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For Immediate Release, February 11, 2013

Contact:  Bill Snape, (202) 536-9351 or

Five Executive Actions Against Climate Chaos:
What the President Should Announce in State of the Union Speech

WASHINGTON— Four weeks after federal scientists reported that climate change is raising extreme weather risk and could warm America by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, President Barack Obama is being challenged to lay out a bold plan to fight climate chaos in Tuesday’s State of the Union speech to Congress. Citing the draft National Climate Assessment, the Center for Biological Diversity urged the president to announce five executive actions to cut greenhouse gas pollution to avert the scientific report’s prediction of catastrophic climate change.

“President Obama needs to grab the steering wheel before we drive off the climate cliff,” said Bill Snape, the Center’s senior counsel. “Starting tomorrow, the president can regulate carbon pollution from power plants and airplanes, ban fracking on public lands and set a national cap on greenhouse gases. Bold and immediate action is the only way to avoid the terrifyingly hot future predicted by climate scientists.” 

Here are five executive actions President Obama should use to fight climate change:

1. Set a national carbon pollution cap: The president should direct the Environmental Protection Agency to set a national pollution cap for greenhouse gases. The Clean Air Act already requires the EPA to set a cap for widespread and damaging "criteria pollutants." The agency has done so for six pollutants, including carbon monoxide and lead. Between 1980 and 2010, emissions of these six pollutants fell by 63 percent while the gross domestic product grew by 128 percent. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide emissions, which were unregulated, went up by 21 percent, contributing to climate change and ocean acidification. The president should also order the EPA to immediately regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution, and from airplanes, the fastest-growing transportation source of greenhouse gases.

2. Ban fracking and end fossil fuel development on public lands: The president should direct the Department of the Interior to stop leasing out millions of acres of publicly owned lands for extreme and polluting forms of fossil fuel development.  Fracking, a particularly dangerous extraction practice, poisons our air and water and releases large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. As a first step, the president should direct the Interior department to prohibit fracking on federal lands. Ending all fossil fuel development on public lands will allow these precious areas to be used for wildlife habitat and recreation in a warming world.

3. Don’t approve the Keystone XL pipeline: The Keystone XL pipeline would transport up to 35 million gallons of oil a day from Canada's tar sands — one of the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive energy sources in the world — to the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, has called the Keystone pipeline "game over" for the climate. The Keystone pipeline cannot go forward without State Department approval, and the president should stop the project permanently.

4. Protect the Arctic from offshore drilling: The president should prohibit offshore fossil fuel development in the Arctic’s delicate ecosystem. As melting sea ice hits record lows, oil companies have rushed to exploit the Arctic’s fossil fuel spoils. We should not invest in a new carbon-intensive fossil fuel infrastructure at the top of the world, where cleaning up spilled oil would be impossible and where multiple accidents this year demonstrated that the oil industry cannot operate safely. An oil spill in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas would devastate one of the most pristine ecosystems on the planet, killing polar bears, ice seals and other imperiled wildlife.   

5. Join the world in seeking a fair and ambitious climate treaty: It’s time for President Obama to fulfill his campaign promise to seek a successful global climate treaty. In 1992 the first President Bush signed, and the Senate ratified, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in which America agreed to take action to avoid dangerous climate change. Yet the U.S. negotiating team refuses to agree to the cuts necessary to avert climate disruption. The president should direct his State Department negotiating team to commit our country to fair, ambitious and binding greenhouse gas reductions.

“If 2012 taught us anything, it’s that climate change is setting in and Americans are feeling the pain, whether it’s Superstorm Sandy, record hot temperatures, widespread drought or massive wildfires,” Snape said. “It’s imperative that the president take the reins and finally do what’s needed to begin addressing this crisis before it’s too late.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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