President Obama has said that tackling global warming is one of his top priorities, driven, in great part by fear of the world his daughters will inherit. I'm right there with him. The worst effects of global warming are going to fall on the shoulders our kids, but we can do something now to help protect them.
My kids, Rory and Michaela, are now teenagers. They love soccer, the ocean and winter sports. Both have also suffered from asthma, which is made worse by smog pollution. This Father's Day, when I unwrap the "World's #1 Dad" coffee cup (fingers crossed), I'll want to know I earned it. And as a dad, my number one priority is to protect my kids from anything that could harm them. But even as #1 dad, some things are out of my control -- that's why, dad to dad, I'm asking President Obama to do everything within his power to prevent the carbon pollution that is altering our climate. He can start with limiting pollution from coal-fired power plants and rejecting projects like the Keystone tar sands pipeline that will increase global warming emissions.
In recent years, we've seen record temperatures, stronger, more frequent storms like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene on the East Coast, devastating drought in the Midwest and raging wildfires in the West, as well as historic flooding from Vermont to Iowa. It scares me that this is the world my son and daughter will inherit.
On Monday, the International Energy Agency announced that carbon emissions went up by 1.4 percent worldwide last year, which could mean catastrophic temperature increases if we don't act now. I've been doing this work for decades, so I've long worried about the consequences for my kids of pumping unlimited amounts of heat-trapping gasses into our atmosphere. This news makes me cringe -- it could still get so much worse.
Already, ocean acidity is causing coral bleaching, affecting complex ecosystems; hurricanes like Sandy are destroying miles of coastline; and reduced snow cover on their favorite slopes have me wondering if my kids will be able to enjoy skiing with their own kids.
I worry about their health on a daily basis, but especially on hotter days when more smog stays in the atmosphere. On these "bad air" days, there's a greater chance Rory or Michaela will suffer an asthma attack -- especially if they're pushing themselves extra hard during a make-it-or-break-it soccer match.
And I'm not the only one who's worried.
Not surprisingly, recent polls conducted by the Associated Press and Yale University found that 80 percent of Americans now deem global warming a "serious problem" and 70 percent of Americans believe that global warming needs to become a priority on the political agenda.
And here's the simple truth: Power plants are the single-largest contributor of carbon emissions in the U.S., but there's no limit to the amount of the global warming pollution they can spew.
So last summer, I celebrated after the Environmental Protection Agency proposed limiting carbon pollution from power plants for the first time, and then celebrated some more when the public took overwhelming action to curb global warming -- 3.2 million Americans submitted comments to the administration in support of a carbon standard for power plants.
We've heard President Obama speak of the obligation we hold to future generations, to address the causes of climate change, and we know that as a dad, he was thinking of his own children as well.
I ask President Obama to implement the carbon standards for new and existing power plants. If we are to have any chance of averting global warming's worst impacts, we have to limit the largest sources of the carbon pollution fueling the problem. At the same time, I urge him not to make things worse by approving the Keystone tar sands oil pipeline.
As dads, we want to protect our kids from everything. President Obama has the chance to help protect all of our kids right now. He can take this crucial step and forever be remembered as the dad, and the president, who put us on the track to stopping global warming. I hope he delivers.