02/11/2013 03:36 pm ET Updated Apr 13, 2013

My Global Warming Story and the State of the Union

Just a few weeks ago, the boardwalk on Long Beach, New York was dismantled. The boardwalk's fixtures - bike riders, strollers, and elderly bench-sitters - are gone.

I grew up in Long Beach. I spent countless hours there walking with my grandparents, racing bikes with my brother, riding the carousel, playing Skeeball, bowling, and eating many an ice cream cone.

For the 75 year old wooden boardwalk and the beautiful beach below, Superstorm Sandy was just too much.

Of course, the storm had more serious impacts on tens of thousands of people. My brother and his wife's two cars were destroyed, and they are still renovating their flooded house. My sister and her neighbors went without electricity for days. And many folks face worse circumstances.

The impact of the storm on Long Island, on the people and places I know, brought global warming home to me. And the same is true for millions who are experiencing drought in the middle of the country and in the South and wildfires in the West.

Science has warned of storms even more severe than Sandy, more extended drought, and more wildfires. At this point, not doing more to limit pollution fueling global warming is unacceptable. Inaction guarantees that future generations will inherit a world far worse than the one left to us.

I was thrilled to hear President Obama's message on Inauguration Day. It reaffirmed for me that he understands what many Americans have gone through this past year, and what's at stake for the future: "We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

Local communities and businesses are taking measures on their own. 28 states and Washington, D.C. have their own Renewable Electricity Standards. California and Northeastern states have put caps on the carbon pollution in place. In fact, stakeholders in the Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative just came together this past week to make their successful pollution-fighting program even stronger.

The Obama administration itself has already undertaken some historic efforts to tackle global warming. This past summer, the president executed the single biggest step this country has ever taken to reduce global warming pollution by doubling fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. Earlier last year, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency proposed first-ever carbon pollution standards for new coal-fired power plants - standards that a record-shattering 3 million Americans and counting spoke up in support of, via EPA's public comment process.

These are all great steps forward, but more needs to be done. I am very much looking forward to the State of the Union and hearing detailed plans for the nation to deal with our climate crisis.

The president should finalize the standard to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, which EPA proposed a year ago this March; develop such a standard for existing power plants; and continue to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency.

We also know the president has to go beyond limiting carbon pollution from the electricity sector. In order to build on his work to get America off oil with cleaner cars, he has to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and the tar sands oil it would carry. Ultimately, the president needs to put our nation on a path to getting off oil altogether.

Global warming is a planet-wide crisis, and now, for many Americans, it's a very personal one as well. And though my boardwalk is being rebuilt, we stand to lose much, much more by not rising to the challenge. With last year's extreme weather, we all got a glimpse into a future we could be leaving behind for our children and our children's children. Let's not lose any more time in solving the problem.

President Obama and his team are the people to lead. I hope he knows that I, Environment America's members and supporters and millions of other Americans stand ready to answer his calls for bold action and to roll up our sleeves and work alongside him to get the job done.