This was a terrific and historic speech, by far the best address on climate by any president ever.
I applaud the new measures announced by President Barack Obama this afternoon to help solve the climate crisis – particularly the decision to limit global warming pollution from existing as well as new power plants.
Following the important pledges he made in both his inaugural address and State of the Union speech earlier this year, and the historic gains in renewable energy and fuel efficiency that the President delivered in his first term, the policy changes he announced today represent important steps forward in the battle to halt catastrophic climate disruption. Most importantly, President Obama has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to establish regulations on the amount of global warming pollution existing fossil fuel plants can pour into our atmosphere.
This action – if followed by skillful and thorough execution of the plan – has the potential to fundamentally alter the course of our nation’s energy infrastructure development and help to promote a sustainable future. On the international front, this action will bolster U.S. credibility and moral authority in negotiations with other countries.
After the country’s hottest year on record, the record melting of the arctic ice cap and disruption of the Northern Hemisphere jet stream and storm track, a crippling drought and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage from climate-related extreme weather events over just the past two years, we are already paying the price of carbon pollution. It is clear that bold and comprehensive action is needed now.
President Obama’s proposals are in keeping with the current political reality; inaction and denial have consumed Congress. But the climate crisis requires a new political reality: one marked by a willingness to accept solutions commensurate with the challenge.
I hope the President's speech will be followed up by a decision to make this challenge a centerpiece of his leadership during his remaining three and a half years in office. The hard truth is that the maximum that now seems politically feasible still falls short of the minimum necessary to actually solve the climate crisis. Continued and constant use of the bully pulpit, determined follow-through on the steps announced today, and additional steps in the months ahead can change the political reality and build a bipartisan consensus for the broader changes that are needed urgently.
As President Obama said today, history will judge the present generation by our success or failure in meeting and surmounting this existential challenge.
So I urge the nation to follow President Obama’s lead and take the positive steps he announced today, but to keep fighting. We’ve got a lot more work to do.