn't you say? President George W. Bush, as everyone knows, did not feel quite as strongly during his two terms. If anyone in the Administration even used the terms "climate change" or "global warming," they were forced to clean up after Barney (the first family dog) for a week.* Ultimately, that's what pushed Christine Todd Whitman over the edge.** But in his 2007 address, President Bush found a way around this:

America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us be better stewards of the environment--and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of globalclimate change.

Chris Mooney was not impressed, and rightly so. Last year, President Obama's State of the Union speech disappointed greens, as Treehugger wrote, because of its lack of "visionary plans to tackle climate change in a meaningful way." In last night's address, passages mentioning climate change got downgraded from not visionary enough to non-existent. Or, as Time's Bryan Walsh target="_blank">puts it, this

State of the Union may be remembered as the moment when the White House stopped working on climate"”and started working on energy.

Over at Hell and High Water central, this news has not been received well. The troops are shocked and dejected at President Obama's public retreat. Whether they come around to the Administration's strategic decision to table the language of global warming and catastrophism in favor of clean energy rhetoric remains to be seen. Footnotes: * I made that shit up. **That too.

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