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Tim Wirth scolds Obama for lack of action on climate change

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Environmental leaders who ardently supported Barack Obama in 2008 haven't had much to celebrate in the past three years, as key pieces of legislation dealing with climate change and controls on the energy industry have been scuttled, diluted or delayed -- by a bad economy, an increasingly intransigent Congress, and infighting within the Obama camp. But they've managed to keep their disappointment fairly quiet, not wanting to alienate the administration.

Until recently.

Following the general lack of consenus acheived at yet another international conference on global warming in Durban, South Africa, earlier this month, United Nations Foundation president Tim Wirth vented a bit last week in an interview with ClimateWire, blasting the President for failing to take the initiative in the debate.

"I don't know who and where the climate leadership in the administration is," the former Colorado senator said. "It doesn't exist. There is no resolve in the Obama administration to do anything, and I think they look at Congress and say, 'We can't do anything, so why break our pick now?'"

A key shaper of environmental legislation in the 1980s who's remained keenly involved in issues ranging from clean energy to fighting expansion of the Army's Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, Wirth believes the time for substantive action to reduce man-made catastrophic warming is running out. If Obama is re-elected, he told ClimateWire, the president will have a "last window of opportunity" to enact policies that could prove meaningful.

"If we don't do it now," he said, "we are committing the world to a drastically different place."

Wirth stopped short of calling for sweeping government intervention in carbon emissions, such as the failed cap-and-trade legislation of 2010. He would, however, like to see the administration build on polls that indicate most Americans accept the science behind climate change scenarios and support taking action, through greater energy efficiency measures and development of alternative fuels.

"There's no magic moment, and there's no magic bullet, just basic coalition-building," he said.

That's assuming, of course, that the man in charge of the nation a year from now is someone willing to take his calls.

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