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President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk down Pennsylvania Avenue en route to the White House, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk down Pennsylvania Avenue en route to the White House, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)  

Environmental groups hail Obama’s promise for action on climate change

In the wake of President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address, environmental groups hailed the president’s promise to respond to climate change and continue to support green energy sources during his second term.

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Obama said in his speech on Monday.

“This is a call to action against the climate chaos that is sweeping our nation and threatening our future,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement, adding that the president should look to cutting carbon emissions from power plants. “Now it’s time to act.”

“We at EDF share the sense of urgency President Obama described,” Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense Fund. “We are fully focused on working with him and many others to achieve climate security and American clean energy innovation.”

Environmental groups have been pressing Obama to make climate change a top priority during his second term and have even urged him to act unilaterally to address the issue.

Earlier this month, 70 environmental groups sent a letter to Obama that urged him to use his executive authority to address curb carbon emissions.

“You have the authority under existing law to achieve urgently needed reductions in the carbon pollution that is disrupting our climate and damaging our health,” reads the letter released by the Natural Resources Defense Council and signed by prominent environmental groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund, Greenpeace, and the Sierra Club.

“The Sierra Club is heartened by President Obama’s remarks today in his second inauguration and his renewed vow to respond to the threat of climate disruption,” said Sierra Club director Michael Brune, hailing Obama’s inaugural remarks on climate change. “We will work tirelessly to ensure the transition to safe, clean energy sources to fight the most pressing challenge of our time.”

Environmental groups have also been upping their pressure on the administration to block oil and gas drilling in the arctic, particularly after the beaching of a Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig, and to block the Keystone XL pipeline.

A recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which found that 2012 was the warmest year on record in the contiguous United States, brought increased urgency in the calls from environmental groups for the U.S. to address climate change.

Shortly after his re-election, Obama said that he would create a climate change agenda, but indicated that the idea of a carbon tax would be a political non-starter. Since few things are likely to pass the Republican-controlled House, the president may try to act through the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I always have hope, but it is sometimes hard to see how real progress, substantial progress, is going to be made with the fact that the Congress is so polarized,” Travis Franck, a policy analyst for Climate Interactive, told LiveScience.

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