As New England digs out from a storm that left record-breaking snow and ice in its wake, people along the Mississippi River are dealing with the opposite problem: drought. Months of parched conditions have left the river at historically low levels, and the sharp drop in river transit has hit the region’s economy hard. In December and January alone, shrinking river waters put more than $7 billion worth of goods at risk of not arriving where they needed to go.
One Illinois farmer who lost half his crop in the drought last summer, told the Washington Post, “If you don’t live near the river system and see how important it is as far as commerce, it’s easy to forget about it, and what it means to the middle part of the country.”
I will remember those words as I listen to President Obama deliver the State of the Union on Tuesday night. I have the honor of attending the speech, and I am eager to hear the president talk about how we can protect American communities from drought, intense storms, and other hallmarks of climate change. For as many people along the Mississippi know, our nation is already being hit by an altered climate.
President Obama has made it clear he is committed to confronting climate change. He discussed it at length in his Inaugural Address, saying, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” He has also repeatedly said he would make climate action a top priority of his second term.
Americans from all walks of life have welcomed this leadership. Latino leaders, state legislators, faith groups, public health experts, and environmental organizations have written to the White House urging the president to move forward on climate.
The single most important thing we can do as a nation to address climate change is to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. These plants are the largest source of global warming pollution in our country. Cleaning them up will not only strike a blow against climate change, but it will also create jobs, save our families money on electricity bills, and make our air safer to breathe.
The Obama Administration has the authority under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon pollution from power plants right now. NRDC has proposed a flexible, cost-effective plan for how the Environmental Protection Agency can use that authority to cut carbon pollution by 25 percent by 2020. That would take a major chunk out of our carbon footprint and generate between $25 and $60 billion in public health and environmental benefits by 2020.
This is the kind of solution that can defuse the climate threat and make our nation stronger for generations to come. Putting it in place will require presidential leadership, and I look forward to seeing that leadership on display during the State of the Union Address.