From: Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM, More from this Affiliate
Published June 26, 2013 10:47 AM

After Long Wait, Obama Lays Out Fight Against Climate Change


Five years after being elected president and six months after winning a second term, President Obama today gave his first speech devoted solely to climate change and announced several executive actions to begin weaning the United States (historically the largest emitter of greenhouse gases) off fossil fuels. At Georgetown University today, Obama stated that his administration would expand renewable energy projects on federal lands, raise energy efficiency standards on appliances, and, most importantly, limit carbon pollution from both existing and new power plants, which represent about 40 percent of the U.S.'s emissions. Obama also noted that the U.S. would spearhead global efforts to combat climate change which is pushing sea levels higher, melting glaciers and sea ice, exacerbating fires, imperiling species, and worsening extreme weather worldwide.

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"I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing," the president told Georgetown students. But given widespread gridlock in Congress, Obama has had to turn to executive actions through the EPA, which the Supreme Court recently ruled has the jurisdiction to regulate carbon.

"I'm directing [Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)] to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants," the president said.

Obama's long-awaited plans and speech comes five years after the U.S. Senate failed to pass cap-and-trade legislation. Following the congressional failure, climate change was largely placed on the backburner for the administration until Obama's re-election last November. Surprising many, Obama made climate change a focal point of his second inauguration speech and his State of the Union, vowing to take action on the issue—which has been almost wholly ignored by his predecessors—if Congress failed.

"Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including by the way some who originally disputed the data, have now acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it," Obama said today, citing a recent study that confirmed--once again--that the vast majority of climatologists accept climate science.

Global temperatures have risen approximately 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.44 degrees Fahrenheit) over the last hundred years, but scientists expect temperatures to rise another 1.4 degrees Celsius to 5.2 degrees Celsius by 2100. Such rapid rises in global temperatures could decimate global agriculture, coastal cities, and many ecosystems.

Obama noted that his plans would come under fire from special interests and some politicians, who would argue that the actions would cripple the economy and devastate jobs. However, Obama said, that such assertions have been wrong in the past and that action on climate change will create new industrial sectors, produce clean energy jobs, and help America stay ahead in research and development.

In fact, the Speaker of the House John Boehner (Republican-Ohio) last week called Obama's plans, which had yet to be fully released, "absolutely crazy." Meanwhile three Republicans from Virginia called Obama's proposals a "war on coal," which would raise energy prices. Obama won Virginia last November by 3 percent.

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