WASHINGTON, DC, April 22, 2015 (ENS) – Climate change is the greatest threat that faces humans today, and as a nation, the United States must “act before it is too late,” declared President Barack Obama in his 2015 Earth Day Proclamation.

“The United States is committed to our role as a global leader in the fight against climate change,” he proclaimed.

Today, on Earth Day, the President visited Everglades National Park in Florida to speak about the threat that climate change poses to our economy and to the world.

“We’re all here because this 1.5 million acres is unlike any place on Earth.  It’s no wonder that over a million people visited last year alone.  The sawgrass prairies and mangrove forests are home to an incredible diversity of wildlife – bald eagles, herons, hundreds of plant species, from pine trees to wild orchids,” said Obama.

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President Barack Obama in Everglades National Park warns of climate change. April 22, 2015 (Photo by Eduardo Merille / Florida International University)

“But climate change is threatening this treasure and the communities that depend on it, which includes almost all of south Florida,” said the President. “And if we don’t act, there may not be an Everglades as we know it.”

“Here in the Everglades, you can see the effect of a changing climate,” Obama told the crowd. “As sea levels rise, salty water from the ocean flows inward.  And this harms freshwater wildlife, which endangers a fragile ecosystem.  The saltwater flows into aquifers, which threatens the drinking water of more than seven million Floridians.  South Florida, you’re getting your drinking water from this area, and it depends on this.  And in terms of economic impact, all of this poses risks to Florida’s $82 billion tourism industry on which so many good jobs and livelihoods depend.”

“So climate change can no longer be denied.  It can’t be edited out.  It can’t be omitted from the conversation.  And action can no longer be delayed,” he said. “And that’s why I’ve committed the United States to lead the world in combating this threat.”

Obama announced several Earth Day actions to help preserve the Everglades. First, his administration released a report showing that every dollar invested in the National Park Service generates $10 for the economy.

In 2014, almost 300 million visitors to our national parks spent almost $16 billion and supported 277,000 jobs, Obama told the crowd.  “So protecting our parks is a smart thing to do for our economy.  That’s why I’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history,” he said to applause.

Here in the Everglades, we’ve already invested $2.2 billion in restoration efforts.  With the support of some outstanding members of Congress, I’ve proposed another $240 million this year,” he said.

“We want to restore the natural water flow of the Everglades, which we know is one of the best defenses against climate change and rising sea levels. And I’m calling on Congress to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports this work across the country,” the President said.

Obama also announced $25 million in public and private money for restoration projects at U.S. national parks.

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Kids swarm President Barack Obama at Everglades National Park, April 22, 205 (Photo by Esteban Escobar)

To encourage young people to go to the national parks, starting this fall, the administration is going to give every fourth grader in America an “Every Kid In A Park” pass. “That’s a pass good for free admission to all our public lands for you, your families for an entire year,” said Obama. “Because no matter who you are, no matter where you live, our parks, our monuments, our lands, our waters – these places are your birthright as Americans.”

And today, the President designated America’s newest national historic landmark, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas House in Miami, “so that future generations will know how this amazing woman helped conserve the Everglades for all of us,” he said.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas (April 7, 1890 – May 14, 1998) was an American journalist, writer, feminist, and environmentalist known for her defense of the Everglades against plans to drain it and claim the land for development. Her most influential work was the 1947 book, “The Everglades: River of Grass,” which reshaped the general idea of the Everglades as a treasure instead of a worthless swamp.

In his Earth Day Proclamation, President Obama first recounted the history of Earth Day, which celebrates its 45th anniversary today.

The Proclamation is reproduced in full here:

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In the Oval Office President Barack Obama signs a document (Photo courtesy The White House)

“Forty-five years ago, millions of Americans celebrated the first Earth Day in cities across our Nation. Having borne witness to years of environmental neglect, these ordinary citizens gathered in the streets, in parks, and on college campuses to demand change and commit to leaving a healthier planet for the next generation.”

“Faced with contaminated rivers and polluted cities, they stood up, spoke out, and fought for air, water, and wildlife protections. Their voices galvanized a movement – leading to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act – and ignited a spirit of stewardship that continues to drive us to meet the challenges of our time.”

“Today, our planet faces new challenges, but none pose a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”

“Science tells us the earth is warming – last year was the planet’s warmest on record, and 14 of the 15 warmest recorded years have come in the first 15 years of this century – and human activity is the primary driver of the rapid warming of the past half-century.”

“Climate change will have profound impacts on all humankind, and many Americans are already feeling the effects. The costs of more severe weather disasters can be measured in lost lives and livelihoods and in billions of dollars of emergency services, and the costs will only increase with time. Firefighters are braving longer wildfire seasons; farmers are confronting adverse growing conditions; and our children and most vulnerable populations are experiencing a range of climate-related health effects.”

“As a Nation, we must act before it is too late. That is why my Administration has taken a series of ambitious steps to combat climate change and protect our planet for our children and grandchildren. As part of my Climate Action Plan, we have proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for existing power plants.”

“We have also partnered with communities to prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that we can no longer avoid. And I have protected more than 260 million additional acres of public lands and waters, safeguarding the natural bounty of our planet for ages to come.”

“The United States is committed to our role as a global leader in the fight against climate change, and last year, we jointly announced with China ambitious but achievable new targets for reducing greenhouse gases. I am also ensuring that our Federal Government leads by example by working to reduce Federal greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent. My Administration will continue to engage with key stakeholders at home and abroad who share our hope for a cleaner world.”

“Protecting our planet will also require us to change the way we use energy, and my energy strategy recognizes this critical need. My Administration has made the largest investment in clean energy in American history, and today the United States generates more renewable energy than ever before – we harness 3 times as much wind power as we did when I took office and solar electricity generation has increased 20-fold.”

“Mayors, Governors, and business leaders across the country are taking steps to deploy clean energy, boost energy efficiency, and create more sustainable communities and supply chains. We are promoting energy efficiency in our buildings and cars and working to ensure our Nation is a leader in the energy sources of tomorrow.”

“As caretakers of our planet, we all have an obligation to combat climate change and protect our earth for the next generation. The decisions we make today and in the years ahead will have a profound impact on the world we leave behind, and we must each do our part. We can reduce the energy used in our homes and offices; we can help protect our resources by recycling as part of our everyday routine; and we can raise our voices to support policies like the ones my Administration has put forth to protect our environment while strengthening our economy.”

“On Earth Day, let us join with communities around the world, and as one people – who share one planet – let us recommit to meeting the test of our time and continuing our work to build a cleaner, safer, more stable world.”

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 22, 2015, as Earth Day. I encourage all Americans to participate in programs and activities that will protect our environment and contribute to a healthy, sustainable future.”

“IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.”

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