U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday he will dedicate his Earth Day to explaining how climate change threatens the planet -- and the economy. He’ll make that case Wednesday against the backdrop of the Florida Everglades.
“The Everglades is one of the most special places in our country,” Obama said in his weekly address Saturday. “But it’s also one of the most fragile. Rising sea levels are putting a national treasure -- and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry -- at risk.”
It isn’t just Florida tourism that the president is concerned about. Amid record rising temperatures this century, climate change is affecting the health of people nationwide and the Pentagon has recognized that it creates “immediate risks” to national security, he said.
“2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record,” Obama said. “Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.” (And, according to three new studies published this week, 2015 temperatures may be on pace to break last year’s record.)
All in all, the president said, “there’s no greater threat to our planet than climate change,” adding that the threat “can no longer be denied -- or ignored.”
Obama’s Earth Day speech will set the stage for historic global negotiations this year on cutting carbon emissions, and it will come as his administration faces court challenges of its emissions regulations.
Ahead of United Nations climate-change talks in Paris in December, the U.S. has already proposed its own target to hit by 2025, which would entail cutting emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels. China joined the U.S. in making a landmark announcement last November that it, too, would pledge to curb emissions by 2030 or sooner.
“We’ve committed to doubling the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China has committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions,” Obama said Saturday. “And because the world’s two largest economies came together, there’s new hope that, with American leadership, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it’s too late.”
Obama credited increased reliance on wind and solar power, as well as fuel-efficient cars, with helping the U.S. to reduce carbon pollution by 10 percent since 2007. At the same time, he said, the economy has been growing and “generating the longest streak of private-sector job growth on record.”