National Opinions

Can Obama make good on his pledge to slash carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by mid-century? YES!

President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to cut America's carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 -- a goal that most of the world's scientists believe is vital to avoid catastrophic global climate change.

In a recent video message to a U.S. Governors' Conference on global warming headed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Obama assured the governors of both parties that his administration will "engage vigorously" in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and confirmed that stopping climate change will be among his administration's highest priorities.

That goal will involve considerable sacrifice, but it is achievable.

Using the "bully pulpit" of the White House, Obama will be able to move Americans to make the lifestyle changes necessary to reduce drastically their currently oversized carbon footprint to a trimmer, energy-efficient size by mid-century.

With the Congress on his side, our eloquent new president will be able to follow through on the promises he made to the governors.

His aggressive plan to put the United States in the avant garde of global environmental leaders already has the support of key congressional committee leadership, including the new incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles.

Obama's plan, which will rely on a free-market oriented federal carbon cap and trade system, also foresees a cut in carbon emissions from U.S.-manufactured cars by 5 percent in 2015 and by 10 percent in 2020.

He likely will have the powerful leverage of a multibillion-dollar federal bailout to force Detroit's Big Three automakers to comply with his goals.

The U.S. carmakers -- who once stoutly resisted eco-friendly advances -- realize the guaranteed loans and other aid flowing from Washington depend on switching most of their production to electric, hybrid and flexible fuel vehicles.

The president-elect also told the governors that he will spend $15 billion a year to "catalyze a clean energy future" that will see a shift to solar, wind and new generation bio-fuels while also relying on clean coal and safe nuclear power.

That commitment, along with a pledge to create 5 million "green jobs" in America -- jobs that cannot be outsourced and will pay acceptable salaries -- should see Obama move steadily toward his goal of an 80 percent slash in carbon emissions by the half-century mark.

After eight years of the Bush administration discounting the threat of a rapidly warming planet, Obama is keenly aware that far too much valuable time already has been wasted.

"Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all," he told the governors. "Delay is no longer an option; denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high; the consequences too serious. Stopping climate change won't be easy and it won't happen overnight."

Obama's words are exactly the message a 21st century American president should be sending to his citizens, to all levels of government and to leaders of private industry.

It is a ringing declaration of world unity that leaders of other nations have not heard during the last eight years of the Bush and Cheney misadministration.

His vow to "make America greener and end the tyranny of oil" has been applauded around the globe and eases the way for meaningful U.S. participation at the coming U.N. summit on the environment next year in Copenhagen.

Obama's inspiring words are exactly what all who participate in reversing the pending catastrophe of climate change must hear and heed to save our Earth and make it inhabitable for its 6.3 billion humans and future generations.

Far from a mission impossible, it should be considered a quest that is sacrosanct.

If we are unsuccessful, our small planet almost surely will wither and die.

Wayne Madsen is a contributing writer to the progressive Online Journal (