Conflicting messages inhibit efficiency of Obama’s call for international climate agreement

Alex Arevalo

What happens when the leader of the free world decides to shed light on climate change? For starters, a lot of confusion.

President Obama traveled to Alaska at the start of September in a measure to call for more stringent action regarding environmental policy. His timing was ironic given that, just two weeks prior to his Arctic visit, the Obama administration approved oil and gas drilling by multinational company Royal Dutch Shell.

The kicker? The drilling is set to take place just off of Alaska’s northwest coast in the Chukchi Sea.

While trying to build support for an international climate agreement, Obama has cited the increased use of fossil fuels as the primary cause of melting glaciers and rising sea levels. He’s even gone on to say that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”

Avid followers of environmental policy are left scratching their heads. Currently, just a third of the American population believes global warming is a serious problem. Meanwhile, only half of the American population thinks human activities are the driving force behind climate change. Further, a 2014 Gallup Poll saw that climate change did not make it into the top 14 issues that America deemed most important. For an issue with such little limelight, it’s disappointing that the president is voluntarily choosing to capitalize on public negligence. 

Despite the administration’s conflicting priorities, there are those who take the severity of the issue seriously. Geology professor Jay Banner said he believes global warming is one of the nation’s most pressing issues. 

“The leader of our country, the most important person in the world, says that climate change is a huge issue; how could anyone believe it’s anything but?” Banner said.

What exactly will it take for the presidential administration to lead the movement towards green energy? And how will the movement be taken seriously when the government continues to favor oil and gas companies, condemning complacency towards climate change?

The administration must recognize that although it is publicly acknowledging climate more than energy, the latter sector is harming the benefits of its environmental initiatives. The oil that Shell will drill in Alaska will add to the carbon emissions released by transportation, the leading activity responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.

With mounting apathy towards climate change, the administration must wholly dedicate themselves to firmer resolutions and proposals. If the United States chooses to put itself in a position of leadership, it must transform its urgent rhetoric into tangible action.

Alexandra Arevalo is a journalism freshman. Follow her on Twitter @alexparevalo3.