An Earth Day to remember
Forty-six years ago, when I was a young naval flight officer stationed near San Francisco, I joined tens of thousands of people in the City by the Bay to celebrate our nation’s very first Earth Day. That day was a transformative experience in my life, and served as an inspiration for me to pursue a life in public service. Today, I still honor and celebrate the commitment to protecting our planet that inspired that first Earth Day celebration.
I’ve had a lot of different jobs since that very first Earth Day – naval commander, state treasurer and Governor of Delaware – just to name a few. But over the years, my most cherished and most important job has been the role of father. I’m blessed with three wonderful sons who make me proud and thankful every day. A major motivator in my life has been my love for my children, and my desire to make the world a better place for them.
That’s why I consider every day to be Earth Day. Protections for our environment have come a long way since 1970, but we still have a lot more work to do to ensure that our children and grandchildren have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and a healthy planet to call home.
Today, on the 46th Earth Day celebration, the United States and about 170 other countries are stepping up and taking steps to protect and preserve our Earth for future generations by signing the Paris Agreement, a landmark international agreement aimed at stemming the tide of climate change by limiting global greenhouse gas emissions and total global warming to less than two degrees Celsius.
The scientific evidence is clear: our climate is changing at a troublesome rate and the effects are devastating. Whether it’s the increasing intensity and frequency of severe weather events, the persistent droughts that damage our crops and livestock, or rising sea levels that threaten our coastal communities, the world has seen stark reminders that the effects of climate change threaten our safety and way of life. Climate change knows no boundaries, and it’s certainly not an issue that one country can tackle alone. In order to effectively address climate change we have to take action on a global scale.
When it comes to global challenges – such as terrorism and cyber attacks – the United States doesn’t sit back and wait for someone to lead, our country takes the lead. That’s the case with climate change, too. Over the last several years leading up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, the Obama Administration began curbing harmful carbon emissions, one of the root causes of climate change, here at home. Since President Obama retook a leadership role to address climate change and mitigate its dangerous effects, other countries have followed.
Today’s actions are another example that when the United States takes a leadership role in addressing our greatest global environmental challenges, other countries will follow.
I thank President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and their teams for making this momentous Earth Day possible.