Obama’s inaugural speech on climate sets stage for action

• January 22, 2013
President Barack Obama, Creative Commons: Adam Fagan, 2013

President Barack Obama, Creative Commons: Adam Fagan, 2013

At the inauguration of his second term, President Obama promised climate action in order to maintain the economic vitality of the US and protect future generations.  His speech has many climate advocates optimistic of his commitment to become a leader, domestically and internationally, on advancing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

He invoked a moral obligation to act, saying,

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.

The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise.  That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks.  That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.  That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

His second term is his chance to build a legacy around investing in a clean energy economy that will not only create opportunities for the present, but also help future generations avoid the risks of extreme weather patterns and intensifying natural disasters. Only by acting domestically now can President Obama set the US on a path towards credible engagement on the international level in negotiating a strong global climate treaty in 2015.

While environmentalists are pleased with the President’s address, they point to his upcoming decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline as the true test of his climate commitment.  Rejecting the Keystone XL would signify his understanding that true energy independence does not rely on greater fossil fuel drilling at the cost of vulnerable communities in both the US and Canada.  Instead, environmentalists are urging Obama to promote renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, and to continue to tighten emissions standards on coal-fired power plants.

The ‘Forward on Climate’ Rally, scheduled for President’s Day, will be a prominent show of grassroots support for President Obama to make good on his inaugural climate promises.

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About the Author

Emily is a graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland with a B.A. in psychology. While in school, she spent her time leading environmental and social justice campaigns. She recently worked for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network as a grassroots organizer for a moratorium on natural gas fracking in Maryland.

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