News / USA

Obama Urges Congress to Enact New Climate Law

Gulf oil spill may be fueling US efforts to finish work on a stalled energy and climate change bill

Adapting to climate change is no longer an option. It's a necessity according to the PEW Center on Global Climate Change.
Adapting to climate change is no longer an option. It's a necessity according to the PEW Center on Global Climate Change.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

The environmental and economic disasters caused by the continuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may be fueling efforts in the U.S. Congress to finish work on a stalled energy and climate change bill.

Though the House of Representatives passed its version a year ago, the national debates over health care and the economy delayed action in the U.S. Senate. Heightened concerns about America's dependence on fossil fuels may be propelling renewed action on the energy and climate legislation.  

American Power Act

Democrat John Kerry and independent Joe Lieberman introduced the American Power Act in the U.S. Senate. The bill's sponsors say that by putting a price on carbon released into the atmosphere, the measure would help reduce America's reliance on fossil fuels and cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

Debate is expected sometime in the coming months. A Republican-sponsored measure is also in the works.

In a speech at Carnegie Mellon University, President Obama referred to the Gulf oil spill in making the case that it is time, as he put it, to "aggressively accelerate the nation's transition to a clean energy economy. "

In crafting the U.S. response to global climate change, the president said congressional lawmakers must take into account the real price of America's heavy reliance on petroleum-based energy.

"If we refuse to take into account the full costs of our fossil fuel addiction - if we don't factor in the environmental costs and the national security costs and the true economic costs - we will have missed our best chance to seize a clean energy future."

High costs

A new report by the PEW Center on Global Climate Change, an independent policy research group, echoes the president's view. But it adds that, even if aggressive policies are put in place to reduce future carbon emissions, steps must be taken now to adapt to greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere; emissions that will continue to pollute the air and affect the earth's climate.

And who should lead that effort?

PEW Vice President for Policy Analysis and the report's co-author, Stephen Seidel, says the federal government should lead, as the nation's largest landowner and the guardian of its natural resources, national parks and highways, bridges and dams.  

"What the federal government does, has a huge impact on where we build in coastal zones, how we farm, what our infrastructure looks like," says Seidel. "And so decisions that federal agencies are making will have an enormous impact in our ability to wisely adapt to climate change."

Thinking ahead

The report recommends that all federal agencies begin long-term strategic planning on climate impacts.

It also recommends a coordinated climate adaptation research program and a national climate service to better inform all levels of government, the private sector, and the general public, about what climate change will mean for them.

Seidel says, "The first question anyone, when they are told that they have to adapt to climate change, they are going to ask, 'What is that change I have to adapt to?  How much sea level rise?  How much temperature change?  How much change in precipitation are we really talking about?  Seidel says providing that information is a critical element to understanding climate change".  

The report identifies models for adaptation strategies from other countries.  Seidel says many cities - including New York -  also already have aggressive adaptation plans in place.  

"[New York] looked at things like where should they locate waste water treatment facilities because of the impacts of climate change, what risks are likely to occur to their subway system because it's underground and already requires enormous pumping of water during certain large rainfall events."

Seidel says adaption to climate change is no longer an option. It is a necessity.

He believes that the first priority of any climate bill enacted by Congress must be to put a cap on global warming gases. Unless carbon emissions are brought under control, he says, the challenge of adapting to global climate change will become ever more difficult.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs