Climate protests intensify in Washington as Obama drives forward climate ambition

The protesters outside The White House


By Anders Lorenzen

US President Barack Obama continued driving forward the climate change agenda which he had laid the foundations for in his inauguration speech, in Tuesday evening’s State of the Union Address, when he said:

‘’Over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen. But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late. The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth.’’

In a warning to the Republican-run Congress he said:

‘’I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.’’

He also highlighted the benefits of clean energy, saying:

‘’Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.’’

Finally, when he said:

‘’Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this Chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress…’’

…little would he have imagined that the Kennedy family name was going to make the headlines again the following day, when Robert F. Kennedy Jr and his son Connor Kennedy, were arrested as part of a group of 48 other high profile individuals taking part in an anti Keystone XL pipeline civil disobedience activity outside the White House in a joint Sierra Club and 350.org action. Other high profile arrests included actress Daryl Hannah, 350’s Bill McKibben, NASA climatologist James Hansen and the Sierra Club President Allison Chin.


The action was in fact the Sierra Club’s first civil disobedience activity in the organisation’s 120 year history, a notable change in tactics for them. Sierra Club Michael Brune commented that: 

“For the first time in the Sierra Club’s 120-year history, we have joined the ranks of visionaries of the past and present to engage in civil disobedience, knowing that the issue at hand is so critical, it compels the strongest defensible action.”

Bill McKibben is leading an even larger climate protest in Washington called ‘Move Forward on Climate’ which will take place this coming Sunday, 17th February, which promises to be the largest climate march yet in US history.


If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline would instantly increase carbon emissions by triggering increased growth of the Tar Sands industry in Canada. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that if this were to happen, U.S. carbon emissions would increase by up to 27.6 million metric tons annually – equivalent to the impact of nearly 6 million more cars on the roads each year.

Sub edited by Kirstie Wielandt

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