Earlier this month in his State of the Union address, President Obama went before Congress and laid down an important marker -- act on climate or I will. The president has the ability to use his executive authority to make significant progress to fight the climate crisis, from cutting carbon pollution from new and existing power plants to rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and other dirty fuels. But he also needs allies at the state-level to work with him to lead the way towards additional action to address the climate crisis.
That's what makes the climate change discussions happening in states across the country so important. Already this year, we've seen that governors from coast-to-coast talking about climate change and promising action.
In his State of the State address on Jan. 9, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made clear something that climate deniers in Congress could stand to learn -- that climate change is a fact. He said:
"First thing we have to learn is to accept the fact -- and I believe it is a fact -- that climate change is real. It is denial to say this is -- each of these situations is a once in a lifetime. There have been -- there is a 100-year flood every two years now. It's inarguable that the sea is warmer and that there is a changing weather pattern, and the time to act is now."
The next day, on Jan. 10, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper used his State of the State address to prove that even an ardent, pro-natural gas governor who brags about drinking fracking fluid can also urge his state to take action on climate change:
"Many scientists believe that our severe drought, the bark beetle epidemic and the terrible fire season are further evidence of climate change... While no state can address the issue in isolation, reducing pollutants and promoting sustainable development, ought to be common ground for all of us... We can reduce carbon emissions, create good-paying jobs and still protect the environment."
But it didn't end there. The next week, Washington Governor Jay Inslee -- a true environmental champion -- proved why elections matter. Last year he faced a tough campaign for governor, but LCV and our state partner, Washington Conservation Voters, endorsed his campaign early and enthusiastically because we knew he would be the nation's greenest governor. WCV spent more than $750,000 to help elect him, and he proved in his State of the State address that it was worth every penny, saying:
"As a parent and a grandparent, I cannot consciously accept the dangers of climate change for my family or yours. As a governor, I can't afford to look the other way or point fingers or deny these realities, and I cannot allow our state to miss the moment we are destined for.
All of us in Washington will have to square up to both our responsibility and our opportunity on climate change, and when we do, I'd like us to remember what Dr. Martin Luther King once said: 'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.' On climate change, we have settled the scientific controversy. What remains is how we respond to the challenge.
Now I know Washington can't solve this global problem alone, but we must embrace our role as first responders as our children's health is in clear and immediate danger. We must also embrace our role as entrepreneurs and pioneers, ensuring that economic solutions to climate change begin here. Companies in this state are already moving forward, and we will not hand over our destiny to lead the world in clean energy to any state or to any nation.
We don't deny science in Washington; we embrace it. We do not follow technological innovation; we lead it. And we will not pass up a golden opportunity to create jobs."
The state conversations on climate change continued from there. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said in his State of the State address on Jan. 23:
"Our obligation to our children is to prepare the way for their world -- a Delaware better than anything that came before it. We must leave... A Delaware that responsibly protects its natural resources and that understands the risks and opportunities of climate change and sea-level rise."
California Governor Jerry Brown, in his State of the State address on Jan. 24:
"When we think about California's future, no long term liability presents as great a danger to our well-being as the buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. According to the latest report from the World Bank, carbon dioxide emissions are the highest in 15 million years. At today's emissions rate, the planet could warm by more than 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, an event unknown in human experience... Tipping points can be reached before we even know we have passed them. This is a different kind of challenge than we ever faced. It requires acting now even though the worst consequences are perhaps decades in the future."
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, in his State of the State address on Jan. 30:
"Climate disruption is real. Climate change is not an ideological issue any more than gravity is. It is physics, pure and simple. Maryland might not be able to change what people in India or China do with respect to climate. We can, however, use the prospect of a carbon constrained world as the means to invent a more prosperous future, and to drive innovation, education, industry, jobs, and growth."
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton in his State of the State address on Feb. 3:
"No one can endure the severe droughts or floods of recent years; endure (or, some, enjoy) our milder, snow-scarce winters; lather on sunscreen to walk outdoors without being greatly alarmed. If you're not, talk with my good friend and world-premier polar explorer, Will Steger, who is here tonight, about the drastic climate changes he has witnessed. Even more alarming is that our state and our nation are still not doing enough to reverse this path toward global catastrophe, before it is too late."
It's worth reading these governor's full remarks because they speak at length about the threat of climate change and the opportunities that come with addressing it, including job growth and keeping our planet safe for future generations. President Obama can't solve the climate crisis alone, and this momentum in the states is an encouraging sign for anyone who wants to see our elected officials address the challenge of our generation, our changing climate.
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