President Obama’s Climate Change Call to Action and 2020 Plans for Slowing Its Serious Effects

Issue: 

A Call for Action: While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged. Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our children’s health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment. 

In 2009, President Obama made a pledge that by 2020, America would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels if all other major economies agreed to limit their emissions as well. Today, the President remains firmly committed to that goal and to building on the progress of his first term to help put us and the world on a sustainable long-term trajectory. Thanks in part to the Administration’s success in doubling America’s use of wind, solar, and geothermal energy and in establishing the toughest fuel economy standards in our history, we are creating new jobs, building new industries, and reducing dangerous carbon pollution which contributes to climate change. In fact, last year, carbon emissions from the energy sector fell to the lowest level in two decades. At the same time, while there is more work to do, we are more energy secure than at any time in recent history. In 2012, America’s net oil imports fell to the lowest level in 20 years and we have become the world’s leading producer of natural gas – the cleanest-burning fossil fuel.

While this progress is encouraging, climate change is no longer a distant threat – we are already feeling its impacts across the country and the world. Last year was the warmest year ever in the contiguous United States and about one-third of all Americans experienced 10 days or more of 100-degree heat. The 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15 years. Asthma rates have doubled in the past 30 years and our children will suffer more asthma attacks as air pollution gets worse. And increasing floods, heat waves, and droughts have put farmers out of business, which is already raising food prices dramatically. These changes come with far-reaching consequences and real economic costs. Last year alone, there were 11 different weather and climate disaster events with estimated losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. Taken together, these 11 events resulted in over $110 billion in estimated damages, which would make it the second-costliest year on record.

The following originally appeared in the Washington Post and can be found online at washingtonpost.com: 

 Curbing carbon pollution

• Directs the EPA to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.

• Promises $8 billion in loan guarantees for fossil fuel projects.

• Directs the Interior Department to permit 10 gigawatts of wind and solar projects on public lands by 2020.

• Expands the president’s Better Building Challenge, helping buildings cut waste to become at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020. 

• Sets a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 through efficiency standards set for appliances and federal buildings.

• Commits to developing fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

• Aims to reduce hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases.

• Directs agencies to develop a comprehensive methane strategy.

• Commits to forests and other landscape protection.

Preparing for climate change

• Directs agencies to support local investment to help vulnerable communities become more resilient to the effects of global warming.

• Establishment of flood-risk reduction standards in the Hurricane Sandy-affected region.

• Will work with the health-care industry to create sustainable, resilient hospitals. 

• Distribution of science-based information for farmers, ranchers and landowners.

• Establishment of the National Drought Resilience Partnership to make rangelands less vulnerable to catastrophic fires.

• Climate Data Initiative will provide information for state, local and private-sector leaders.

Leading global efforts to address climate change

• Commits to expanding new and existing initiatives, including those with China, India and other major emitting countries.

• Calls for the end of U.S. government support for public financing of new coal-fired power plants overseas.*

• Expands government capacity for planning and response.•••

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