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02/12/2013 10:38 pm ET

Climate Change In Obama's Speech Draws Hesitant Optimism From Environmentalists

"For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change," President Barack Obama declared in his 2013 State of the Union address. "Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15."

Environmentalists were quick to react, offering support for the president's expressed commitment to combatting climate change. The League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and others wrote in a joint statement, "We applaud President Obama for restating in no uncertain terms, in tonight’s State of the Union address, the obligation he and the nation have to address climate change." They added, "More than 3.2 million comments have been collected from Americans that support limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants.”

The Huffington Post's Lynne Peeples previously reported that environmentalists held high expectations going into Tuesday's speech. Yet, "as many experts also note, such hopes should probably be tempered. Obama is constrained by a ticking clock and partisan politics."

Other environmental groups responded hesitantly to Obama's remarks. Forecast the Facts Campaign Director Daniel Souweine wrote in a statement, "Tonight, President Obama set the lowest possible bar for action—he did not pledge to stop the carbon-spewing Keystone XL Pipeline nor promise carbon regulations on existing power plants. In fact, he pledged no specific actions at all.”

Last month, Obama declared in his inaugural address, "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

HuffPost's Jason Linkins noted on Tuesday night, "it's important to remember that presidents, in speeches like these, aim to connect with as broad a swath of the electorate as possible, and where climate change is concerned, Obama's position is actually the mainstream position."

Obama carried the emphasis on bold actions into the State of the Union, saying, "If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will."

Lynne Peeples reported both experts and advocates believe executive action, via the Environmental Protection Agency, could allow Obama to "implement tougher regulations on the fossil fuel industry, whether in the form of standards on new coal-fired power plants or economic incentives to cut emissions."

Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke echoed the call for Obama to act, saying in a statement Tuesday night, "The president has a full box of tools to strike back at climate chaos. The best tool he has is the Clean Air Act."

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