When I started talking about climate change more than a decade ago, I worried my future grandchildren would someday face rising sea levels and punishing drought. Now it's clear those dangers won't wait until a later date. They have arrived already, and they are delivering heartache and suffering right now.
I see it here in New York, where Hurricane Sandy destroyed houses, drained nest eggs, and shuttered businesses. I see it in the Midwest, where drought pushed farmers to plow under their crops and thin their herds. And I see it in the towns across the nation where floods or fires or extreme heat have driven people from their homes.
Climate change isn't delaying, and neither can we. We must start tackling this challenge right now. That is why NRDC and our partners at 350.org and Sierra Club are hosting the biggest climate rally in history this Sunday in Washington, D.C.. We expect tens of thousands of people to join us in calling for immediate climate action. I urge you to add your voice to the growing chorus.
The time is right for this rally.
President Obama underscored his commitment to fighting climate change in both his Inaugural Address and his State of the Union Address. Now he has two critical opportunities to turn those words into deeds. We want him to know that when he takes these bold actions to stabilize the climate, the American people will support him every step of the way.
The first action he should take is to reject the Keystone XL pipeline that will carry tar sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico through America's heartland. Producing tar sands oil generates three times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude. The EPA estimates that building the Keystone XL pipeline will increase carbon pollution by the equivalent of adding 6.2 million cars to the road for 50 years. It will also enable the industry to carry out its plans to triple the amount of tar sands produced.
Sweeping tar sands oil development is not a foregone conclusion. Industry insiders and pro-tar sands government officials acknowledge that production won't expand unless more pipelines are built. Routes proposed to Canadian ports have all been stalled by local opposition; the one through British Columbia, for instance, is generating headlines like "Dead Pipeline Walking." In light of pipeline problems -- and new oil fields in North Dakota -- many oil companies are starting to shift investments out of tar sands. Suncor abandoned plans to produce a million barrels a day by 2020, and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd cut capital spending at one tar sands project by $680 million.
If Canadians oppose tar sands pipelines running through their backyards, there is no reason Americans should take on this risk. We urge President Obama to prevent Keystone XL from moving forward.
Another critical climate step the president must take is to set limits on carbon pollution from power plants. The hundreds of power plants across America are the single largest source of global warming pollution -- accounting for 40 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions. We know where the pollution is coming from; we just need to go after it.
President Obama can start right now using existing authority granted by the Clean Air Act. NRDC has laid out a common-sense plan for setting standards that could reduce carbon by 26 percent by 2020. It would also provide thousands of jobs and save families up to $700 a year in electricity bills. This is a fast and effective way to cut carbon pollution right now.
Yet President Obama can only seize this opportunity if he knows the American people are behind him. The "Forward on Climate" rally is a powerful way to send that message. Farmers, ranchers, medical professionals, union members, scientists, young people, religious leaders, and people from all walks of life will gather and together we will call for the climate action the president promised. I invite you to join us.