Global Warming and Renewable Energy Highlighted in Inaugural Address

So, the 44th president of the United States has spoken. And what he said will please many supporters of science. Likewise, without explicitly mentioning the environment, president Barack Obama made it clear in his inaugural address today that the US needs to tackle global warming and switch to renewable sources of energy.

The speech will also please internationalists who feel that the US has lost touch with the rest of the world.

Significantly for a US president, but less surprising given his African heritage, Obama called on Americans to reach out to and help the world's poorest citizens, clearly referring to the humanitarian and agricultural crises in parts of Africa.

But the nod to open science will be most welcome, given the political and ideological interference of his predecessor, who obstructed stem cell research and only grudgingly accepted that humans are driving climate change.

"We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost," said Obama.

In his next sentence, he committed Americans to break their love affair with oil. "We will harness the Sun and the winds and soil to fuel our cars and run our factories," he said.

Later, he reinforced this promise, saying "we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the spectre of a warming planet."

This, he said, would require Americans to make sacrifices, presumably driving less and consuming energy, water and other resources more thriftily. "Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed," he said.

Finite resources

Then, in a vow to help the world's poor, he reminded Americans that the world's resources are finite, and can't be consumed excessively without damaging others and the planet:

"To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds," said Obama. "And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect," he warned. "For the world has changed, and we must change with it."

Whether this will mean more money for agricultural research in poorer countries remains to be seen. Recently, the US threatened to withdraw money from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an institutional lynchpin for such research.

Likewise, it may mean that Obama will lift George W Bush's moratorium on funding international projects in family planning. That could provide funds for abortion and contraception abroad. Again, both are key to enabling women to take charge of their lives and take steps themselves to limit the size of their families to what they can manage.

No more freeloading

Closer to home, Obama promised to try and tackle the country's healthcare crisis, at a time when a third of Americans lack basic healthcare insurance. "Our health care is too costly; our school fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our enemies and threaten our planet."

Obama also hinted strongly that he wants America to become a less frivolous, more sober country, less obsessed with selfishness greed and more willing to fulfil duties to others rather than insist on rights.

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