Morning Joe, 1/21/13, 7:00 PM ET

Scarborough: POTUS appeased base, potentially made GOP look out-of-touch

Top Talkers: The Morning Joe panel – including Bloomberg News' Al Hunt, former RNC Chair Michael Steele, the BBC's Katty Kay and Mike Barnicle – discusses...

Climate change: the Obamacare of the second term

Updated

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” President Obama said in his inaugural address Monday. The address devoted more sentences to the environment more than any other specific subject. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

In that, former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele said the president indicated that climate change would be a crucial part of his second term legacy.

“When I heard that line, what struck me is this is the Obamacare of the second administration” Steele said. “Climate change is going to be the sleeping dog issue that he is going to fashion and put into play, maybe a total package or piecemeal, but I think that’s going to be part of the second term legacy.”

Many assume that social issues would take a central stage in the second term, as Obama came out in favor of gay equality, against guns, and in favor of sweeping immigration reform. While those may also play a role in second-term agenda, Steele believes it’ll be climate change that has the greatest effect.

“It’s not going to be so much the social stuff that a lot of people, certainly in the conservative movement concern themselves with, it’s going to be the bigger idea that falls into that broader vision,” Steele said. “He reformed 1/6 of the nation’s economy with healthcare. Now he’s going to go to the next level with global change in the environment.”

According to the New York Times, the pledge will be more cautious, but more direct than his efforts in his first term.

After coming to office four years ago on a pledge to heal the planet and turn back the rise of the seas, he is proceeding cautiously this time, Democrats said, intent on making sure his approach is vetted politically, economically and technologically so as not to risk missing what many environmental advocates say could be the last best chance for years to address the problem.

The centerpiece will be action by the Environmental Protection Agency to clamp down further on emissions from coal-burning power plants under regulations still being drafted — and likely to draw legal challenges.

Climate change: the Obamacare of the second term

Updated