The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Patrick Sullivan, (415) 517-9364,

Center for Biological Diversity's Statement on President Obama's State of the Union Address

Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, released the following statement ahead of President Obama's State of the Union address tonight.


Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, released the following statement ahead of President Obama's State of the Union address tonight.

"Following 2014's record-breaking heat, President Obama faces some of the most consequential choices any president has ever made in the fight against global warming. His own scientists warn that carbon and methane pollution are already threatening human well-being and disrupting Earth's precious web of life. To help preserve a livable climate, the president has to aim higher than he ever has before, directly confronting the dirty fossil fuels driving our planet into crisis.

"As we head toward the Paris climate summit, President Obama needs to throw his full weight behind a bold new plan to cut global carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Here at home, the president has already pledged to veto a bill that would force approval of the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline. But he also needs to reject dangerous Arctic drilling and act against the frenzy of fracking, coal mining and oil production on America's beautiful public lands and in our communities.

"The president must also strengthen his administration's climate policies. We need much more ambitious cuts to power plant pollution and methane emissions from oil and gas production and an end to new fossil fuel leasing on public lands.

"The global climate crisis won't be solved by rhetoric and grand speeches but by hard work and the courage to do what's right. As the Obama presidency enters its final chapter, he faces a pivotal choice: Finally take the ambitious action needed to stem climate disruption or continue a series of baby steps that will ultimately fail to avert disaster."

Here are the five actions the Center for Biological Diversity urges President Obama to take in 2015 to curb carbon pollution and fight global warming:

1. Back the "zero emissions by 2050" plan at the Paris Climate Summit this year: After last week's announcement that 2014 was the hottest year in Earth's recorded history, the president should order U.S. negotiators to back an international push at the United Nations climate talks to end all fossil fuel use by 2050. This bold proposal to eliminate carbon pollution by mid-century is backed by dozens of governments around the world. The U.S. must also support efforts to provide ample support to help developing countries leapfrog into clean energy economies.

2. Reject the Keystone XL pipeline and other dangerous energy projects: President Obama must follow through on a pledge to veto a bill in Congress aimed at ramming through this climate-disrupting pipeline, which would transport up to 35 million gallons of oil a day from Canada's tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. Extracting and refining tar sands oil produces two times more greenhouse gases per barrel than conventional oil, and scientists say Keystone would be a disaster for the climate. Beyond Keystone, the Obama administration must curb other tar sands energy projects, reject new efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic, and begin a rapid, large-scale transition to more renewable forms of energy.

3. Strengthen Power Plant Pollution Rules: The Environmental Protection Agency must greatly strengthen recently unveiled rules aimed at cutting planet-warming pollution from power plants. Careful examination reveals that the EPA plan, in combination with all other current climate initiatives, would still leave total U.S. emissions about 5 percent above 1990 levels by 2030. But recent scientific analysis shows that developed countries, including the United States, must reduce emissions far more -- 35 percent to 65 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

4. Cut more methane pollution from oil and gas production: The Obama administration should greatly strengthen a recent proposal to regulate methane pollution from the oil and gas industry, the nation's largest industrial source of this dangerously potent greenhouse gas. The rules must be widened to apply to existing equipment, which accounts for 90 percent of methane leaks. The steps the administration currently proposes would not apply to existing equipment and would continue to allow millions of metric tons of this dangerous gas -- which traps 87 times more heat than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period -- to escape into the atmosphere.

5. Ban new fossil fuel leasing of public lands and oceans: The president should use his legal authority to ban new fossil fuel leasing on public lands and oceans. The federal government currently leases millions of acres of public lands and oceans for oil, gas, fracking, coal and other fossil fuel development. That leasing is estimated to have caused some 20 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2013. By prohibiting new fossil fuel leasing, the president can take significant amounts of potential greenhouse gas emissions off the table, while providing critical leadership.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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