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President Obama Reinforces Climate Priorities

President says climate change is real, and will require use of cleaner energy to cut carbon pollution

Published on: Jun 26, 2013

President Obama Tuesday highlighted the administration's efforts to combat carbon pollution in the U.S. – an issue he said will require an "all-of-the-above" approach to mitigate.

The President made his comments at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He said the intention of his new plan is to reduce greenhouse gases by 17% from their 2005 levels by the end of the decade through new priorities for renewable energy and fuel economy standards.

"The question is not whether we need to act," Obama said. "Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including some who originally disputed the data have acknowledged the plant is warming and human activity is contributing to it."

President says climate change is real, and will require proactive approach to using cleaner energy and cutting carbon pollution
President says climate change is real, and will require proactive approach to using cleaner energy and cutting carbon pollution

Additionally, the plan focuses on preparing the U.S. for the impacts of climate variation and leads an international effort to address climate change.

The move comes after USDA's February release of two reports studying the effects of climate change on agriculture, which said increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns will affect agricultural productivity.

Obama noted the issue in his discussion. Those who are already feeling climate change impacts don't have time to deny it, he said.

"Farmers see crops wilted one year, washed away the next. And higher food prices get passed on to you, the American consumer," he noted.

National Farmers Union applauded the President's actions, noting agriculture's connection to climate variation.

"Farmers are going to be one of the first groups to suffer as extreme weather phenomena multiply with dire results for our capacity to feed our population," noted NFU President Roger Johnson. "We cannot afford to waste more time. America needs to act now to ensure a sustainable future for agriculture both here and around the world."

Johnson also said the agriculture sector holds tremendous potential to sequester carbon. “Given the proper incentives, America’s farmers and ranchers can play a significant role in mitigating the effects of climate change," he said.

Obama stressed the tight timeline for action and pledged to end tax breaks for big oil and invest in clean energy, all while requiring the federal government to source 20% of its energy from renewables within next 7 years.

"The hard truth is, carbon pollution has built up in our atmosphere for decades now and even if we Americans do our part, the planet will slowly keep warming for some time to come," he said.

Part of the plan continues support for homegrown energy, a prospect that the National Biodiesel Board supports.

"We want to thank President Obama for his leadership on this issue and his strong support for renewable fuels. As this plan makes clear, a key part of the equation in addressing climate change is breaking our dependence on fossil fuels," noted Anne Steckel, NBB vice president of federal affairs. She said the diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats boosts biodiesel production.

"Our energy strategy must be about more than just producing more oil," Obama concluded.

Though there's plenty of support for Obama's climate plan, some Republicans in agriculture districts blasted the effort, largely based on American job availability and Environmental Protection Agency regulation.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said the President has "pivoted away from jobs and the economy and is now doubling down on costly new EPA regulations that amount to nothing more than a national energy tax."

He argued the president’s initiative would destroy more than 500,000 jobs, reduce annual household income by $1,400, and raise energy prices by 20%.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., also voiced similar concerns in a press conference following the President's speech, calling the plan a "war on coal" and citing his recent letter to the President regarding "unprecedented" EPA regulation.

Click here to view the President's plan for climate change.