“We cannot afford more of the same timid politics when the future of our planet is at stake. Global warming is not a someday problem, it is now. We are already breaking records with the intensity of our storms, the number of forest fires,the periods of drought. By 2050 famine could force more than 250 million from their homes . . . . The polar ice caps are now melting faster than science had ever predicted. . . . This is not the future I want for my daughters. It’s not the future any of us want for our children. And if we act now and we act boldly, it doesn’t have to be.”

[Barack Obama, Portsmouth, NH, 10/8/07]

Is Obama’s environmental policy a real shift in the US attitude towards climate change?

LANGUAGE TOOLS FOR THE WRITING OF YOUR ESSAY

  1. Listing and categorizing useful words

ENVIRONMENT: clean energy, renewable energy, fight global warming, a cap-and-trade system (système de plafonnement et d’échange), reduce / curb emissions, reduction targets, match a target, corporate polluters, fuel-efficient cars, climate-friendly technology, drinking water standards, public health, wildlife,

 

POLICY: politicians, policy-makers, lobbies, a policy, implement / enforce a law, a comprehensive plan, a set / a pack of measures, address an issue, tackle a problem, make something a top priority, set targets, the implementation of, invest money in, commit oneself to doing, pledge to do, prioritize the use of clean energy, an incentive, play a leadership role in,  introduce legislation on, ban, support, be in favour of, be a staunch advocate of

CHANGE: an unprecedented decision, ambitious legislation, have the guts to do, a gutsy president, daring measures, an attempt to, undertake, an endeavour, a step towards, a tremendous increase in, a process underway, a meaningful / significant decrease in,

 

Giving examples:

Obama has committed himself to reducing emissions by increasing investment in basic research for instance.

Among the various measures Obama has encouraged are new standards to ensure less carbon intensive energy.

More environment-friendly sources of energy, such as solar, wind and geothermal energy, should be systematically encouraged.

Obama’s willingness to curb emissions is evidenced by his pledge to update standards on a regular basis. Solid evidence of Obama’s commitment to curbing emission is provided by his environmental agenda, i.e. the measures he announced during his campaign.

To back up our analysis we may quote several figures: buildings will have to improve their efficiency by 25 percent; all buildings will have to be neutral by 2030; last but not least, grants for green building should triple within 20 years.

New measures, like / such as consumer tax incentives, should allow more Americans to by efficient vehicles.

Fighting pollution may entail / imply developing public transportation for example, as well as increasing public expenditures devoted to mass transportation.

Writing an introduction:

An over-reaching introduction:

Environmental issues are increasingly pressing as man becomes more and more aware of the importance of natural resources in the economy of contemporary societies and of his reliance on the preservation of nature. Besides, the extinction of endangered species, partly due to global warming, deforestation and pollution, raises moral issues. In this respect, western countries are expected to challenge their relation with nature. The most industrialised, and the richest states should play a leading role in the preservation of nature. Now, the United States have long failed to spearhead eco-friendly policies.

 

Historical introduction:

 

In 1997, after signing the Kyoto protocol, 37 industrialized countries committed themselves to curbing greenhouse gases emissions. The United-States did not ratify the protocol and refused any legally-binding decision. Vice President Al Gore decided to sign the agreement but this was merely a symbolical step as the Senate refused the signature. President George W. Bush pitted the Kyoto Protocol against economic development and tended to emphasize the limits of scientific reports evidencing climate change. The position of the U.S. has raised a lot of dust, hence Obama’s position.

 

Topical introduction:

 

Obama has embodied change and hope for American voters and the whole world. As new targets were to be set after the Kyoto Protocol, his position was expected with much anxiety. During the campaign, Obama stressed his commitment to fighting climate change. As the Copenhagen summit represented a beacon of hope after the blatant failure of the Doha round of world trade talks, Obama was given an opportunity to prove the changing position of the U.S.

 

Rephrasing the question and announcing the organization of the argument:

Direct questions:

Yet, is Obama’s position different from Bush’s? Is he more committed to fighting climate change than Clinton? To what extent his discourse on environmental issues is a new step in the right direction?

Indirect questions:

We may none the less wonder whether Obama’s announcements constitute a sea change in American environmental policy.  

For all that, it is worth considering whether Obama’s policy will put the U.S. in a leadership position in environmental policies.

We are entitled to ask if there will be major changes in the position of the U.S.A.

No one really knows if Obama’s pledges will be followed by actual laws.

One may wonder to what extent Obama’s commitments will bring actual changes in the positions of the Senate.

Voters are sensitive to climate changes and prone to vote for candidates committed to addressing environmental issue; yet, once the campaign days are over, we may wonder if new measures will actually come into existence or if the promises will fall into oblivion.

Announcing the main ideas.

To go deeper into this issue, we shall first consider Bush’s reluctant to address environmental threats. We shall then focus on the main differences between Bush’s and Obama’s policy. Then, we shall deal with the obstacles that Obama will have to face.

 

Our analysis will be organized as follows: firstly, we shall concentrate on the fight against global warming and the international role of Obama’s administration; secondly, we shall examine the measures that Obama would like the government to vote to improve the situation in the U.S.; thirdly, we shall study Obama’s political clout on the States.

 

My first point will be about the differences between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to environmental issues. I shall then focus on the evolution between the Clinton and Obama presidencies. I will eventually show that Obama’s pledges are promising steps towards an international environmental policy.

 

Mind the use of tenses:

Assessing the results of the Obama administration so far :

The Obama administration has launched into a new, more efficient environmental policy and has made it clear that the fight against climate change is a serious issue. Obama has been acclaimed after pledging to put the US in a position of leadership on climate change. Obama has also prioritized emission reductions, he has announced the implementation of a cap-and-trade system, and has promised to create new incentives for fuel efficient vehicles.

Referring to decision that were made:

He appointed Nobel Prize Winner Steven Chu Energy Secretary. Obama declared a national goal of ending dependence on foreign oil.

Hinting at things that will be made:

Car makers will be encouraged to produce cleaner vehicles. Obama also intends to spur states to set up tougher emission targets.

Expressing contrasts

While Bush argued that environmental policies were detrimental to the economy, Obama explained that car makers could make more profits by making more fuel-efficient cars.

Unlike Bush, who refused to address pollution seriously, Obama has pledged to reduce carbon emission by 80% by 2050.

Obama created five million “green jobs” whereas Bush feared environmental policies would generate more unemployment.

Bush had left the States cope with environmental issue. Contrariwise, Obama would like federal law to give States a framework.

Obama will invest much more money in green policies than Bush.

Obama is far less influenced by industrial lobbies than Bush.

 

Here is one possible answer to the question. Observe how the active and the passive voices have been used.

 

Since Obama’s election, there has been a clear shift in the American environmental policy. Obama has already achieved some of his goals and seems anxious to go further. However, he will have to overcome many problems and to do with fierce opposition in the Senate.

First, one should acclaim Obama’s first achievements. Obama had a treaty on mercury adopted in 2009 and played a key role in the Copenhagen summit. While Bush had yielded to the pressure of industrial lobbies, Obama is confident that eco-friendly policies can kickstart the economy. He made it clear that it is possible to preserve both the environment and employment. Obama has imposed new standards to car-makers and house-builders alike and has invested money into research so as to encourage renewable energies. However, most of his environmental agenda is still unenforced.

Obama’s stimulus package will be opposed by many and his environmental agenda is likely to be undermined by Congress. Even if the fight against climate change has become a priority, it is made very fragile as Republicans are still holding many seats. Some of Obama’s key measure might be rejected and the funds allotted to clean energy might prove insufficient.