Obama Administration Moves Forward on Climate Change Without Congress

The president's climate moves may endanger some Democrats.

Demonstrators march during the 'Forward on Climate' rally in Los Angeles, Calif., to call on President Obama to take action on the environment, Feb. 17, 2013.

Demonstrators march in Los Angeles, Calif., to call on President Obama to take action on the environment, Feb. 17, 2013.

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Other tools available to Obama to unilaterally curb climate change would be to further modernize federal government buildings and car fleets to increase energy efficiency. Even directing specific departments, such as Defense, to hit energy efficiency goals would move the needle because of the vast size of the federal government, Light says.

And Obama himself made a pitch to the public during his State of the Union address on how individuals can contribute.

"I'm also issuing a new goal for America: Let's cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years," he said. "The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen."

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