In his second inaugural speech yesterday, President Obama presented his vision for the future of our country, calling on us to seize the moment and highlighting the strength of our country's diversity. For Latinos across the nation there was much to cheer for, and much to hope for.
Answering the concerns of so many families, the President affirmed his commitment to ease the path to citizenship for immigrants, improve outdated education programs, and create greater equality in our workforce. And in a bold pledge to protect the health of our families and communities, President Obama declared that his administration would work to address climate change -- a commitment strongly supported by Latinos nationwide.
With communities still recovering from the flooding and devastation left by Hurricane Sandy, the President's call for action to curb climate change could not come soon enough. 2012 saw thousands of records broken in the U.S. for heat, rain, and snow across the country, with American families suffering the consequences. From devastating droughts in the Midwest that ruined crops and the livelihoods of American farmers, to violent storms that left thousands without power or water along the East Coast, 2012 proved to be a shockingly dangerous -- and deadly--year of extreme weather events.
Ready or not, our climate is changing, and we're witnessing the consequences in our backyard. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded in the continental United States. A warmer climate fuels more heat waves, downpours, floods, fires, and other extreme weather events -- just what we've seen across the country over the past few years.
The President got it right when he stated that we will all be affected by a changing climate. As the President stated, "Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms."
We can't afford to wait any longer. That's why leading Latino groups, along with small business owners and environmental organizations, are urging President Obama to act quickly to address the growing climate threat. In a new letter to the President, Voces Verdes, the National Hispanic Medical Association, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and over a dozen other leading Latino organizations called on President Obama to curb harmful carbon pollution from our existing coal-fired power plants.
The President has already acted to reduce pollution from new power plants. But we can't stop there. Coal-fired power plants are the nation's largest source of global warming pollution. Implementing new standards for existing power plants will put us on a path toward climate stability, unleash investment in new clean energy technologies, and help stem the devastating storms, droughts, and floods worsened by climate change. And, even while Congress remains gridlocked, the President can act now to implement these new standards, using the authority already given to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up our air.
For Latino communities, action on climate change now means a healthier and more prosperous future for our children. Half of all U.S. Latinos live in places where air pollution often makes the air unsafe to breathe. Cutting pollution from existing power plants will not only clean up the air in communities near the plants, but will also help reduce the health impacts of climate change -- like increased asthma attacks that come with warmer air. And with unemployment still hovering around 10 percent for Latinos, jobs in areas like construction, home weatherization, solar panel installation, and energy efficiency retrofits, will help get our workers back on their feet.
President Obama faces a long, difficult road in his second term, but his commitment to confront climate change could be a defining part of his legacy. The President has the opportunity now to drive global action on climate change, showing that we are committed to creating a healthier environment for all.
As President Obama outlined in his inaugural address, "America cannot resist this transition. We must lead it." Mr. President, the Latino community, and Americans across the nation, stand ready to support your actions to respond to the threat of climate change and protect our children and future generations.