70 Green Groups Urge Obama to Act on Climate Change
By Tina Gerhardt
January 9, 2013
Last Friday, the League of Women Voters in Hawaii sent Obama
back to D.C. on his last day of family vacation in his native
Hawaii with a reminder that his action or inaction on
addressing climate change will have a great impact on the
island's future. The group ran a full-page ad in the local
Honolulu Star Advertiser, urging him to take action to address
climate change, especially to use existing executive authority
under the Clean Air Act, to reduce emissions.
On Monday, a broad coalition of over 70 environmental, civil,
health and labor groups signed and sent an open letter to
President Obama, demanding he take action on climate change
during his second term in office.
They referenced his September 7, 2012, speech in Chicago, when
on the campaign trail, when Obama stated, "climate change is
not a hoax. More drought and floods and hurricanes are not a
joke. They're a threat to our children's future. And we can do
something about it."
Discussing the letter, France Beinecke, President of the
Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote: "When I first
started working on climate change a decade ago, we spoke in
terms of distant forecasts and long-range impacts. Now we
simply look out the window to see what climate change can do
to our communities ... We no longer have the luxury of time.
We must act now to prevent more Americans from feeling the
pain of los jobs, destroyed homes and shuttered businesses."
The groups demanded that President Obama take three steps to
curb carbon pollution:
1. Raise his voice. Elevate the issue of climate change and
solutions in the public discourse by connecting the dots
between carbon pollution and extreme weather;
2. Use his executive authority, in particular, by using the
EPA's existing authority under the Clean Air Act to reduce
emissions from power plants;
3. Reject dirty fossil fuels, especially when climate science
tells us that 80% of the existing fossil fuels need to be kept
in the ground.
These steps, the groups delineated, can be taken without the
vote of the divided Congress. The groups urged that climate
change be put at the "top tier" of his agenda.
In particular the groups stated that the "Keystone XL tar
sands pipeline is not in our national interest because it
would unlock vast amounts of additional carbon that we can't
afford to burn."
Environmental groups are awaiting the final decision on the
Keystone Pipeline from the State Department. (The decision
lies with the State Department since the project crosses the
national border into Canada.) With the nomination of Senator
John Kerry as Secretary of State to replace Hillary Clinton,
some green groups are optimistic about the administration's
commitment to climate change.
In an interview with The Progressive, Bill McKibben, Executive
Director of 350.org, said, "The first thing President Obama
should do is block the Keystone Pipeline. If he does, he'll
have a big army of environmentalists ready to help him move
forward on other fronts."
350.org and the Sierra Club are calling for a national day of
action on President's Day weekend to urge President Obama to
address climate change. (Day of action: Sunday, February 17;
President's Day is Monday, February 18, 2013.) For more
[Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist and academic who
covers energy policy, climate negotiations and related direct
actions. Her work has appeared in Alternet, Grist, The Nation,
The Progressive and the Washington Monthly, as well as
Business Green, Climate Progress and TreeHugger.]
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