President Barack Obama said last month he would allow oil companies to drill for oil and natural gas along parts of the US coastline that have been closed to exploration for years. Wasn't Obama supposed to be a more environmentally friendly president?
Obama's decision is an example of how politics play a role in solving climate change and environmental problems.
Obama's proposal would open about 67 million hectares of ocean floor along America's East Coast that have been off limits for oil exploration for years. It would also allow for drilling in large parts of the Arctic which have until now been restricted.
The goal of all this is to reduce US dependence on imported oil, generate money for the government from oil exploration and gain political support for new energy and climate laws. That last point is probably the most important reason why Obama has made this announcement.
Obama wants to introduce stricter energy laws that would require cleaner cars and more alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power. But these moves are unpopular with his political opponents who tend to support oil companies. Obama hopes that by allowing oil companies to drill in "prohibited" areas, his rivals will support his plans to introduce stricter environmental and energy laws. It's a complicated and high stakes game of "I scratch your back, you scratch mine". Obama risks angering his supporters in the environmental movement, while there is no guarantee he'll get support for his climate change laws.
It's important to understand the role politics play in climate change. There were thousands of protesters at last year's Copenhagen summit, calling on their politicians to make laws to protect the environment. So why didn't they do it? Hong Kong's air pollution is very bad, and we know how to fix it. Yet, why are our leaders doing very little to solve the problem?
Besides the people on the street, politicians also listen to corporations who pay billions of dollars in taxes. Most corporations don't want stricter laws on the environment because they're afraid it will hurt their profits. If you understand the politics behind climate change problems, you will be in a better position to support those who can make positive changes.
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Cameron is available to speak to primary and secondary students about environmental and climate change issues as well as his recent Arctic sailing expedition. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org