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Obama to Unveil a National Vision to Fight Climate Change

Frances Beinecke

Posted June 22, 2013 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, U.S. Law and Policy

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For months, President Obama has been promising to take action on climate change. On Tuesday, he'll unveil his vision, "a national plan," he said Saturday, "to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change and lead global efforts to fight it."

No way I'm missing this speech.

 

Climate change is the central environmental crisis of our time.

It is taking a grievous and growing toll on our country, threatening our people and imperiling our future.

The single most important thing we can do about it is to set limits - for the first time ever - on the dangerous carbon pollution from our power plants. The time to do that is now.

In the United States, power plants account for about 40 percent of the carbon pollution that is driving climate chaos and extreme weather events.

And yet, there are no federal limits on the amount of carbon that can be spewed into our atmosphere by power plants - our biggest carbon polluters.

The Clean Air Act gives the president the authority, and the responsibility, to set limits on this pollution.

After all, we don't allow power plants to dump unlimited amounts of sulfur, mercury, arsenic and soot in the air. Why should they be able to choke our air with the dangerous carbon pollution that's driving climate change?

It's almost as if we dropped speed limits for tractor trailers.

That just doesn't make sense. It's time to get this right. The price of inaction is simply too high.

Last year alone, American taxpayers doled out nearly $100 billion to cover the consequences of extreme weather made worse by climate change. That comes to right at $1,100 per taxpayer to cover things like crop losses, wildfires, disastrous flooding and storms.

The president understands we can't just sit on our hands and watch those costs soar ever higher while our climate crisis grows worse.

Not when there's something we can do about it.

"This is serious challenge," he said, "but it's one uniquely suited to America's  strengths."

American scientists, engineers, farmers and manufacturers are second to nobody else in the world.

Together, we can reduce our reliance on energy sources that generate carbon pollution.

We can invest, as a nation, in efficiency, so we can do more with less.

We can advance our use of wind, solar and other renewable sources of power.

We can build the clean energy economy of tomorrow, while making American companies more competitive at home and creating global markets for our low-carbon technologies abroad.

I don't know what the president will tell us on Tuesday. If his climate plan rises to the challenge we face, it will mark a historic turning point for the future of this country, and the fate of our planet.

One thing I know for certain: this is a moment of national promise, a time to do what this country has always done best: roll up our sleeves, pull together as one and solve a common problem for the good of us all.

"There's no single step that can reverse the effects of climate change. But when it comes to the world we leave our children, we owe it to them to do what we can," Obama said Saturday. "This is a challenge that affects everyone, and we all have a stake in solving it together."

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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