President Barack Obama this week delivered a speech on climate change in which he proposed, among other things, limiting carbon emissions from coal and gas-fired utilities by no later than June 2014 and linked any approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project to assurances that it would not add to greenhouse gas emissions. Click here to read the president’s speech.
Following is a roundup of Vermont officials’ and advocates’ responses to the address.
Sen. Patrick Leahy
I agree with the President that climate change represents one of the greatest challenges of our time, but it is also a challenge uniquely suited to our strengths as a country. Our scientists, researchers, universities and entrepreneurs stand ready to design and build new, less polluting energy sources. Vermont’s and our country’s farmers and forestland owners stand ready to grow renewable fuels. American businesses will innovate and develop new energy technologies that will reduce pollution and grow our economy with jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. Our workforce stands ready to modernize our power plants and retrofit our buildings to meet 21st Century efficiency standards.
I stand ready to support the President, and Vermonters want to do our part. The important goals the President has laid out today will create jobs, save lives and protect and preserve our treasured natural resources for future generations.
No single step can accomplish the goals that President Obama has presented today, but we must begin now, and take these critical first steps together. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to address these threats and be responsible stewards of the earth. Just as any Vermonter who has hiked the 200 miles of Vermont’s beautiful Long Trail can tell you, the journey begins with a commitment to reach a goal, and a first step in that direction.
Climate change is not a far-off or remote challenge. The impacts are overtaking us today around the globe and in Vermont. In the past two years, hurricanes Irene and Sandy devastated the Northeast, while huge swaths from Texas to the Midwest have been gripped in a historic drought, and tornadoes have raked the heartland.
We can no longer willfully ignore these impacts or continue to deny the facts: The science is clear and definitive that human-induced climate change is happening and it is happening rapidly. We are obligated to reduce carbon emissions, and efforts to do so have the support of the American people.
Not only is the science clear, but the human and economic costs of climate change are hitting home. The severe weather events of just the past two years have caused damages in the United States in excess of $188 billion and left more than 1100 people dead. If we do not act now then the toll is sure to mount, with ever more destructive and deadly weather pounding our coasts, parching our nation’s agricultural center, and rising sea levels threatening our coastal communities. If we do not act now, the devastating impacts of climate change will only get worse.
But climate change is not just about weather disasters. For instance, we also have seen asthma rates double in the past 30 years, and our children and grandchildren will only suffer more asthma attacks as air pollution worsens. We already reduced smog and acid rain and have set limits for mercury, lead, and arsenic. It is time to set a limit on carbon pollution that causes climate change and assaults the public health.
The President’s proposal will allow the United States to take further important steps toward the environmental quality and good jobs that will come with a cleaner and safer energy future. We can act now so that future generations – our children and grandchildren — will know that we took the steps that helped make their world safer and cleaner.
Sen. Bernie Sanders
“Global warming is the most serious environmental crisis facing the world today. It demands bold action to preserve our planet for our children and grandchildren. I applaud the president for saying he will take steps to limit heat-trapping pollution from coal-fired power plants and boost renewable energy production. These steps will help not only the environment but the economy too by creating many, many jobs. But let’s be clear: much more must be done.
“The president must support a tax on carbon and methane emissions to show the world that the United States is prepared to transform our energy system and be an international leader on climate change. The president must demand that Congress work with him to dramatically improve energy efficiency and to greatly increase our utilization of solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources of energy. Further, the president must not give speeches about the dangers of global warming and then turn around and allow construction of the Keystone pipeline from Canada’s tar sands oil fields which would result in a huge increase in carbon emissions.”
Gov. Peter Shumlin
“Climate change imperils our environment, our economy, and the way of life Vermonters hold dear. We understand the high price of climate change — from the devastation caused by more frequent and violent storms, to the quieter but significant shifts we see every day on our farms, in our forests, and in our rivers. That’s why it is so important that President Obama today put us on course to reduce pollution from power plants, some of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in this country. The President’s plan to boost energy efficiency programs and to continue support for clean, renewable energy also will help our country meet its obligation to fight climate change while providing jobs and saving money on our energy bills. Vermont has shown that these efforts can help our economy prosper, even as they protect our environment. I thank the President for his leadership.”
Vermont Public Interest Research Group
Today, President Obama announced a climate plan that will set limits on carbon pollution from power plants, advance energy efficiency and increase the nation’s commitment to renewable energy like wind and solar power. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, record drought in many states, and devastating wildfires in the West, the president’s plan to address global warming was loudly applauded by Gov. Peter Shumlin, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and many others.
“Today, President Obama did more than talk-the-talk when it comes to taking action on climate change; he walked-the-walk,” said Paul Burns, executive director of VPIRG. “All of us who have felt the effects of global warming, or simply worried about what’s in store for our kids, can take comfort in knowing that President Obama has put the nation on a path toward a cleaner, healthier and safer future.”
Left unchecked, global warming is projected to bring to Vermont more intense storms and more unhealthy air days. For instance, an Environment America report released last year found that Vermont is hit with more frequent, more destructive extreme precipitation – heavy downpours or snowstorms that used to happen once annually now happen every 6.5 months on average, and Vermont’s largest annual storms now produce 35 percent more precipitation than in 1965. Scientists have warned that the window is rapidly closing for making the necessary cuts in carbon pollution to protect future generations from the worst consequences of global warming.
To respond to this threat, the president’s plan contains several key components. It will:
• Limit carbon pollution from new and existing power plants. The president directed the Environmental Protection Agency to set limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants, which currently lack any such federal limits despite being the largest single source of the carbon pollution fueling global warming.
• Invest in energy efficiency. New efficiency measures for buildings and new appliances will cut carbon pollution by reducing our overall energy demand.
• Build more renewable energy. The plan focuses on expanding production of clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar, especially on public lands.
• Support affected communities. The president’s plan will help ensure that communities are better equipped to prepare for and recover from the impacts of global warming.
• Rebuild U.S. leadership Internationally. The president’s plan calls for the U.S. to actively engage in international efforts to address global warming.
VPIRG offered special praise for the president’s pledge to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants. More than 3.2 million Americans submitted public comments last year in support of the president setting limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
“Carbon pollution from power plants is a huge part of the global warming problem. That’s why we need not only to clean up the old plants burning dirty fossil fuels, but we need to build more clean energy plants that utilize renewable resources,” said Burns. “The president’s plan is just one important step in a multi-year effort, and that the proof of the plan’s success will be in the pudding. But VPIRG is prepared to work with the vast majority of Vermonters who stand ready to assist the president in following through on this critical commitment.”
Vermont Energy Partnership
The Vermont Energy Partnership commends President Obama for addressing climate change and the role that nuclear power can play in that regard. We have always promoted clean, affordable energy and have noted that nuclear power is a part of that category. Vermont Yankee is a virtually-carbon free generator of about three-quarters of the electricity produced in Vermont and should continue to operate as the state develops and deploys more renewable, clean power sources.
Renewable Energy Vermont
“Renewable Energy Vermont (REV) heralds many of the initiatives announced in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan announced earlier today. The goals of doubling renewables on public lands to 20 gigawatts by 2020, streamlining permitting for the retrofitting of existing hydro dams, and the commitment by the Department of Defense to deploy 3 gigawatts of solar, wind, geothermal and bioenergy technologies at military installations by 2025 will not only grow jobs in renewables and set the stage for faster deployment of clean, renewable energy – it will further promote local energy security and reduce energy costs while placing us on a continued path towards climate change mitigation. President Obama’s focus on the important and critical role of businesses and communities in collaboratively leading America forward in our energy transformation reflects the ongoing work seen here in Vermont. Increasing energy resiliency — and improving our energy infrastructure – are critical steps in aligning towards our own state goal of 90% renewables across all energy sectors (electricity, heating, and transportation) by 2050.”