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Global Ideas Reporter | Ideas

Barack Obama on Climate Change

Barack Obama (Photo: CC BY 2.0: Pete Souza/Ethan Bloch/

You might know the situation when politicians are talking and you are just wondering, whether the “facts” they name are actually true and how they fit into a larger context? That’s how we felt, when we read the statements of US presidential candidates during the pre-election period concerning climate change. It’s custom that candiates are asked 14 questions from American scientific community and one of those questions always addresses climate change (which wasn’t really subject to election campaigns). This year the question for re-elected President Barack Obama and his rival Mitt Romney was the following:

The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change—and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?

As the US are economically and environmentally quite powerful country, it really matters what the future president’s standing is. So we grabbed three statements of each candidate and had a look what’s behind it.


Barack Obama: “Since taking office I have established historic standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history”

Limiting greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles goes back to an initiative of California. They want to achieve an emission reduction of 30 percent by 2016. When Obama took office 2009, he planned to realize these plans for all states. But so far, only 15 of 50 states have adopted to CA standards.

Transportation accounts with 29 percent for the second largest share of GHG emissions in the states. The largest share is energy production with 34 percent. But also here, new limits have to be realized, as the New York Times writes: “New power plants will have to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of energy produced”.

To see which amount of GHG emission has which impact on global warming, you can follow this scientific study that gives you a variety of projections.

Bottom line for this statement: It’s true what Obama is saying, though it might be a little overstated, as not all states have adopted to CA standards yet.

Barack Obama: “My administration has made unprecedented investments in clean energy”

Indeed, the United States have been the state with most investments in clean energy in 2011. Compared to 2010, the county invested 42 percent more money, raising the whole amount to 48.1 billion Dollar. Whether you are interested in your country’s profile, you can flick through the whole report – which also provides comparisons between different countries.

Bottom line: Simply right.

Barack Obama: “Since I took office, the U.S. is importing an average of 3 million fewer barrels of oil every day, and our dependence on foreign oil is at a 20-year low.”

In the first place this sounds like really good news – but in the second place, it is relevant which is the total amount – whether these three million barrels are a small or large fractions. The total amount of crude oil that was imported into the U.S. on average each day in 42nd calendar was  8.8 millionen barrel per day.

Next step was to find data to retrace oil import per day in previous years, to check how much oil was imported each day in 2009  – you can look it up in this graphic bare numbers are the following

Million barrels per day
2010 9,213
2011 8,935

It won’t be only the math-wizards among us that might recognize that the difference between 9.01 and 8.8 million is not 3 million barrel oil.

At this point we were confused: Either Mr Obama did not tell the truth – or we just grabbed the “wrong” numbers. Perhaps someone of you can provide a source with the “correct” numbers Obama is referring to?

In general, it might be a good idea not only to reduce imported oil, but also to reduce overall oil consumption as 22 percent of the world’s oil supply is consumed in the US. In the U.S. 18.8 million barrel oil are consumed each day (in the European Union, it is 13,6 million barrell).

This approach might also help to lower the US’s dependance on oversea oil: Researchers found out, U.S. could be independant within 15 years.

Bottom line: Couldn’t find this to be true.

If you are now fear that better Romney should have been elected for president – feel relieved. From climate-statement-perspective this would even have been worse.


November 8, 2012