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Obama Speaks at Georgetown, Takes Major Action on Climate Change

June 25, 2013 – President Barack Obama rolled out a major plan today at Georgetown to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse emissions and using renewable energy.

“Americans across the country are already paying the price of inaction, in insurance premiums, state and local taxes and the costs of rebuilding and disaster relief,” he said, referring to extreme weather events resulting from a warmer climate. “The question now is will we have the courage to act before it’s too late.”

He noted that power plants can now legally dump “limitless” amounts of pollution into the air without consequences.

 “That’s not right,” he said. “It’s not safe and it needs to stop. Today for the sake of our children and the health and safety of all Americans, I am directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.”

Keystone Pipeline


His plan also includes ending tax breaks for oil companies and extending them to clean energy companies. And he said that the proposed Keystone Pipeline System, which would move oil products from Canada and the northern United States to the Gulf Coast, will not be approved if it negatively affects the environment.

“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest,” he said, “and our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

He said the country has to move beyond partisan politics to address the problem of climate change for the sake of future generations.

Our Children’s Children

“Someday our children and our children’s children will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more stable world,” Obama said. “I want to be able to say, ‘Yes, we did.’ ”

America, he said, should take the lead in coming up with solutions for climate change and make attempts to help and influence other countries.

“The actions I’ve announced today should send a strong signal to the world that America intends to take bold action against carbon pollution,” he said. “We will continue to lead by the power of our example, because that’s what the United States of America has always done.”

Today’s speech was Obama’s third at Georgetown since he took office and his first visit since re-election. He also became the 14th U.S. president to speak at Old North.

University Expertise

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia said Obama’s decision to announce his plans for climate change at Georgetown make sense, given the university community’s commitment to help solving the problem.

“This is an area in which Georgetown is deeply engaged – though our work in climate research and policy, environmental scholarship and sustainability initiatives,” DeGioia said. “We are bringing our expertise in the environment to all aspects of this conversation – scientific research, national and state policy, community practices, grassroots efforts and public and private partnerships.”

Last year, the university launched the Georgetown Environment Initiative to advance interdisciplinary research across campuses.

Poll: Widespread Support

Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, said she was glad to see Obama address the consequences of climate change – such as the powerful tornadoes in the Midwest earlier this year and the devastating hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

The center released a study yesterday that shows strong support for state and government action on climate and energy policies. 

“There were very high numbers of people in the poll who support the need for EPA action as well as people who now see climate change as a reality,” said Arroyo, a visiting professor at Georgetown’s Law Center. “As President Obama said, most people now understand that something very serious is happening to the planet.”

Capping Carbon Emissions

Laura Anderko, an associate professor in the School of Nursing & Health Studies with expertise on the health effects of climate change, said she was surprised and delighted to hear Obama talk about the consequences for children.

“There were some pearls that he spoke about that will really help people understand the need for us to cap carbon emissions,” said Anderko, a nurse and scholar nationally known for her environmental work on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee and the National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee Research Workgroup. “We shouldn’t have to decide between the health of our children and the health of the economy.”

Fixing the Planet

Obama told students in the audience that he refuses to condemn their generation to a planet beyond fixing.

Gabriel Pincus (SFS’14), sustainability secretary for the Georgetown University Student Association, said he was glad to hear the president talk about climate change as a current problem.

“It is always unnerving that anyone still has to defend the science behind climate change,” he said. “I am glad that Obama recognizes that America must not only adapt our energy consumption in order to avert severe climate change, but also adapt to the very real and very manifold consequences of climate change today.”

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