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  • (applause)

  • The President: Thank you, Georgetown!

  • Everybody, please be seated.

  • And my first announcement today is that you should all take off

  • your jackets.

  • (laughter)

  • I'm going to do the same.

  • (applause)

  • It's not that sexy, now.

  • (laughter)

  • It is good to be back on campus,

  • and it is a great privilege to speak from the steps of this

  • historic hall that welcomed Presidents going back

  • to George Washington.

  • I want to thank your President, President DeGioia,

  • who's here today.

  • (applause)

  • I want to thank him for hosting us.

  • I want to thank the many members of my Cabinet

  • and my administration.

  • I want to thank Leader Pelosi and the members of Congress

  • who are here.

  • We are very grateful for their support.

  • And I want to say thank you to the Hoyas in the house for

  • having me back.

  • (applause)

  • It was important for me to speak directly to your

  • generation, because the decisions that we make now and

  • in the years ahead will have a profound impact on the world

  • that all of you inherit.

  • On Christmas Eve, 1968, the astronauts of Apollo 8 did a

  • live broadcast from lunar orbit.

  • So Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders -- the first

  • humans to orbit the moon -- described what they saw,

  • and they read Scripture from the Book of Genesis to the rest

  • of us back here.

  • And later that night, they took a photo that would change

  • the way we see and think about our world.

  • It was an image of Earth -- beautiful; breathtaking;

  • a glowing marble of blue oceans, and green forests,

  • and brown mountains brushed with white clouds,

  • rising over the surface of the moon.

  • And while the sight of our planet from space might seem

  • routine today, imagine what it looked like to those of us

  • seeing our home, our planet, for the first time.

  • Imagine what it looked like to children like me.

  • Even the astronauts were amazed.

  • "It makes you realize," Lovell would say,

  • "just what you have back there on Earth."

  • And around the same time we began exploring space,

  • scientists were studying changes taking place

  • in the Earth's atmosphere.

  • Now, scientists had known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases

  • like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels

  • release those gases into the air.

  • That wasn't news.

  • But in the late 1950s, the National Weather Service began

  • measuring the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere,

  • with the worry that rising levels might someday disrupt the

  • fragile balance that makes our planet so hospitable.

  • And what they've found, year after year,

  • is that the levels of carbon pollution in our atmosphere have

  • increased dramatically.

  • That science, accumulated and reviewed over decades,

  • tells us that our planet is changing in ways that will have

  • profound impacts on all of humankind.

  • The 12 warmest years in recorded history have all come

  • in the last 15 years.

  • Last year, temperatures in some areas of the ocean reached

  • record highs, and ice in the Arctic shrank to its smallest

  • size on record -- faster than most models had

  • predicted it would.

  • These are facts.

  • Now, we know that no single weather event is caused solely

  • by climate change.

  • Droughts and fires and floods, they go back to ancient times.

  • But we also know that in a world that's warmer than it used to

  • be, all weather events are affected by a warming planet.

  • The fact that sea level in New York, in New York Harbor,

  • are now a foot higher than a century ago -- that didn't cause

  • Hurricane Sandy, but it certainly contributed to the

  • destruction that left large parts of our mightiest city

  • dark and underwater.

  • The potential impacts go beyond rising sea levels.

  • Here at home, 2012 was the warmest year in our history.

  • Midwest farms were parched by the worst drought since the Dust

  • Bowl, and then drenched by the wettest spring on record.

  • Western wildfires scorched an area larger than

  • the state of Maryland.

  • Just last week, a heat wave in Alaska shot temperatures

  • into the 90s.

  • And we know that the costs of these events can be measured in

  • lost lives and lost livelihoods, lost homes, lost businesses,

  • hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency services

  • and disaster relief.

  • In fact, those who are already feeling the effects of climate

  • change don't have time to deny it -- they're busy

  • dealing with it.

  • Firefighters are braving longer wildfire seasons,

  • and states and federal governments have to figure out

  • how to budget for that.

  • I had to sit on a meeting with the Department of Interior and

  • Agriculture and some of the rest of my team just to figure out

  • how we're going to pay for more and more expensive fire seasons.

  • Farmers see crops wilted one year, washed away the next;

  • and the higher food prices get passed on to you,

  • the American consumer.

  • Mountain communities worry about what smaller snowpacks will mean

  • for tourism -- and then, families at the bottom of the

  • mountains wonder what it will mean for their drinking water.

  • Americans across the country are already paying the price of

  • inaction in insurance premiums, state and local taxes,

  • and the costs of rebuilding and disaster relief.

  • So the question is not whether we need to act.

  • The overwhelming judgment of science -- of chemistry and

  • physics and millions of measurements -- has put all

  • that to rest.

  • Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including,

  • by the way, some who originally disputed the data,

  • have now put that to rest.

  • They've acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity

  • is contributing to it.

  • So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act

  • before it's too late.

  • And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world

  • that we leave behind not just to you,

  • but to your children and to your grandchildren.

  • As a President, as a father, and as an American,

  • I'm here to say we need to act.

  • (applause)

  • I refuse to condemn your generation and future

  • generations to a planet that's beyond fixing.

  • And that's why, today, I'm announcing a new national

  • climate action plan, and I'm here to enlist your generation's

  • help in keeping the United States of America a leader --

  • a global leader -- in the fight against climate change.

  • This plan builds on progress that we've already made.

  • Last year, I took office -- the year that I took office,

  • my administration pledged to reduce America's greenhouse gas

  • emissions by about 17 percent from their 2005 levels by the

  • end of this decade.

  • And we rolled up our sleeves and we got to work.

  • We doubled the electricity we generated from wind and the sun.

  • We doubled the mileage our cars will get on a gallon of gas by

  • the middle of the next decade.

  • (applause)

  • Here at Georgetown, I unveiled my strategy

  • for a secure energy future.

  • And thanks to the ingenuity of our businesses,

  • we're starting to produce much more of our own energy.

  • We're building the first nuclear power plants in more than three

  • decades -- in Georgia and South Carolina.

  • For the first time in 18 years, America is poised to produce

  • more of our own oil than we buy from other nations.

  • And today, we produce more natural gas than anybody else.

  • So we're producing energy.

  • And these advances have grown our economy,

  • they've created new jobs, they can't be shipped overseas --

  • and, by the way, they've also helped drive our carbon

  • pollution to its lowest levels in nearly 20 years.

  • Since 2006, no country on Earth has reduced its total carbon

  • pollution by as much as the United States of America.

  • (applause)

  • So it's a good start.

  • But the reason we're all here in the heat today is because we

  • know we've got more to do.

  • In my State of the Union address,

  • I urged Congress to come up with a bipartisan,

  • market-based solution to climate change,

  • like the one that Republican and Democratic senators worked on

  • together a few years ago.

  • And I still want to see that happen.

  • I'm willing to work with anyone to make that happen.

  • But this is a challenge that does not pause

  • for partisan gridlock.

  • It demands our attention now.

  • And this is my plan to meet it -- a plan to cut carbon

  • pollution; a plan to protect our country from the impacts of

  • climate change; and a plan to lead the world in a coordinated

  • assault on a changing climate.

  • (applause)

  • This plan begins with cutting carbon pollution by

  • changing the way we use energy -- using less dirty energy,

  • using more clean energy, wasting less energy

  • throughout our economy.

  • Forty-three years ago, Congress passed a law called

  • the Clean Air Act of 1970.

  • (applause)

  • It was a good law.

  • The reasoning behind it was simple: New technology can

  • protect our health by protecting the air we breathe

  • from harmful pollution.

  • And that law passed the Senate unanimously.

  • Think about that -- it passed the Senate unanimously.

  • It passed the House of Representatives 375 to 1.

  • I don't know who the one guy was -- I haven't looked that up.

  • (laughter)

  • You can barely get that many votes to name a post

  • office these days.

  • (laughter)

  • It was signed into law by a Republican President.

  • It was later strengthened by another Republican President.

  • This used to be a bipartisan issue.

  • Six years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are

  • pollutants covered by that same Clean Air Act.

  • And they required the Environmental Protection

  • Agency, the EPA, to determine whether they're a threat

  • to our health and welfare.

  • In 2009, the EPA determined that they are a threat to both our

  • health and our welfare in many different ways -- from dirtier

  • air to more common heat waves -- and, therefore,

  • subject to regulation.

  • Today, about 40 percent of America's carbon pollution comes

  • from our power plants.

  • But here's the thing: Right now, there are no federal limits to

  • the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump

  • into our air.

  • None.

  • Zero.

  • We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and

  • sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water,

  • but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon

  • pollution into the air for free.

  • That's not right, that's not safe, and it needs to stop.

  • (applause)

  • So today, for the sake of our children,

  • and the health and safety of all Americans,

  • I'm directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end

  • to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power

  • plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new

  • and existing power plants.

  • (applause)

  • I'm also directing the EPA to develop these

  • standards in an open and transparent way,

  • to provide flexibility to different states with different

  • needs, and build on the leadership that many states,

  • and cities, and companies have already shown.

  • In fact, many power companies have already begun modernizing

  • their plants, and creating new jobs in the process.

  • Others have shifted to burning cleaner natural gas instead

  • of dirtier fuel sources.

  • Nearly a dozen states have already implemented or are

  • implementing their own market-based programs

  • to reduce carbon pollution.

  • More than 25 have set energy efficiency targets.

  • More than 35 have set renewable energy targets.

  • Over 1,000 mayors have signed agreements

  • to cut carbon pollution.

  • So the idea of