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THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - December 31, 2015
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*-- How Obama made climate change a priority in 2015 --*
WASHINGTON - In the past year, President Barack Obama made climate change an urgent domestic and international issue -- achieving attributable success in the complex, often-illusive fight against global warming.
Climate change has been one of Obama's main focus points during his second term as president. On his second inaugural address on Jan. 21, 2013, Obama spoke clearly about the need to combat the effects of a warming planet, stating the United States must lead the path toward sustainable energy.
"We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations," Obama said. "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."
Obama has been hailed for his efforts, despite criticism by some environmental activists accusing him of not taking enough action. Pope Francis, another high-profile leader working to inhibit climate change, praised Obama during his visit to the United States in September.
Francis said he was "encouraged" by Obama "proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution."
"Climate change is a problem that can no longer be left for a future generation," Francis said, stating it was necessary to create change not only for future generations but for the millions affected by a system that has "overlooked" them.
Obama visits the Everglades on Earth Day
In April, Obama delivered a speech at the Florida Everglades during Earth Day, calling on Congress to support funding to address climate change. He also introduced a plan to allow all fourth-graders free admission to all public lands.
Obama said protecting the national parks in particular makes sense for the U.S. economy.
"You do not have time to deny climate change," Obama said, perhaps referring to reports that Florida Gov. Rick Scott previously banned the use of the term "climate change" in official communications.
Greenhouse gas emissions executive order
In March, Obama signed an executive order mandating federal government agencies reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent over the next 10 years.
The pledge calls for the federal government to get 30 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2025 and major emissions reductions in federal vehicles.
The majority of greenhouse gas pollution comes from carbon dioxide as a result of the burning of coal, oil and natural gas. Although methane accounts for 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution, its greenhouse effect is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide's.
Obama, State Department kill Keystone XL pipeline
In November, Obama and the U.S. Department of State worked together to reject a request to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline over continuing concerns of climate change.
Obama said the pipeline would not make a "meaningful, longterm contribution to our economy," would not lower gas prices for consumers and would not lessen the country's dependence on fossil fuels. He said the United States has made strides without the Keystone project, pointing out gas prices are lower and jobs are already on the rise in the country.
EPA Clean Water Rule blocked
In August, a North Dakota district judge blocked a new rule from the Obama administration that would expand the Clean Water Act and give greater federal oversight to bodies of water throughout the country -- attempting to limit pollution in about 60 percent of the United States' bodies of water.
The EPA said that by clearly defining which water ways are protected -- only those that impact the health of larger bodies of water downstream -- the new rule in the Clean Water Act would reduce the amount of resources spent on case-specific analysis of water.
United Nations reaches historic climate change agreement in Paris
On Nov. 30, Obama warned climate change could be the most dramatic threat to the world during a speech in the first day of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, adding that immediate, global action is needed.
Obama said economic growth can occur without increasing carbon emissions, adding that increasing pollution puts the world's economy and future generations at risk.
"I've come here personally, as the leader of the world's largest economy and the second-largest emitter, to say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it," Obama said.
On Dec. 12, the U.N. conference in Paris reached a final agreement to attempt to curb global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
Key points in the agreement include peaking greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieving a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century. The process will be reviewed every five years and a $100 billion a year climate finance fund for developing countries will be established by 2020, with further financing in the future.
Obama said the deal is "the best chance we have to save the one planet we have," adding that it could be a "turning point" toward a low-carbon future.
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