On Tuesday, President Obama will use a speech at the University of Georgetown to announce new, sweeping executive orders addressing climate change that will be designed to appease critics who have attacked the President for talking the green talk and not walking the green walk. Obviously, the White House is also hoping tackling climate change will get them some decent press in the wake of that pesky surveillance scandal.
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After signalling he was ready to act during a speech in Berlin last week, the White House released a video of the President teasing his plan to lay out new climate initiatives late Saturday. "This Tuesday, I'll lay out my vision for where I believe we need to go - a national plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change and lead global efforts to fight it," he says. "There's no single step that can reverse the effects of climate change. But when it comes to the world we leave our children, we owe it to them to do what we can."
The President is expected to use his executive powers to adopt a wide array of climate change measures, but no one is 100% sure what those measures are just yet. Reuters reports the President will detail "a strategy to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants" to cap U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. (Power plants account for more than 40 percent of domestic CO2 emissions.) The Washington Post reports the President will also announce new short-term goals:
In the speech at Georgetown University, according to individuals briefed on the matter who asked not to be identified because the plan was not yet public, Obama will detail a government-wide plan to not only reduce the nation’s carbon output but also prepare the United States for the near-term impacts of global warming.
They said those measures would include programs to enhance the resilience of coastal communities as well as Agriculture Department “climate adaptation hubs” that could help farmers cope with changes in temperature and precipitation.
The President promised big climate change initiatives during his second Inaugural address but has come under fire in some corners for not acting on those promises until now. Still, his combination of short- and long-term goals seem to fulfill his promise of responding to climate change, "knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations." The President also said the road towards climate change would be "long and sometimes difficult," maybe signalling a fight to pass bills through congress, but in reality his climate plan should be relatively easy to enact. Because Obama is using his executive powers, he avoids having to pass anything through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. But The New York Times cautions the path towards climate change isn't exactly sunny and paved in green:
Mr. Obama’s decision to use his executive authority to regulate utilities reflects a determination that he has no prospect of passing such sweeping policies through Congress. But while the Supreme Court validated the power of the executive to regulate carbon emissions without further legislation, the president’s move may draw lawsuits and other challenges from industry and Republicans citing the economic costs.
Nothing is going to come easy for Obama when it comes to the environment, or any other issue for that matter. There's no indication as to whether or not Obama will approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. That move would certainly appease Republicans and make the entire climate change slate go down easier, but it would also infuriate climate change activists and potentially steal the headlines away from other initiatives.