Obama Touts Climate Agenda to Skeptical Congress in State of the Union


President Barack Obama on Tuesday night used his State of the Union address to once again push for U.S. action on climate change and tout his success in expanding clean energy, an agenda that faces deep skepticism from a Republican-controlled House and Senate.

Obama, who has focused on climate change in every State of the Union address but one, vowed he would continue to move forward on his climate and environmental agenda, which includes the first-ever proposed carbon pollution limits for power plants.

He also said he is determined that U.S. leadership drive international climate action, including efforts to hammer out a global climate accord, which is to be concluded in Paris in December.

The president touted as historic a joint U.S.-China announcement in November in which the U.S. pledged to cut its emissions between 26 percent and 28 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels. China vowed to “peak” its emissions by 2030, or earlier, if possible.

Because of cooperation from the world’s two largest emitters, “other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got,” he said.
Obama has focused on climate change or urged congressional action at every State of the Union speech save one, his 2011 address, when the omission drew the ire of environmental groups.

A Vow to Defend Environmental Agenda.

Obama in his speech Tuesday night touted U.S. progress on wind power and domestic oil and gas production and said every three weeks the nation brings as much solar power online as it did in all of 2008—the year before he took office.

Obama also challenged Republicans in the House and Senate who are threatening to roll back his environmental actions.

“I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock” on those efforts, he said.

The president’s comments on the science of climate change echoed those he made at his 2014 State of the Union address, when he said the U.S. needed to “act with more urgency” to curb greenhouses and declared “settled” the issue of whether humans are causing rising temperatures.

In Tuesday night’s address, Obama took aim at those “who try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists” and “don’t have enough information to act” on climate change.

“Well, I’m not a scientist, either,” Obama said. “But you know what—I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities” whose warnings call for forceful action to address rising sea levels, severe weather events and “massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration” and conflict around the world, he said.

The White House also underscored the president’s emphasis on climate science, noting that First Lady Michelle Obama had brought as a guest to the speech Nicole Hernandez Hammer, a climate scientist from southern Florida who advocates for climate action.

The text of Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address is available at https://medium.com/@WhiteHouse/president-obamas-state-of-the-union-address-remarks-as-prepared-for-delivery-55f9825449b2.

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