Obama gives unexpected nod to climate as second term priority

WASHINGTON Mon Jan 21, 2013 3:37pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during swearing-in ceremonies on the West front of the U.S Capitol in Washington, January 21, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during swearing-in ceremonies on the West front of the U.S Capitol in Washington, January 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Monday he will confront climate change in his second term in office, an unexpected vow that puts the politically charged issue among his domestic priorities alongside gun control and immigration reform.

Linking climate change to devastating weather and fires, Obama said the country could grow its economy while protecting itself from the worst effects of a phenomenon scientists say is getting worse due to man-made pollutants.

"We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations," the president said, dedicating more than a minute of his roughly 20-minute address to the issue.

By pointing to the topic in detail in his second Inaugural Address, the Democratic president committed the White House to try to mitigate the emission of greenhouse gases - an area where he had uneven success during his first four years in office.

While Obama won a commitment from the auto industry to increase fuel efficiency standards in coming years, a more comprehensive plan to put a price on greenhouse gases fell flat in Congress.

Climate change was a mostly dormant issue during last year's presidential campaign, and environmentalists hoped that Obama would put the topic squarely on his agenda in a second term.

Obama said in his address that the United States should be a leader in sustainable energy and framed the issue as a matter of national security and economic opportunity.

"We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries - we must claim its promise," he said.

Scientists say emissions from cars and coal-fed power plants are among the sources of carbon dioxide warming the planet.

Last year was the hottest on record in the United States, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said this month.

Scientists caution that no single weather event can be blamed on climate change, but the force of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of New York and New Jersey in October, and a withering drought in the Midwest, are seen as harbingers.

"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," Obama said.

Climate change activists, who say the phenomenon is worsening and will increasingly affect human health and budgets, said they were heartened by the president's words.

"My hope is renewed," Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement. "Confronting climate change is not a cause of a president or a party but an imperative for the American people."

Obama might find it impossible to revive the climate bill while his Republican Party rivals control the House of Representatives, but White House officials have said they plan to use executive power to make progress on the issue.

"I'll tell you what my green dream is: that we finally face up to climate change," Vice President Joe Biden said at a National Wildlife Federation inaugural celebration on Sunday night.

In the coming months, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to outline standards for power plant emissions. If those rules are as strong as environmentalists want, it could go a long way toward curtailing emissions for a source of 40 percent of the country's carbon gas.

(Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (16)
joe10082 wrote:
We lose a veteran to suicide every 80 minutes Mr. President leaving behind countless widows and children! You might first want to consider assisting the five hundred thousand veterans that have been diagnosed with PTSD before they take their lives this year and secondly pass legislation to stop multiple tours of duty that cause the problem then confront climate change all you want! P.S. YOU SHOULD BRING ALL THE TROOPS HOME NOW!

Jan 21, 2013 3:59pm EST  --  Report as abuse
We can’t afford this BS.

Jan 21, 2013 4:12pm EST  --  Report as abuse
JimsZ wrote:
I love this comment…

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations”

So, he cares about the global warming when it’s colder (here in Indiana) than we’ve seen in many years, but doesn’t care how much our children will have to pay to pay back all the debt he’s creating?

He also stated that Texas doesn’t have the right to secede because that’s not something our forefathers envisioned, yet they did envision his “GUN GRAB” which is specifically why they put the 2nd amendment into the constitution! What a hypocrit

Jan 21, 2013 8:21pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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