Climate change should not be a partisan issue, Obama said. He cited Republican leaders like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former President George H.W. Bush, who previously urged action to address climate change “before the Tea Party decided it was a massive threat to freedom and liberty.”
Acknowledging “nothing is happening” in Congress on the issue during his speech, Obama has taken action on his own to respond to the climate change challenge. On June 2, the Environmental Protection Agency announced the first ever carbon pollution standards for existing power plants that the administration hopes will generate a national 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels.
Those pollution standards are the centerpiece of Obama's climate action plan, which he announced in June 2013. Obama has repeatedly cited a desire to work with Congress on climate change but also vowed to take actions on his own.
Mocks Climate Deniers
In some of his strongest comments about climate deniers to date, Obama compared those who ignore the opinion of 97 percent of climate scientists that climate change is real and caused by human activities to those who believe the moon is “made of cheese.”
“Now, I'm not a scientist either, but we've got some really good ones at NASA,” Obama said. “I do know that the overwhelming majority of scientists who work on climate change, including some who once disputed the data, have put that debate to rest.”
He said some in Congress continue to call climate change “a hoax or a fad”— Obama pointed out at least one member of the House believes the world is cooling—but called on the young graduates not to accept those positions and push their elected leaders to act.
“I want to light a fire under you,” Obama said. “As the generation getting shortchanged by inaction on this issue, I want all of you to understand you cannot accept that this is the way it has to be.”
The president acknowledged action by the U.S. could not stop the effects of climate change alone, but said the country would have to lead global efforts to combat the problem.
“America cannot meet this threat alone,” Obama said. “Of course, the world cannot meet it without America. This is a fight that America must lead. So I'm going to keep doing my part for as long as I hold this office and as long as I'm a citizen once out of office.”
Resilience Challenge Announced
During his speech, Obama announced the creation of a $1 billion competition for communities impacted by natural disasters to compete for funds to help rebuild more resilient communities for the future.
The resources come from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds. States and local communities with major disaster declaration in 2011, 2012 and 2013 will be eligible for $820 million of the funds, while states and local communities affected by Hurricane Sandy will be eligible for the remaining $180 million.
Geographic diversity will play a role in how the funding is awarded, according to the White House.
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