The speech was met by opposition from elements of the energy sector for its potential impact on employment and electricity rates.
"The president missed the opportunity to remind listeners that climate change is an international phenomenon which will require international solutions," Scott Segal, who represents energy companies on behalf of Bracewell & Giuliani, said in a statement. "Indeed, inflexible national policies restrain our economy without delivering promised solutions."
Obama's first term was memorable for its efforts to address climate change. It had a near-miss for capping carbon emissions after the House passed the "American Clean Energy and Security Act" by a narrow vote of 219-212 in June 2009, only to see it dissolve in the Senate controlled by Democrats a year later.
His administration delivered the strongest increases in fuel efficiency standards for passenger cars in decades with promises to cut carbon emissions by 6 billion metric tons by 2025. And EPA under his watch is poised to regulate new, but not existing, power plants.
Window for rapid emissions reduction may be closing
Obama begins his second term one week after a federal advisory committee of 60 climate experts issued a draft report that warns of accelerating global warming. It cautions that the United States has not done enough to avoid rapid increases in carbon dioxide contributing to rising sea levels, intensifying heat waves and storms, damaging droughts and other impacts.
The draft report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program says it is likely the world will forfeit its ability to meet "rapid emission reduction" scenarios needed to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations "within a few years."
That is because human activities going back 150 years have emitted long-lasting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, meaning that sharp reductions in future emissions are needed to avoid harmful climatic impacts.
"Stabilizing or reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, therefore, requires very deep reductions in future emissions to compensate for past emissions that are still circulating in the Earth system," the draft report says.
Obama has increased his urgency on the climate since his first inaugural speech, when he warned of the "specter of a warming planet" but did not mention "climate change" or endorse aggressive action to address it.
"It's clear that we cannot dither anymore," Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said in an interview. "We've been dithering for years knowing this problem is before us. And the president has an opportunity now to address this problem while Hurricane Sandy is fresh in our minds."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500