WWF Canada Blog:
Climate

News, views and analysis from our team as we work to create solutions to conservation challenges facing our planet.


President Barack Obama speaks on climate change

In a speech this week at Georgetown University, the President announced a new plan to tackle climate change – emphasizing the need to address the dangerous impacts we currently face and take steps to limit grave risks on the horizon. “The question is not whether we need to act,” said the President. “The question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.”

© AP

© AP

While falling short of the full action scientists say is needed to limit emissions, the President’s resolve and ambition is refreshing, especially when compared to the moribund pace of action in Canada. President Obama says he’s committed to using all the powers of the Executive Branch, regardless of opposition in Congress.  Prime Minister Harper, on the other hand, appears intent on doing as little as possible, despite widespread public and business support for solutions like putting a price on carbon. Indeed, our federal government is racing in the opposite direction of the U.S.: dragging its heels on oil and gas regulations, weakening environmental regulations and investing heavily in expanding oil and gas development and infrastructure as quickly as possible.

In Canada, we, too, have the opportunity to lead. We are blessed with world class renewable energy potential, technical expertise, engineering know-how, and the manufacturing muscle to capitalize on it. We could have an energy strategy more visionary than simply digging up our fossil fuel resources and shipping them to the rest of the world. As President Obama reminds us, tackling climate change is the best way forward for both a healthy planet and a prosperous economy. The catastrophic flooding in Calgary is a forceful reminder that there is no healthy economy without a stable climate.
Here are some excerpts from President Obama’s speech:

President Barack Obama 

“On Christmas Eve, 1968, the astronauts of Apollo 8 did a live broadcast from lunar orbit.  So Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders — the first humans to orbit the moon -– described what they saw… And later that night, they took a photo that would change the way we see and think about our world.

It was an image of Earth -– beautiful; breathtaking; a glowing marble of blue oceans, and green forests, and brown mountains brushed with white clouds, rising over the surface of the moon.

And while the sight of our planet from space might seem routine today, imagine what it looked like to those of us seeing our home, our planet, for the first time.  Imagine what it looked like to children like me…

And around the same time we began exploring space, scientists were studying changes taking place in the Earth’s atmosphere.  Now, scientists had known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels release those gases into the air.  That wasn’t news. But in the late 1950s, the National Weather Service began measuring the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, with the worry that rising levels might someday disrupt the fragile balance that makes our planet so hospitable.  And what they’ve found, year after year, is that the levels of carbon pollution in our atmosphere have increased dramatically.

That science, accumulated and reviewed over decades, tells us that our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind…

Here at home, 2012 was the warmest year in our history.  Midwest farms were parched by the worst drought since the Dust Bowl, and then drenched by the wettest spring on record.  Western wildfires scorched an area larger than the state of Maryland.  Just last week, a heat wave in Alaska shot temperatures into the 90s. And we know that the costs of these events can be measured in lost lives and lost livelihoods, lost homes, lost businesses, hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency services and disaster relief…

I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.  And that’s why, today, I’m announcing a new national climate action plan, and I’m here to enlist your generation’s help in keeping the United States of America a leader — a global leader — in the fight against climate change…

This plan begins with cutting carbon pollution by changing the way we use energy — using less dirty energy, using more clean energy, wasting less energy throughout our economy…

Today, about 40 percent of America’s carbon pollution comes from our power plants.  But here’s the thing:  Right now, there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into our air.  None.  Zero. ..

So today, for the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants….

A low-carbon, clean energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come.  And I want America to build that engine.  I want America to build that future — right here in the United States of America.  That’s our task.

Now, one thing I want to make sure everybody understands — this does not mean that we’re going to suddenly stop producing fossil fuels.  Our economy wouldn’t run very well if it did.  And transitioning to a clean energy economy takes time… but our energy strategy must be about more than just producing more oil.  And, by the way, it’s certainly got to be about more than just building one pipeline…

Federally supported technology has helped our businesses drill more effectively and extract more gas.  And now, we’ll keep working with the industry to make drilling safer and cleaner, to make sure that we’re not seeing methane emissions, and to put people to work modernizing our natural gas infrastructure so that we can power more homes and businesses with cleaner energy…

And that brings me to the second way that we’re going to reduce carbon pollution — by using more clean energy…So the plan I’m announcing today will help us double again our energy from wind and sun.  Today, I’m directing the Interior Department to green light enough private, renewable energy capacity on public lands to power more than 6 million homes by 2020…

And because billions of your tax dollars continue to still subsidize some of the most profitable corporations in the history of the world, my budget once again calls for Congress to end the tax breaks for big oil companies, and invest in the clean-energy companies that will fuel our future.

Now, the third way to reduce carbon pollution is to waste less energy — in our cars, our homes, our businesses.  The fuel standards we set over the past few years mean that by the middle of the next decade, the cars and trucks we buy will go twice as far on a gallon of gas…  And in the coming months, we’ll partner with truck makers to do it again for the next generation of vehicles…

But as I think everybody here understands, no nation can solve this challenge alone — not even one as powerful as ours.  And that’s why the final part of our plan calls on America to … lead international efforts to combat a changing climate…

Today, I’m calling for an end of public financing for new coal plants overseas unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity.  And I urge other countries to join this effort.

And I’m directing my administration to launch negotiations toward global free trade in environmental goods and services, including clean energy technology, to help more countries skip past the dirty phase of development and join a global low-carbon economy…

And finally, my administration will redouble our efforts to engage our international partners in reaching a new global agreement to reduce carbon pollution through concrete action…

So that’s my plan…And someday, our children, and our children’s children, will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more stable world?  And I want to be able to say, yes, we did.  Don’t you want that?…”