Bloomberg Forces Obama’s Hand On Climate Change

If Sandy pushed climate change back into the conversation, Bloomberg is making sure it’s there to stay. “Let’s see if [Obama] builds the Keystone pipeline now,” says McKibben.

Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

Even if Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Obama endorsement holds little sway over undecided voters in swing states — as some pundits and media types have already argued on Twitter — environmentalists see the endorsement as a crucial turning point in the climate change discussion.

Bloomberg has been a fierce critic of both President Obama and Romney throughout the 2012 election cycle. He told the New York Times last month that he was more likely to agree with Obama than Romney on issues like climate change, but noted that he had not seen enough “action” from the President.

“It’s nice to be on the side that I think you should be on,” Bloomberg said, “but unless you do something, so what?”

This endorsement may be Bloomberg’s call to action. Obama’s second term agenda on climate change is unclear, but many environmentalists argue that the federal Environmental Protection Administration could push aggressive carbon regulations even without congressional approval. And if Obama wins re-election, it will make the issue very difficult for him to continue to downplay as he had in his first term, whose key priorities were the economy and health care.

“This is big moment,” author and environmentalist Bill McKibben told BuzzFeed. “The president will be swept into office in part because people expect him to do something about climate change. Let’s see if he builds the Keystone pipeline now.”

Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said the endorsement will the next president — whether Romney or Obama — recognize climate change “as the number one threat to the country.”

“I commend Mayor Bloomberg for recognizing the candidate who has done more for clean energy than any other president before him,” said Tidwell, “but we all need to do more. The mayor of a city that was hit by an an astounding storm has clearly expressed that view.”

Citing the coverage of climate change this week — specifically, Thursday’s Bloomberg Businessweek that said, loudly, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid” — Kalee Kreider said, “It’s a big week on the issue of climate change.”

Kreider, a director at Fenton, and a former environmental advisor and communications director to Vice President Al Gore, added that the endorsement “acknowledges that a candidate’s position on climate change really is a proxy for leadership.”

“Between the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek, the endorsement by Mayor Bloomberg, the inclusion of climate in the TIME cover story on the Superstorm, and other major TV coverage,” said Fenton, “it’s clear that the lemonade out of the lemon of Sandy is a return to focus on serious issues like climate change in public life.”

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