Bill McKibben addresses in an op-ed this Sunday whether President Obama is willing or able to take on climate change--my guess is that the answer is politically complicated, but I think the president "gets it".
Check out the whole op-ed here. McKibben makes a great point regarding the differences between other political moments and the climate change issue:
Societal change usually happens slowly, even once it's clear there's a problem. That's because, in a country as big as the United States, public opinion moves in leisurely currents. Change often requires going up against powerful, established interests, and it can take decades for those currents to erode the foundations of our special-interest fortresses. Think civil rights, gay marriage, equal rights for women.
Even facing undeniably real problems — say, discrimination against gay people — one can make the case that gradual change is the best option. Had some mythical liberal Supreme Court declared, in 1990, that gay marriage was now the law of the land, the backlash might have been swift and severe.
With climate change, however, there simply isn't time to waste. It's not a fight, like gay marriage, between conflicting groups with conflicting opinions. It's a fight between human beings and physics. And physics is entirely uninterested in human timetables. Physics couldn't care less if precipitous action raises gas prices or damages the coal industry in swing states. It couldn't care less whether putting a price on carbon slowed the pace of development in China or made agribusiness less profitable.One of the major problems that Obama's presidency has had is that whenever he takes anything on, the right-wing goes screaming. I think it drastically impairs the ability to have a reasoned discussion on anything, no matter how manifestly important it is, and he downplays both rhetorical and policy-related emphasis to prevent, I don't know what to call it, besides "psychotic fugue from reality" in those on the other side of the issue. I do hope, however, that in just the way Obama circumvented Congress to accomplish at least parts of the Dream Act, he will find ways of going around them on this issue as well. (I know, I'm showing my advanced certificate in Applied Obamabotics, but the whole "having a second term to work with thing" has got me hopeful.)