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Obama Reaffirms Commitment to Climate Action in State of the Union

Frances Beinecke

Posted January 29, 2014

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Click here to take actionPresident Obama forcefully reaffirmed his commitment to curbing carbon pollution in the State of the Union Address last night.  He said unequivocally that climate change poses significant threats to our environment, our health, and our economy.

“Climate change is a fact,” he said. “And when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

The single most important thing we can do to confront climate change is reduce carbon pollution from power plants. Last night, President Obama reiterated his commitment to have the Environmental Protection Agency implement those carbon pollution limits.

This is an historic turning point. Power plants kick out 40 percent of the carbon pollution in our country. The U.S. limits mercury, arsenic, and soot from power plants. And yet, astonishingly, there are no national limits on how much carbon these plants can dump into our atmosphere. That’s not right, and the president intends to fix it.

The EPA is scheduled to release draft standards for existing power plants in June that must deliver deep reductions here at home and set the stage for U.S. climate leadership abroad. In the coming months, NRDC will rally public support for strong standards and make sure the administration meets its deadlines.

On Tuesday, President Obama connected these carbon standards and a host of clean energy policies to his ongoing effort to fight climate disruption. Yet our nation can’t lead on climate change if we perpetuate our dependence on fossil fuels at the same time,

While the president’s speech touted natural gas, his administration is still not addressing the human impacts of the shale gas boom. One in 20 Americans now lives within a mile of an oil or gas fracking site, and many towns are struggling with contaminated water supplies, health concerns, and gutted property values that can follow in fracking’s wake.

The president called for strengthening standards that protect our air, water, and communities from unchecked natural gas development. That sounds good, but the president has said the same thing before.  It’s time to deliver, and there’s much that he can do without waiting for Congress. For starters, he could make sure his administration strengthens the weak standards it has proposed for fracking on public lands.  As of now, that proposal allows companies to keep fracking chemicals secret and store contaminated wastewater in open-air pits prone to leaking. No additional fracking should be permitted on public lands until strong standards are in place.  And there is still no timetable for standards to curb the massive leakage of heat-trapping methane up and down the gas system.

The safer world President Obama wants to leave our children can’t be built on polluting energy production. He needs to reject projects that would vastly expand the production of the dirtiest fuels, particularly the proposed Keystone XL pipeline for dirty tar sands oil.

These actions would build on the president’s robust clean energy successes. Last night he celebrated breakthroughs in energy efficiency and renewable power. Jobs in the solar industry expanded 20 percent over the 14-month period ending in November, and now nearly 143,000 Americans work for solar companies. The fuel efficiency standards the president issued last year will cut carbon pollution from new cars in half by 2025 and save consumers $1.7 trillion at the gas pump. President Obama has pledged to build on these successes and bring clean energy benefits to more Americans.

But as the president said in his address, we must act with urgency. Climate change is already threatening our communities with supercharged storms, drought, and heat waves. If we don’t move forward now, our children will suffer the consequences.

We can build a safer, more stable world. We do it by cutting carbon pollution, curbing dangerous energy production, and shifting from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy solutions.   That’s the way to break our addiction to all fossil fuels—including natural gas. President Obama declared his commitment to that future, and NRDC will help work to support it.  It won’t be easy, but we all have a moral obligation to do so—for ourselves, for our children, and for our planet.

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Matthew ShoreJan 29 2014 02:15 PM

While I agree on building a safer environment for our children, there are many corporations and people who will make it as hard as possible to pass new regulations. Politics is a very delicate and complicated thing and most of the times a person goes into with the best intentions only to be crushed by having to play the game of politics.

In order to cut carbon pollution and the like, we need to change how these policies get passed and once that happens, a lot more beneficial policies for the world can be passed without people with power and contradicting viewpoints to meddle in the government's affairs.

Jack WolfJan 29 2014 02:44 PM

Potus should have said children rather than children's children, especially since he has done nothing except expand fossil fuel production. I refuse to go ra-ra for him in light of the fact we face a 7 degree rise by 2050. We won't have any children's children to worry about at those temperatures.

He, and the NRDC, are in serious denial. Not surprising since you both depend on financial support from the industries that do us harm. Frankly, the climate situation is so bad, I consider that blood money.

Sid AbmaJan 29 2014 03:19 PM

The country is being told to increase it's energy efficiency, because it is good for the environment and the economy.
Why does America allow it's largest energy consumers to blow all this heat energy into the atmosphere? Utilize it. Turn it into a profit stream.

The DOE is spending a lot of money on Carbon Capture Sequestration. bury it underground and hope it stays there?

Carbon Capture Utilization can transform this CO2 into profit streams.

It's time for the EPA and the DOE to look over the edge of the box for options.
Do we want to make a difference. Yes we can!

GuthrumJan 30 2014 10:04 AM

Headlines: "Scientists Predicting Ice Age" (HP)
"Solar Pattern May Trigger Mini Ice Age"

Michael BerndtsonJan 30 2014 12:01 PM

I listened to Obama's speech on the radio. Pictured Joe Biden sitting behind him playing with a model 1977 Pontiac Trans Am in my minds eye. Quietly going vroom vroom. Seriously, Obama's speech was good and discussed all that needs to be discussed. He can't really use the State of the Union address to scold. Even if our government and industry leaders need a good scolding on environmental protection.

The US government through NOAA and the international community through IPCC are pretty much done with investigation on climate change. The results are not good for future generations. Recommendations for future work have been made. The ball's in enforcement (government) court to start doing something. EPA and state agencies are all but hogtied by industry and interest groups.

So let's throw the ball in leaders of industry and interest groups court to do something. Once the Chamber of Commerce, all those conservative non profits and CEOs of giant corporations say, "hey, it's time to take climate change acceleration seriously and to go back to protecting the environment," public opinion on taking action will turn on a dime in support of doing something. Most people's opinion is not based on reading the last IPCC report or drinking water maximum concentration limits (MCLs). It's based on their 401K balance.

Our leaders are afraid of liability. And the existential dread borne from self reflection on being the ones responsible for ruining God's creation. Well, except for 50 something petroleum engineers working in EVP positions at oil and gas companies. Self reflection isn't in their wheelhouse. Many are just feel blessed from having a kitted out Ford F250 crewcab with leather seats and a McMansion in the exurbs of Houston.

Environmental NGOs shouldn't be mollycoddling like they do. Family trusts and corporate profits may be safe using "breakthroughs and common sense approaches to environmental protection." The world won't.

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