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Wednesday, July 10, 2013
On June 25, President Obama made a historic speech for immediate action to respond to the global threat of climate change. We are already facing rising sea levels, extreme droughts, heat waves and superstorms like Sandy.
During his State of the Union address in February, the president said, “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” With his recent speech and concurrent release of the White House Climate Action Plan, he has outlined how the executive branch will move to protect the nation’s health in light of congressional inaction.
Obama’s plan has three components: cut carbon pollution in the U.S., prepare the U.S. for impacts of climate change we cannot avoid, and lead international efforts to address climate change.
Critical progress includes the swift confirmation of Gina McCarthy as the new Environmental Protection Agency administrator. The EPA is required by the Supreme Court to regulate carbon pollution. The president called for an updated version of the standard for new power plants, which was due out in April, to be reissued by the fall. Additionally, he asked the EPA to propose a standard for existing sources, which is due this time next year. It is imperative these regulations be approved and implemented post-haste, as they are huge steps toward cleaning up our air both here in the United States and across the globe.
The president also spoke of the need to improve efficiency standards for our homes, buildings and transportation systems. These efforts will increase jobs and improve our health by reducing the amount of fossil fuels burned. Unlike renewable energy, fossil fuels worsen air quality, including increasing ground-level ozone, as well as load the atmosphere in a way that makes extreme weather more intense and frequent.
The president understands the moral imperative to act on climate change and the need to be able to look our children and grandchildren in the eye and say, “I had the courage to act.”
As people of faith, no matter what our tradition, we have a basic ethic to care for creation and to care for the least of these. Being good stewards of the environment means taking care of our planet so that we have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and that our homes remain safe from rising sea levels and storm surges.
As the president pointed out in his speech, there are also impacts of climate change that we must adapt to such as rebuilding homes and infrastructure in New Jersey and New York after Superstorm Sandy. We need to make plans to protect our own coast and infrastructure at Hampton Roads, which remains extremely vulnerable.
We have an obligation to aid our brothers and sisters in adapting to and developing resilience from the full spectrum of climate impacts, be it heat waves, looming wildfire risks or increased public health concerns such as mosquito- or tick-borne diseases.
This is not something one person can do alone — not even the president of the United States. This is something that takes each and every one of us. It starts with supporting the president’s climate plan and includes reducing our own carbon footprint. It includes encouraging our legislators to support these important regulations from the EPA and confirming McCarthy as EPA head.
We can — and we must — create a future in which our children and grandchildren will look back at this time in history and say, “They made the right choice for my future.”
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