Don’t Rule Out Congress in the Fight Against Climate Change. I Hope They Are Right.

Climate ChangeIn last year’s State of the Union, President Obama vowed, “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” Tonight, President Barack Obama reiterated the pressing need to act on climate change, and highlighted some of the actions his administration has taken, without the need for Congressional approval, since the unveiling of his National Climate Action Plan in June. “Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth,” noted the President. These executive actions are welcome, but only bipartisan, Congressional action can achieve the results necessary to prevent disastrous climate change.

According to EESI Executive Director Carol Werner,

 “Addressing climate change is critical and urgent. Addressing climate change can make our infrastructure and our communities more resilient. It can help produce the manufacturing jobs that will move America’s transition to a clean energy economy forward. We commend the administration for doing what it can in a constrained political environment. Nevertheless, President Obama should not stop trying to work with Congress, especially now that it is showing signs of renewing with bipartisanship. The health of our climate should not, must not be a partisan issue.”

The American people have already made it clear that, for them, action on climate change is not a partisan issue. In a recent Stanford University / Resources for the Future / USA Today poll headed by Professor Jon Krosnick and showcased in an EESI briefing earlier today, 79 percent of respondents thought the U.S. government should do a great deal, a lot, or a moderate amount about global warming. A remarkable 81 percent agreed that the government should limit the amount of greenhouse gasses that U.S. businesses put out.

The Administration’s National Climate Action Plan sets the country on a path to double its energy efficiency and reduce its carbon emissions by 17 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2020. The Plan also includes adaptation and resiliency measures, to help prepare communities for the climate change impacts that are already taking place (see EESI’s Fact Sheet for an overview of federal climate adaptation initiatives). But more will be needed if we are to truly address climate change.

Congress has shown that it can get things done: a bipartisan budget has been passed, and it looks likely that a Farm Bill, delayed for two years, is about to be passed by both parties as well. President Obama should continue to try to find ways to work with Congress to reduce carbon emissions. Of particular promise is energy efficiency, which President Obama mentioned in his speech. According to Carol Werner,

“Energy efficiency is a win-win-win: it creates jobs, saves money, protects human health and reduces carbon emissions.”

Our elected officials must work together if we are to ensure Obama’s vision, “When our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”


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