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President Strengthens His Call for National Climate Action

Frances Beinecke

Posted February 13, 2013

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Click here to take actionOn Tuesday night, I had the honor of sitting in the House Chamber and hearing President Obama give a full-throated call for climate action in his State of the Union Address. “For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change,” he said.

He urged Congress to develop bipartisan legislation to promote clean energy and curb carbon emissions. But the president was unmistakably clear: “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.”

It was exhilarating to be in the “People’s House” and listen to the president commit to protecting Americans from the ravages of climate change. Many of the great debates of our time took place within these walls, including the deliberations that led to our bedrock environmental laws.

Yet even those esteemed lawmakers who passed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act could not have imagined the scale of the environmental threat now before us. Unchecked climate change endangers our environment, our communities, our health, and our economy. It demands a comprehensive approach, and President Obama laid out some of the most critical elements of such an approach on Tuesday night.

As the audience applauded the president’s call to climate action, I sensed the historic significance of this moment. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Midwestern drought, and the record breaking heat that consumed our nation, Americans of all walks of life agree we must tackle this challenge today. Now we have a president who is making the fight against climate change a central part of his second term and his legacy. With public momentum behind him, the president can make real and lasting progress.

And that progress will lead to a stronger nation. I thought it was significant that President Obama put climate action squarely within his plan for revitalizing our nation’s economy. Enhancing America’s manufacturing sector, producing energy that does not contribute to climate change, and revitalizing our infrastructure are opportunities that will lead to innovation and prosperity. This isn’t just about solving an environmental challenge; it’s about moving our country forward. 

It begins with reducing dangerous carbon pollution. The best tool the president has to achieve this is the Clean Air Act. The law gives him the authority to reduce carbon emission from power plants—the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gases. NRDC has laid out a flexible, cost-effective proposal for how the Environmental Protection Agency can use the Clean Air Act to cut these emissions by 26 percent by 2020 and generate an estimated $25 billion to $60 billion in health and climate benefits by 2020.

The president also said America must dramatically expand our abundant wind and solar energy resources, cut in half the amount of energy we waste in homes and business—a proposal that generated great enthusiasm throughout the House Chamber last night—and invest in low-carbon technologies. These are proven solutions that are already delivering clean energy and putting Americans to work. Wind energy now accounts for nearly half of all new installed energy capacity and more than 150,000 Americans have jobs building clean cars that go farther on a tank of gas. And according to the bipartisan Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy, doubling our energy efficiency over the next two decades would create 1.3 million jobs, reduce carbon pollution by one-third, and deliver more than $1,000 in annual savings for every U.S. household.

These are the building blocks of a sustainable energy future. The dirty fuels of the past have no place in that future. Producing tar sands oil, for instance, generates three times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude. To honor his climate commitments and move our country down a cleaner path, President Obama must reject the Keystone XL pipeline for dirty tar sands oil. We need an “all of the above” strategy to combat climate change, taking every step to reduce carbon pollution.

The American people have made it clear they want to move forward not back. Immediately after the State of the Union, Public Policy Polling conducted a survey for NRDC about the President’s remarks about climate change. Sixty-five percent of Americans think climate change is a serious or very serious problem, and 60 percent support the president using his authority to reduce dangerous carbon pollution.

More and more Americans are joining the chorus for climate action. You can add your voice by clicking here. Together, we can push for real change. A month ago I sat on the platform during the Inaugural Address and heard the president describe the urgent need to protect Americans from the ravages of climate change. Last night he confirmed his commitment. Now it’s time to put public support and concrete action behind those rousing words.

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Dale C. AndersonFeb 13 2013 05:33 PM

I disagree! Obama and his admin, has promoted a CO2 burning natural gas agenda, claiming it's being done for environmental protective purposes as a priority, as opposed to renewables, while the coal industries are mining coal and building railroads to sell it to India, China and Asia where there is much less regulation of pollution. So ZERO NET GAIN! His administration has consistently, including E.P.A. chief Lisa Jackson, promoted natural gas as an immediate alternative claiming it's being done for environmental protection as opposed to the ACTUAL reason gas is being pursued, which is because of the views within the oil and gas industry, that we are in the early stages of a "SPUTNIK" MOMENT. This is about MONEY! This President and his administration is now wed to the natural gas industry and hence we still burn CO2 while one party does zero. But hey the only people who care are considered WHACKOS by the rest of politics and society. I'm at the point where i don't think i care any more. WHAT A JOKE! Even Beinecke supports this garbage. I'm going to QUIT the NRDC! WHAT A JOKE-SUPPORTING OBAMA AND THIS ADMINISTRATION! They stink! The only hope is the young kids. They will have to clean up the mess of an irresponsible series of generations. Honor thy father and mother my ......!

rosalie hellerFeb 14 2013 03:45 PM

This is very deceptive as the president is pushing for the pipeline, which will do untold harm to the environment. Listen to this mornings podcast of Democracy Now . I so disgusted! Talk is cheap and Obama is timid!!

James Singmaster, III, Ph.D.Feb 15 2013 03:04 AM

Three actions are needed as nothing proposed by NRDC will get us going energy and CO2 negative AND THAT IS WHAT WE HAVE TO DO.
The first action is to MAKE THE SUN OUR SOLE ENERGY SOURCE and forget growing biofuels, CCS nonsense, nuclear energy or we will have more environmental messes. Reports in in several science journals indicate that we are entering the HYDROGEN AGE by getting that gas via splitting water with a catalyst and sunlight. Hydrogen fueled buses are already running in Berkeley area as well as some cars. Those vehicles will have no CO2 emissions and no catalytic muffler problems.
The second action is to MAKE BIOWASTES including separate sewage solids into a resource by pyrolyzing them. THE HUGE BONUS with pyrolysis is the destroying of germs, toxics and drugs so that we will not have to spend perhaps 5% of our GNP on mishandling them into dumps only to end up with those hazards polluting our water supplies, and biodegrading to reemit GHGs.
The third action is to revive the CCC program to get trees planted to recapyure CO2 and some sun energy. Dead trees and later mature trees can be harvested in a regulated manner with replanting being done. Harvested trees can be pyrolyzed to a renewable fuel or raw materials to use to make detergents, etc. without oil. The charcoal formed can be used to smelt iron ore in place of messy soft coal, which when burned is a major source of mercury pollution.
More details on these actions have been posted by me previously here. NRDC ought to be pushing these actions as they will do much more for our kids' futures than unending diatribes against fracking and coal plants. We need to get real programs for environmental recivery going that will do much more than just hoping for some benefit from stopping bad programs. Dr. J. Singmaster, Fremont, CA

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