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How Will President Obama’s Second Term Impact Climate Change?

How Will President Obama’s Second Term Impact Climate Change?

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Environmentalists are cautiously celebrating President Obama’s inauguration speech, in which he committed to addressing the threat of climate change. He has elevated the issue to a top tier priority for his second term- giving it as much weight as gun control and immigration reform.

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Mr. Obama stated in his speech.

The President went on to say, “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 American 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.”

While his speech seemed to focus on developing clean and renewable energy sources, many in the environmental community are speculating on how the President will address the issues specifically.

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Ursula Sladek (2011) talks to President Obama about her renewable energy plan.

Whether or not Mr. Obama will pursue aggressive legislative policy in the coming years is still unknown. However, many believe that he will take a stricter stance on regulating coal and gas fired power plant emissions, which account for 40% of total US emissions.

Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is already authorized to regulate carbon dioxide and impose carbon limits on existing coal- and gas-fired facilities. The EPA is currently working on carbon emissions standards for new power plants, which are expected to be announced in April.

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Hilton Kelley (2011) and President Obama discussed stricter regulations for oil and gas refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Later this year, President Obama is also expected to make a final decision on the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline project- a 1,700 mile pipeline that will carry tar sands from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Mr. Obama vetoed the original plan for the pipeline last year, a victory for the environmental community, but a revised route has put the project back on the table.

More answers are expected from Mr. Obama’s State of the Union Address next month. 

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The 2010 Goldman Prize recipients pose with President Obama.

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