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By Dean Scott
Aug. 31 — President Barack Obama touted new conservation efforts as integral to combating climate change Aug. 31, as he unveiled new funds to fight wildfires on public lands and a strategy to ramp up private and philanthropic support for U.S. conservation.
Obama’s stop-off at the 20th Anniversary of the Annual Lake Tahoe Summit came a day ahead of his trip to Hawaii and Midway Atoll Sept. 1—where he’ll highlight the threat posed to low-lying areas by climate change. He’ll then head to Hangzhou, China, for the Group of 20 summit.
In his Tahoe speech, Obama repeatedly challenged those who question whether climate change is occurring or is caused by human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels. Improving conservation and resilience also are key components to combating increasing temperatures and other climate impacts, he said.
“When we protect our lands, it helps us protect our climate for the future. Conservation is critical not just for one particular spot or one particular park or one particular lake,” he said, but also to improve resilience over time to climate change.
“We tend to think of climate change as if it’s something that is just happening out there that we don’t have control over,” Obama said. “But the fact is, it’s man-made,” he added.
“And you don’t have to be a scientist” to understand that link, Obama said. “You have to read or listen to scientists to know that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence shows us that climate change is caused by human activity,” he said.
Obama’s G-20 trip comes amid speculation that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping could provide more details on when both countries will formally implement the global climate deal reached in Paris in December 2015; both leaders have vowed to do so this year.
Prior to Obama’s Tahoe speech, the White House pointed out that the average surface temperature for Lake Tahoe last year was the warmest ever recorded.
Many of the grants and programs announced by the White House to coincide with the president’s speech are to boost clean energy or improve conservation in the region surrounding the California lake or nearby states such as Nevada and Utah, which were awarded a $29 million grant to study geothermal energy.
That Energy Department grant, meant to improve the technical and economic feasibility of an array of geothermal projects, was awarded to the Sandia National Laboratories in Fallon, Nev., and to a similar research effort at the University of Utah in Milford.
The wildfire reduction initiative includes $29.5 million in Interior Department funding to remove standing dead and dying trees from public and private lands adjacent to the Tahoe Basin.
The White House earlier in the day also unveiled a strategy to boost private and philanthropic investment in U.S. conservation efforts, which it said have grown from $230 million a year when Obama took office in 2009 to about $1 billion a year today.
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