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President Obama: “We will respond to the threat of climate change”

January 23, 2013

climate changeClimate change was the subject of a surprising amount of President Barack Obama’s remarks in his 20- minute Inaugural Address given at 11:55 am EST, January 21, 2013, on the steps of the United States Capitol.

According to press reports, the President devoted more words to climate change than any other single issue in his address. This comes as a surprise, given the President’s more conservative approach to climate change in his first term.

From the President’s prepared text, posted by the White House:

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.  

“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

The President pulled a lot of levers in the name of responding to climate change: posterity, children and future generations, raging fires, crippling drought, more powerful storms, sustainable energy sources, global technology competition, new jobs, new industries, forests, waterways, crop lands, snow-capped peaks, economic vitality, national treasures, responsible leadership, “the overwhelming judgment of science,” the country’s forefathers, and God’s commandment to preserve the planet.

To maneuver through what is still the minefield of climate change debate, press reports say the Obama administration will use a mix of executive orders and legislative proposals. The President’s State of the Union address in February might fill in some of the details. With his legacy certainly in mind, the President’s words on the Capitol steps lay down a marker: he will not benignly neglect the contentious climate change issue on his watch.