Tuesday, June 25, 2013

President Obama Unveils 'Climate Action Plan'

As part of new federal push, Department of Agriculture will create "Regional Climate Hubs" and farmers will grow fuel...
Washington, DC:  Speaking at Georgetown University in 90+ degree heat, President Obama on Tuesday afternoon unveiled his long-promised plan to combat climate change, saying he has little "patience for anyone who denies that this problem is real."

"We don't have time for a meeting of the flat-Earth society," President Obama said. "Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it's not going to protect you from the coming storm."

"The planet is warming.  Human activity is contributing to it."

His shirtsleeves rolled up, the President addressed a crowd of more than 200, primarily students, as he stood in front of the Old North building and announced a series of actions he first declared he would pursue during this year's State of the Union Address.  He said he understands that "the politics will be tough," but that opposition must be overcome.

"The decisions that we make now and in the years ahead will have a profound impact on the world that all of you inherit," President Obama told the cheering Hoyas.

"I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing."

The President's 21-page Climate Action Plan includes leading global efforts to address climate change; building cars that burn less fuel; cutting energy waste from homes and businesses; and reducing carbon pollution with new regulations that will cover new and existing power plants.  

There will be a job-creating focus on retooling the energy sector to boost the use of wind, solar, and biofuels, among other directives, which also include helping communities prepare for superstorms, wildfires, and drought.  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack attended the President's speech; his agency will have a special role.

The President said he will direct the Environmental Protection Agency to write draft rules within the next year for carbon pollution, with the expectation that these will be completed by June of 2015.

The "overwhelming judgement of science, of chemistry, of physics, and millions of measurements" puts "to rest" any questions about pollution having an effect on the environment, President Obama said.

"We know that the costs of these events can be measured in lost lives and lost livelihoods," President Obama said, noting that the twelve warmest years in recorded history have all come within the last fifteen years.  

The President said that higher tide levels in New York increased the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, while record temperatures led to last year's drought, killing crops and increasing food prices in the Midwest.  His Administration  is partnering with states and the private sector to address this, the President said.

USDA's plan of action...
Under the President's plan, the Department of Agriculture will be creating seven "Regional Climate Hubs" to "deliver tailored science-based knowledge" to farmers and ranchers.  

The hubs will be established for the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Pacific Northwest, and Southwest, and "will serve as a source of regional data and interpretation of climate change forecasts for hazard and adaptation planning for agriculture and natural resource management," USDA said. 

Among other interventions, USDA has also released the "Carbon Management and Evaluation Tool," aka COMET-FARM, a free online tool that will help producers calculate how much carbon their land's soil and vegetation can remove from the atmosphere. 

Farmers will also be growing crops in the push to combat climate change, the President said.

"We’ll need farmers to grow new fuels," he said. 

The focus on fuel crops goes along with the President's plans for further investing in wind and solar power, to spur a movement away from coal power, which the President rebuked on a global level.  This part of the plan had Republican Congressional leadership, including House Speaker John Boehner, in an uproar about the President's "war on coal" before he delivered his speech.

The President also said the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline should only be approved if the project would not "significantly exacerbate" greenhouse gas pollution.  

He closed by asking the students to vote only for leaders who agree with his views on combating climate change.

"Remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote," President Obama said.  "Make yourself heard on this issue.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attended the President's address, as did other members of Congress.  White House officials included Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Cabinet Secretary and Assistant to the President Danielle Gray, and Alan Krueger, Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers.  Gina McCarthy, the President's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, was also in attendance, and the President acknowledged her during his remarks and called on Congress to approve her.

OFA fundraises...
Within hours of his speech, Organizing for Action sent an email ostensibly penned by President Obama, asking supporters to donate funds to help persuade Congress to make changes.

"One thing we know is we'll face a well-organized and well-financed opposition by the special interests that profit from keeping things the way they are--and there are members of Congress who fundamentally deny the science on this issue," President Obama wrote.

"Over the next few months and years, I'm going to need the millions of OFA supporters who understand that we have a responsibility to future generations to fight climate change to join me, and be a force of change in your communities."

Download: "The President's Climate Action Plan" {PDF}  

*CLICK HERE for more information about USDA's climate plans.

*Photo by Pete Souza/White House