04/22/2013 01:46 pm ET Updated Jun 22, 2013

Earth Day Is a Reminder to Move Forward on Combating Climate Change

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One of the best ways to celebrate Earth Day is to continue working to combat climate change and protect our planet for future generations. With 2012 being the hottest year on record in the continental United States and climate change fueling deadly and costly floods, droughts, wildfires, and Superstorm Sandy, it's clear that the time to act is now. President Obama has the chance to do just that while building on his environmental legacy.

During his inaugural address and State of the Union speech, President Obama made clear that confronting the climate crisis is one of his administration's top priorities in his second term. While many in Washington have assumed that the House of Representatives, led by climate deniers, will prevent any progress on the issue, the truth is that President Obama can take historic steps to address the climate crisis using his executive authority under the Clean Air Act.

Under President Obama's leadership, we've already taken the single biggest step that the U.S. government has ever taken to reduce global warming pollution -- the implementation of a series of historic new rules to increase national fuel efficiency for cars to 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025. This will reduce by roughly half the amount of global warming pollution coming from cars and trucks.

The president now has the chance to combat climate change pollution from the nation's single largest source of carbon pollution: power plants. Annual emissions from power plants represent roughly 40 percent of our nation's annual carbon emissions. That's why one of the most important actions President Obama can take to confront climate change is to use his executive authority under the Clean Air Act to implement limits on industrial carbon pollution from new and existing power plants.

The president should also reject the harmful Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The pipeline would worsen climate change by facilitating the release of massive amounts of carbon from tar sands oil, the dirtiest oil on the planet. By transferring this dirty tar sands oil through the middle of this country, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would also risk our waterways and agricultural lands so foreign oil companies can export Canada's oil to other countries. It's all risk and no reward, and the president should reject this pipeline.

Our nation has made progress in confronting climate change since the first Earth Day more than forty years ago, but we still have a long way to go. President Obama has made great strides forward, and he should use his executive authority to build on that progress with game-changing action to combat the climate crisis, the challenge of our generation.