State of the Union preview: Climate Change

President Obama

courtesy of The White House

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama should make clear that tackling climate change head on is a priority in his second term.

Climate change is the most important long term problem facing this country and the world. Without presidential leadership, there is no chance for meaningful action on such a pressing issue. What President Obama should make clear, is that our public lands provide a unique opportunity for reducing our carbon emissions and making our climate healthier.

One of the ways our public lands help to mitigate climate change is through our vast national forests. Our forests, which consist of 193 million acres of grasslands, prairies and tundra, are natural carbon sinks. Due to many old growth trees that inhabit these forests, our forests directly reduce carbon emissions by 14 percent annually. By preserving these forests and managing them properly, we can make a more gradual transition from dirty fossil fuels to a cleaner energy future.

Our public lands can also be an important instrument in our shift from fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy. Historically, our public lands have been where much energy development occurs. President Obama, and his Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, has done remarkable work when it comes to energy production on our public lands. President Obama’s administration has already met the 2005 target of 10,000 kilowatts of renewable energy on our public lands. And they accomplished it 3 years early. They have also instituted some incredibly important reforms to the oil and gas leasing process that will help make sure that oil and gas production on public lands are done in a transparent and environmentally responsible way.

President Obama should promise these THREE important steps:

  1. Continue putting in place the oil and gas reforms that have already been proposed by Secretary Salazar
  2. Create priority zones for renewable energy and transmission lines on our public lands that avoid sensitive land and wildlife habitat
  3. Protect our national forests from indiscriminate and irresponsible timber production

Going forward, we hope that the president makes clear that our public lands should be a place for smart, responsible renewable energy that can help to stem climate change. Our public lands are a crucial ingredient for making sure our planet does not warm. As the United States leads the way in dealing with climate change, our public lands need to be an important part of the puzzle.

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