President Obama doubled down on his promise to address climate change he made early in his second term by threatening to use his executive authority to fight climate change if Congress fails to act on and curb emissions.
“But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama added. “I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”
In terms of congressional action the president endorses a cap and trade approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, like the one worked on by Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman.
“I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago,” Obama said.
McCain and Lieberman have been active on the issue of climate change over the last decade, leading several efforts to limit carbon emissions and implement a cap-and-trade system for lowering carbon emissions. Their efforts to pass cap and trade went down in flames twice in the Senate during 2005.
In 2008, McCain still advocated for a cap-and-trade bill that would set emissions targets and then allow companies falling under those limits to buy and sell surplus pollution permits.
“It is telling that President Obama seemed more concerned about climate change than job creation, clearly following a well-worn path for this administration where no crisis goes to waste in pursuit of the president’s progressive agenda,” said Institute for Energy Research president Thomas Pyle in s a response to the address. “For this administration, a deadly hurricane means a chance for carbon taxes.”
Environmentalists have been putting pressure on Obama to go it alone and use his executive authority to address climate change, primarily through the Environmental Protection Agency.
“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 a letter from nearly 70 prominent environmental groups.
According to the letter, the president can use the EPA’s Clean Air Act authority to set stricter emissions standards for the country’s power plants.
The president also took the time to challenge climate skeptics by citing the recent extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy as evidence that more action is needed on climate change.
“Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend,” the president said in his address. “Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”
“Virtually any nightly weather report can be exploited to justify the empowerment of Washington regulators and more hurdles for affordable energy,” Pyle added. “In fact, the only jobs the president seems to be worried about are at the Environmental Protection Agency.”
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