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An Open Letter to Obama: Take Lead on Climate Change

by Green Group Leaders

Dear Mr. President,

Congratulations on your reelection.This sign, which hung at the global climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, still rings true for those hoping that Obama can be the transformative president the crisis demands.

Thank you for repeatedly raising the threat of climate change as you have outlined your priorities for your second term, starting with your Nov. 7 speech in Chicago. As you said during the campaign, “Climate change is not a hoax. More drought and floods and hurricanes and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And we can do something about it.”

We couldn’t agree more. Climate change threatens the health of our families, our communities and our planet. It is the great challenge of our time and our response will leave an historic legacy.

We urge you to continue underscoring the threat of climate change with the American people and to build on the historic vehicle standards and other progress you made during your first term by taking three decisive steps to curb dangerous carbon pollution:

1. Raise your voice. Elevate the issue of climate disruption and climate solutions in the public discourse. Connect the dots between carbon pollution and extreme weather, and lead the public discussion of what we need to do as a nation to both prepare for the changes in climate that are no longer avoidable and avoid changes in climate that are unacceptable.

2. Use your executive authority. You have the authority under existing law to achieve urgently needed reductions in the carbon pollution that is disrupting our climate and damaging our health. Most significantly, you can set standards that cut carbon pollution from America’s aging power plant fleet at least 25 percent by 2020 while boosting energy efficiency and shifting to clean energy sources. Power plants are our largest source of carbon pollution and you have the authority and responsibility to clean them up under the Clean Air Act. This will create tens of thousands of clean energy jobs, meet the pollution targets you set for the country, and restore U.S. international leadership.

3. Reject dirty fuels. We should not pursue dirty fuels like tar sands when climate science tells us that 80 percent of existing fossil fuel reserves need to be kept in the ground. More specifically, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in our national interest because it would unlock vast amounts of additional carbon that we can’t afford to burn, extend our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels, endanger health and safety, and put critical water resources at risk.

Hurricane Sandy made it tragically clear that many communities are extremely vulnerable to climate change. We can and we must build back better—with investment in sustainable infrastructure, not the kind of carbon-intensive development that helped drive this problem in the first place.

Cutting carbon pollution at home and rejecting dirty fuels will establish America’s leadership and credibility, enabling you to create clean energy jobs in the United States while forging an effective international coalition to cut global carbon pollution. We urge you to elevate climate solutions to the top tier of your domestic agenda and America’s bilateral and global diplomatic priorities.

We pledge to work with you every step of the way to secure a healthy future.

Mr. President, you have the power and the support you need to tackle the climate crisis. Your leadership can establish a new American legacy we can all be proud of.

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