How does American politics see climate change?

United States

Dennis Tänzler

To person

Dipl.-Pol., M.A., born 1973; Head of Climate and Energy Policy at Adelphi, Caspar-Theyss-Straße 14a, 14193 Berlin. [email protected]

By rejecting a comprehensive legislative package in 2010, Congress narrowed Obama's climate policy ambitions early on. In order to implement fundamental changes, new social alliances are required.


With the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States in November 2008, there were also far-reaching hopes for climate policy. The presidency of the "Messiah of Modernity" [1] was intended to bring about progress in American as well as international climate policy. Since the United States withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol under President George W. Bush in 2001, pioneers at the state level or in the cities have provided major climate policy impulses. The international climate negotiations waited in vain for a signal as to which alternative paths the USA would take to achieve the necessary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The beginnings of Obama's presidency were promising: the outlines of a program became clear to embark on a path in the USA that would lead to a transformation of the energy systems and towards a low-carbon society. At the same time, efforts became apparent to return the country to the table of climate negotiations after years of abstinence and to take on a constructive role there. One year before the end of Obama's first term, however, there is a clear gap between aspiration and reality. And the prospects that this will change in the coming years are anything but rosy, and not just from the point of view of a possible election defeat for the incumbent. The interim climate policy assessment of the Obama presidency shows that all social forces must be pooled in order to bring about changes in the political conflict landscape in the USA after 2012.