Excerpts from his speech at the UN Climate Conference in Lima, Peru:
“Since President Obama took office, the United States has upped our wind energy production more than threefold, and we’ve upped our solar energy production more than tenfold. We’ve also become smarter about the way we use energy in our homes and businesses. And as a result, we’re emitting less overall than we have at any time in the last 20 years.
This is by far the most ambitious set of climate change actions that the United States has ever undertaken. And it’s the reason we were able to recently announce our post-2020 goal of reducing emissions from 26 to 28 percent, from 2005 levels, by 2025. That will put us squarely on the road to a more sustainable and prosperous economy. And the upper end of this target would also enable us to cut our emissions by 83 percent by 2050 – which is what science says we need to do to meet the goal of preventing over 2 degrees of Celsius warming.
And at the end of the day, if nations do choose the energy sources of the past over the energy sources of the future, they’ll actually be missing out on the opportunity to build the kind of economy that will be the economy of the future and that will thrive and be sustainable.
Coal and oil may be cheap ways to power an economy today in the near term, but I urge nations around the world – the vast majority of whom are represented here, at this conference – look further down the road. I urge you to consider the real, actual, far-reaching costs that come along with what some think is the cheaper alternative. It’s not cheaper.
And for everyone thinking that you can’t afford this transition or invest in alternative or renewable energy, do the real math on the costs. Consider the sizable costs associated with rebuilding in the wake of every devastating weather event. In 2012 alone, extreme weather events cost the United States $110 billion. When Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines last year, the cost of responding to the damage exceeded $10 billion.
The bottom line is that we can’t only factor in the cost of immediate energy need or energy transition. We have to factor in the long-term cost of carbon pollution. And we have to factor in the cost of survival itself. And if we do, we will find that the cost of pursuing clean energy now is far cheaper than paying for the consequences of climate change later
I said earlier that the solution to climate change is as clear as the problem. It’s here. The solution is energy policy.