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What Obama Didn’t Say About Climate Change

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President Obama worked with Congress to provide emergency relief funds to communities hit by Hurricane Sandy, but he has failed to lay out specific goals to prevent future climate disasters.

CREDIT: Flickr/ White House

For anyone who’s been paying attention to the environmental scene lately, it’s obvious that President Obama missed a few things in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

True, he gave a nod to the unprecedented natural disasters and record-breaking weather patterns of the past few years:

Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

It’s clear that President Obama accepts the reality of climate change, but what he intends to do about it remains foggy:

…if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Political maneuvers aside, the president’s plan doesn’t offer much. In fairness, he is forced to walk a pretty tight line when it comes to environmental policy. If applause is the gauge of enthusiasm, then it’s clear that members of Congress are far more concerned with gas prices than they are with renewable energy.

But a swelling environmental movement and a generation of young Americans who are fed up with Washington's lack of commitment demand more. They want Obama to recognize that an "all of the above" energy strategy does too much to promote fossil fuels, and too little to reduce the harmful carbon emissions they cause. 

On Monday, a group of Hurricane Sandy survivors and climate activists delivered an open letter to the White House, hoping to push President Obama to act on his long-standing promise to address climate change directly. The Sierra Club and 350.org expect thousands to turn out for their Forward on Climate rally this Sunday.

And of course, the international protest of the contentious Keystone XL pipeline continues – another sore spot the president neglected to mention.

He did, however, extol the recent surge in natural gas production, and promise to fast track gas and oil permits in the pursuit of “energy independence.” That announcement, at least, seemed to go over well in the chamber. 

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Enhanced State of the Union Address, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy. Mind the gaps. 

Cody Bond is a reporter with Campus Progress.

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