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Obama ushers in a climate of hope

Here is one of my favourite parts of President Obama's inauguration speech this morning:

"Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

"What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply."

In other words, "Yes, we can!"

In other words, those who still subscribe to the view that politics is a slow game which cannot move quickly are wrong. Just like the climate, politics can reach tipping points which trigger great change at extraordinary speed, leaving in its wake those who are still playing the old game.

Today we can finally have some hope that the world will do what it takes to prevent the global catastrophe that would be runaway climatic disruption. In President Obama, we have a global leader who recognises the scale of the threat we face and is gearing up his country for far greater change than even they may expect.

Another of my favourite quotes from this morning's speech is Obama's slap at those who undermined civil liberties as part of the ‘war on terror':

"we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals"

You can read in this equally that, in President Obama, we finally have a global leader who rejects as false the choice between our economy and our environment. Obama seizes instead the tremendous potential of rebuilding the stagnating American economy with a green stimulus plan. He is starting today on the project of creating five million new jobs with a plan that puts science and innovation back at the heart of government, that will support a massive uptake of renewable energy, and that will deliver possibly the single largest energy efficiency retrofitting project in world history.

Obama's soaring rhetoric is inspiring, but what is more exciting still is that he has surrounded himself with cabinet nominees who are American and global leaders in this field.

Energy Secretary designate, Steve Chu, is a nobel prize winning physicist who has spear-headed research, development and commercialisation of renewable energy and energy efficiency and is openly sceptical of the potential of geosequestration. He calls for the transformation of America's energy infrastructure and knows how it can be done. As a Chinese American, there are reports that Chu has already made a big impression in China and could lead a new cooperative venture across the two countries towards sustainable energy.

Labor Secretary designate, Hilda Solis, is one of America's leading political champions of green jobs, author of the as yet unfunded ‘Green Jobs Act' and an inspiring and passionate speaker on the issue.

Perhaps most excitingly, Obama has nominated John Holdren as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Holdren is a brilliant and passionate environmentalist, campaigner against nuclear proliferation, and scientist who, since 2005, has led the world-renowned Woods Hole Research Center.

There are certainly a few disappointing nominees in the mix as well, but then there is the factor that, for the first time in living memory, America have a President who, because of the way he campaigned and was elected, is answerable not to the big money and the big corporations, but to the countless millions of individuals who put him where he is. And, furthermore, a President who has built a massive active constituency whom he can mobilise at short notice to campaign on his behalf, spread his message, and bring America with him as he goes.

The overwhelming feeling is that Obama can deliver an extraordinary shift in America, and thus the world. Perhaps this is the moment we've been waiting for.


Yes, we can!

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