When it comes to addressing climate, I have fallen short, substantially and significantlyshort. But that is about to change. When it comes to this elephant in the living room that Iand Congress and, indeed, most of our leaders and much of our citizenry have beendoing our best to ignore, from this moment forward I say this:
"Not on my watch!"
As president, I must work with both Houses of Congress in order to bring policy onto law. Icannot simply draw up a program and say, "This is how it is going to be." Compromiseand negotiation are an integral part of the political process. And so what I say tonight willnot automatically become the law of the land. I recognize that. But for too long, in thename of
, in the name of
finding a middle ground
, I have avoided a simpleand undeniable truth and in doing so have been doing a grave disservice to the Americanpeople.The truth is this:
Climate change is an emergency.
Right here. Right now. Climatechange presents a clear and present danger to the national interests of the United Statesof America and to the well-being of its citizens. Before I go into details, I want to addressthe notion that there is still uncertainty among the scientists who are studying our climate.I want to make this clear; there is no uncertainty as to whether human activities, especiallythe burning of fossil fuels, are warming our planet. They are. There is no uncertainty as towhether the effects of this warming will be mostly negative. They will be. There is nouncertainty as to whether the longer we go without taking needed action the more peoplewill suffer and the more expensive it will become.
The only uncertainty that remains ishow quickly things will worsen if we do not act now to reduce carbon emissions.
I understand that for many climate change is still a vague and distant phenomenon. For example, you might be aware that the Arctic ice is melting before our eyes; it is simplyvanishing. You might think, "So what? How does that affect myself, my loved ones? Weneed good jobs, we need to pay our mortgages." This is what makes climate change theenormous challenge that it is: To most of us it happens relatively slowly, and even if weare experiencing drought or flooding, we know that droughts and floods have alwayshappened. On a day-to-day level, climate change does not set off our survival alarms.
It is into this breech between our imperfect perceptions and the troubling realitythat climate change represents, that I, as your president and Commander-In-Chief,must step
. As we put more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, our planet warms.The extra heat enters our oceans and our landmasses every minute of every hour of every day. The climate systems upon which we have depended as we have built our nation; where and how we grow our food, where and how we get our drinking water,where and how we build our cities and towns, are slowly being pushed out of balance. Itdoes not happen all at once. It is measured not in weeks or months but in years anddecades. But it is happening and soon, perhaps very soon, we will be looking at basicdestabilization of agricultural production and other systems fundamental to our nationalsecurity and well-being.The climate system is complex and climate science is complicated. I have learned asmuch as I can as quickly as I have been able, but at a certain point I simply have to trustthe scientists. A strange thing has happened in our country recently. The findings of our scientists, these good men and women who devote their lives to investigating andexamining our world in the name of progress and understanding... their findings are beingtreated as a political matter.
It has gotten to the point, where certain high-rankingpoliticians and business people have leveled baseless accusations impugning theintegrity of our scientific community.
I can think of few things more dangerous tothe functioning of a healthy democracy.
President Barack ObamaMay 16, 2013Page 2 of 4