If the Keystone XL pipeline increases the carbon content of the atmosphere, President Barack Obama will turn it down, he said on Tuesday June 25 in a speech on climate change.
That was one of many pronouncements he made while speaking at Georgetown University as he took up the mantle on protecting the planet for future generations, outlining a number of initiatives to combat the warming of the Earth.
“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest,” Obama said. “And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.”
He highlighted cleaner fuels and more sustainable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, as well as natural gas. He called for augmenting natural-gas production as a source of safe, cheap power that would reduce carbon emissions.
The State Department is evaluating the environmental impacts of the project, which would carry up to 800,000 barrels per day of crude bitumen from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. The $7 billion project has been hotly contested, with many tribes opposing.
Obama’s Keystone XL pronouncements were part of an overall climate change strategy he laid out that centered on a reduction of greenhouse gases.
“As a President, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act,” Obama said. “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”
And that’s why, today, I'm announcing a new national climate action plan, and I'm here to enlist your generation's help in keeping the United States of America a leader—a global leader—in the fight against climate change.”
His initiatives include “a plan to cut carbon pollution; a plan to protect our country from the impacts of climate change, and a plan to lead the world in a coordinated assault on a changing climate,” he said.
Noting that power plants have no limits on the amount of carbon they are allowed to dump into the atmosphere—contrasting with strict emissions rules for mercury, sulfur, arsenic and other toxic chemicals—and that 40 percent of U.S. carbon pollution comes from power plants, Obama said he would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to create new pollution standards for those operations.
Other carbon-cutting initiatives include reducing carbon pollution by a minimum of 3 billion metric tons between now and 2030 by increasing efficiency standards on appliances and federal buildings, according to a summary in the Washington Post. He will also tell the Department of the Interior to, by 2020, issue permits for 10 gigawatts of winds and solar projects on public lands, the Post said.
But his measures didn’t stop with combating climate change. Obama also recognized the need to prepare to live with it, as well as to lead efforts globally to address the issue.
“This will not get us there overnight,” he said of limiting carbon emissions. “The hard truth is, carbon pollution has built up in our atmosphere for decades now. And even if we Americans do our part, the planet will slowly keep warming for some time to come. The seas will slowly keep rising, and storms will get more severe, based on the science. It's like tapping the brakes of a car before you come to a complete stop and then can shift into reverse. It's going to take time for carbon emissions to stabilize.
“So in the meantime, we're going to need to get prepared.”
To this end, he said federal agencies would be told to help local communities invest in measures to shore up their defenses against the changes wrought by a warming world; share climate information with farmers, ranchers, landowners and municipal leaders; and establish a National Drought Resilience Partnership to assist ranchers in fireproofing their range lands.