Obama, in Alaska speech, warns world is not moving fast enough to confront climate change

President Barack Obama delivered an impassioned plea for urgency on the issue of climate change during his first public appearance of a three-day Alaska trip.

Speaking before an audience that included representatives of 18 foreign nations and the European Union, Obama declared the United States’ commitment to vigorously address its greenhouse gas emissions.

“I’ve come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating this problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it,” Obama said.

The President also repeatedly emphasized that time is running out for the nations of the world to head off the most significant impacts of climate change.

“On this issue, of all issues, there is such a thing as being too late,” he said. “That moment is almost upon us.”

Obama’s speech at the gathering known as Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience also delved deeply into the impacts Alaska and the rest of the American West are already facing as human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases alter the planet’s atmosphere.

During his visit to Alaska this week Obama is observing some of those impacts on the landscape of the nation’s geographically largest state.

He visited Kenai Fjords National Park to see a receding glacier on Tuesday and became the first American chief executive to travel north of the Arctic Circle on Wednesday.

Obama’s visit to the village of Kotzebue will include a meeting to discuss the impact of climate change on the region’s native communities.

He will also announce more than $20 million in increased funding for energy efficiency programs that benefit those villages.

Earlier in the week the President said that his administration would work with Alaskan native governments to improve management of Pacific salmon runs in the state.

President Barack Obama aboard a U.S. Coast Guard vessel in Kenai Fjords National Park, Sept. 1, 2015. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

House to vote on Senate-passed KXL bill next week

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next week on whether to adopt the KXL pipeline bill approved by the Senate.

The chamber’s majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced Tuesday his intention to move the controversial proposal to President Barack Obama’s desk.

“Next week we will take up the Keystone pipeline as passed by the Senate and send it to the President’s desk,” McCarthy said during a press conference.

If the House, as expected, passes S.1 without changes, then Obama will soon be in a position to impose a promised veto of the legislation.

Obama orders federal agencies to factor sea level rise into construction planning

President Barack Obama wants federally-funded construction projects to be more flood resistant, a response to the likelihood that sea levels will rise as Earth’s climate changes.

The White House announced Friday that Obama signed an executive order that will require buildings, roads, and other structures to meet one of three criteria: siting according to the “best available, actionable climate science,” construction of non-critical facilities at least two feet above the 100-year flood elevation, or construction at a contour above the 500-foot flood elevation.

“The [f]ederal [g]overnment must take action, informed by the best-available and actionable science, to improve the [n]ation’s preparedness and resilience against flooding,” Obama wrote in the order.

A fact sheet released by the Council on Environmental Quality explained that the executive order does not affect the National Flood Insurance Program‘s standards. Instead, according to the fact sheet, the standards required by the executive order “will apply when [f]ederal funds are used to build, or significantly retrofit or repair, structures and facilities in and around floodplains to ensure that those structures are resilient, safer, and long-lasting.”

Obama acted several days after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded that coastal storms in the northeastern region of the country are intensifying as sea levels change and the climate changes.

“Hurricane Sandy brought to light the reality that coastal storms are intensifying and that sea-level change and climate change will only heighten the vulnerability of coastal communities,” Brig. Gen. Kent D. Savre, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers North Atlantic Division, said in a statement accompanying release of the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study Report.

The National Climate Assessment, which was released by the White House last year, also warned that sea level increases are inevitable as anthropogenic climate change continues.

Obama’s order is the first substantial change in the flood protection standards applicable to federally-funded facilities since President Jimmy Carter first addressed the problem in 1977.

Obama warns Congress against challenge to greenhouse gas rules

President Barack Obama delivered the annual State of the Union address on Tuesday night and included a stern warning to the GOP-dominated Senate and House of Representatives that he would veto bills that seek to block tighter limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

The chief executive’s words came during a four-paragraph riff on climate change.

“The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe,” Obama said. “The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

Obama said he would not go along with any effort by Congress to reverse course on climate policy.

“I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement — the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions,” the President said. “And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.”

A website maintained by the House of Representatives’ GOP caucus later posted a poorly-edited version of the State of the Union address, in which some of Mr. Obama’s comments about climate change were omitted.

Among the regulations aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions proposed by the administration are two that affect new and existing coal-fired power plants. Republicans on Capitol Hill want to block those rules.