What President Obama Can Do for the Climate in the Next 100 Days

by Annie Leonard

October 12, 2016

Today starts the last 100 days of Obama's presidency. So rather than speculate on who our next leader will be, let’s focus on what our current one still has the power to do on behalf of our climate.

President Obama Solar

via Flickr / Creative Commons.

With an election season as inconceivable as this one’s turning out to be, it’s easy to forget that Barack Obama is actually still our president — and he still holds the power to take the bold action on climate change we need.

There’s no question President Obama has moved the needle when it comes to taking action on climate change. More so than any other U.S. president to date, he has pushed for political solutions to carbon pollution at home with the Clean Power Plan (though that now has to fight its way through legal challenges).

On the global stage he has pushed for consensus among world leaders that we all need to deal with our addiction to fossil fuels, helping to broker the Paris climate accord and a landmark deal with China.

This would be a strong legacy, if it weren’t for the stark reality that even developing the oil, gas, and coal in fields and mines that already exist would take us beyond 2 degrees Celsius of warming into climate chaos territory, let alone if we frack, drill, or otherwise dig up fossil fuels from new sites, of which there are plenty of companies hoping to do just that. (If you want to know more about the math behind our planet’s climate boundaries for energy production and use, check out Oil Change International’s brilliant but scary new analysis.)

Faced with this reality, we need President Obama to do everything in his power to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Specifically, in the next 100 days, the President needs to use his executive power in the U.S. to put a stop to new oil and gas drilling and fracking projects on our public lands and waters, just as his administration did earlier this year when it imposed a moratorium on new coal mining. Since President Obama took office, over 10 million acres of public lands across the U.S. and more than 15 million acres of public offshore waters in the Gulf have been turned over to energy corporations for fossil fuel extraction.

And there’s plenty more where that came from.

Taking public lands off the table when it comes to fossil fuel developers would not only be an important step towards safeguarding our climate, but would also protect the many communities whose land, air and water are being poisoned. From the Gulf Coast, to Colorado, to North Dakota, to Alaska, the way that fossil fuels are extracted, processed and transported pose grave threats to public health, people’s livelihoods and ancestral lands and waters. Protecting these spaces would send a clear message that America wants a just transition away from fossil fuels, not an abusive relationship where we’re beholden to them, however much they hurt us.

When the New York Times interviewed President Obama recently, the reporter observed that “he believes that his efforts to slow the warming of the planet will be the most consequential legacy of his presidency.” Studies have shown that by ending fossil fuel extraction on federal lands and waters, Obama can significantly reduce global emissions and make progress towards his Paris commitments.

So with 100 days still as the leader of the free world, and the ability to stop fossil fuel extraction on our public lands and waters, the president doesn’t have to just believe in his climate legacy, he can take action that makes it real.

Join us in telling President Obama: Protect our communities and our climate. End new fossil fuel leasing today.

Annie Leonard

By Annie Leonard

Annie Leonard is the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. Leonard began her career at Greenpeace in 1988 and has returned to help the organization inspire and mobilize millions of people to take action to create a more sustainable future together. She is based in San Francisco.

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