- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

President Obama this week raised the stakes in the fight against global warming, laying out a challenge to other nations and saying the world will have failed if it does not reach a comprehensive agreement on climate change later this year.

During a speech in Anchorage, Alaska, Mr. Obama repeatedly declared that “we’re not acting fast enough” to save the planet from rising sea levels, warmer temperatures and other consequences of a changing climate. Despite the host of steps he’s taken here in the U.S. in recent years — including harsh new restrictions on carbon emissions from power plants — Mr. Obama suggested those moves will not be enough to slow global warming. Only a comprehensive, worldwide agreement, he said, will be enough.

His comments come as a high-level December climate-change conference in Paris draws closer. The White House, and its supporters in the environmental community, desperately hope the meeting will result in the kind of international deal the president sought but failed to achieve in Copenhagen in 2009.

“This year, in Paris, has to be the year that the world finally reaches an agreement to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can,” the president said Monday during a speech at a climate-change conference in Anchorage on Monday, his first address during a three-day trek across Alaska that focused almost exclusively on climate change.

“We know that human activity is changing the climate. That is beyond dispute. Everything else is politics if people are denying the facts of climate change,” he continued. “We can have a legitimate debate about how we are going to address this problem; we cannot deny the science. We also know the devastating consequences if the current trend lines continue. That is not deniable. And we are going to have to do some adaptation, and we are going to have to help communities be resilient, because of these trend lines we are not going to be able to stop on a dime. We’re not going to be able to stop tomorrow … This is a solvable problem if we start now.”

While there’s some evidence Mr. Obama has succeeded in convincing other nations to take real action — such as the commitment by China, the world’s No. 1 polluter, to cap its greenhouse-gas emissions no later than 2030 — there’s also evidence the American public hasn’t been swayed by the president’s laser-like focus on climate change in recent years.

Mr. Obama this week said repeatedly that global warming is caused by human activity, but he’s had little success in convincing American voters of that fact.

When he came into office in 2009, 44 percent of Americans said they believed climate change was caused by human activity. As of last month, the figure still stands at 44 percent, according to Rasmussen data.

Mr. Obama also used his Alaska trip to point to melting glaciers and other effects of climate change that are already being felt, but that message hasn’t gotten through to the public.

In 2009, 53 percent of Americans said they believe the effects of global warming already are happening. In March, the figure was just 55 percent, according to Gallup surveys.

Meanwhile, Republicans — who, along with many red-state Democrats, successfully blocked Mr. Obama’s push for cap-and-trade legislation early in his tenure — continue to hammer the administration’s climate agenda, especially its move to limit carbon emissions from power plants.

Federal data has shown the proposal will drive up electricity rates for many Americans.

“The president is on thin ice to claim his costly plan will address climate change or benefit Americans,” Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican and chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said in a statement Wednesday. “The president and his EPA have become travelling salesmen, touring the world to push their extreme climate change agenda. But the science doesn’t support the president’s exaggerated claims linking climate change to severe weather events.”

As the Paris conference approaches, environmentalists also are expecting a landmark agreement and say the gathering is a key chance for Mr. Obama to show true leadership on climate change.

“We have huge expectations for Paris,” said Kyle Ash, senior legislative representative with Greenpeace. “We need an outcome in Paris that locks in as much ambitious policy commitment as we can get from countries and avoids locking in any unambitious commitments.”

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