Obama Highlights Emerging Impacts of Climate Change, Calls for Energy Transformation and for Community Climate Preparedness

In his State of the Union address last night (12 February 2013), President Obama said that "for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change."  He pledged to "come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."  He said that "if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will." Lou Leonard, WWF’s head of climate change, responded: "It was encouraging to see President Obama connect the dots between extreme weather and dirty energy, and to be clear that he won't wait for Congress to act.  Cities and towns on the front lines of extreme weather can't afford more excuses from Washington."

In his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama said:

"After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we."

See the full transcript and the video excerpt below.

 

Lou Leonard, WWF’s head of climate change, responded to the President's address with the following statement:

“With the Northeast recovering from yet another extreme storm, tonight the President began to map out a course to help America navigate the dangers of our warming world. It was encouraging to see President Obama connect the dots between extreme weather and dirty energy, and to be clear that he won't wait for Congress to act. Cities and towns on the front lines of extreme weather can't afford more excuses from Washington.

“In the coming days and weeks, the President should zoom in further on specific next steps to create an all-hands-on-deck approach to moving this climate agenda forward during his second term. With the course set and solutions on the horizon, we must move quickly ahead.

"The President reminded us that the path ahead has two parallel – and equally important – tracks: preparing local communities for extreme weather and sea level rise, and reducing our nation’s reliance on dirty energy that fuels climate change.  

“The President already has the tools to advance common sense solutions that prepare local communities for extreme weather and help transition our economy to clean, renewable energy. Over the longer run, however, Congress needs to break the political gridlock around climate change, so we can get serious about pricing carbon pollution to pay for mounting climate costs

“The President also rightly expressed concerns about next year’s federal budget and looming sequestration. In a time of tightening budgets, we first need to stop spending on things that make our problems worse, like government tax breaks for oil companies. Instead, we need to adopt a sensible, targeted approach to reducing the deficit and avoid broad-based cuts that will unnecessarily harm our nation’s most important investments, including those for international conservation and climate funding.

“With smart, common-sense approaches, we can start seriously preparing for the risks ahead and investing in the cleaner, safer future for our children and grandchildren.”

Following the President's address, the White House released additional details in The President's Plan for a Strong Middle Class & a Strong America (White House, Feb 2013) [PDF]. The report says:

“[T]he United States must continue to take steps to reduce carbon pollution while also improving our ability to manage the climate impacts that are already being felt at home. The President has directed his cabinet to identify additional executive actions from across the administration to help reduce pollution, prepare our cities and nation for the worsening effects of climate change, and accelerate the transition to more sustainable sources of energy, which will be assessed if Congress does not take action.”

Online Resources:

Additional details are available in Addressing Climate Change,  a fact sheet (dtd 12 Feb 2013) produced by the White House and posted on the 2013 State of the Union Resources Web page of  the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

See also: In his Second Inaugural Address, President Obama says "We will respond to the threat of climate change."  WWF Climate Blog, 21 January 2013.

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