updated 11/3/2007 11:35:09 PM ET 2007-11-04T03:35:09

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Saturday called reversing global warming a "great moral test" and said the next president needs to stand up to industries resisting change.

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"This is the great moral test of our generation. Are we actually going to leave this planet and America better for our children than we found it?" Edwards said at an environmental rally in New Orleans.

"Why have we not addressed the issue of climate change and global warming?" Edwards said. "I'll tell you why, no question about it: oil companies, gas companies, power companies and the lobbyists in Washington, D.C. We have to have a president who will stand up to these people."

Last month Edwards picked up an endorsement from the national environmental group Friends of the Earth Action.

He has become a frequent visitor to New Orleans. On Saturday, he spent time at a Habitat for Humanity site where homes are being built for displaced musicians.

He kicked off his presidential campaign last December in New Orleans and he's made the botched recovery from Hurricane Katrina and the social ills the storm exposed themes in his campaign.

Edwards said his campaign has "developed momentum" since Tuesday's televised debate, which he called a pivotal moment in his campaign. He said voters now have clear choices.

"From my perspective, the choices are between the status quo and change," he said. "And we need change in the worst kind of way in America."

Gender ‘as a shield’?
Edwards has recently increased the intensity of his criticism of fellow Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has a big lead in national polls. During Tuesday's debate Edwards sharply challenged Clinton, saying she "defends a broken system that's corrupt in Washington, D.C."

On Saturday, the Edwards campaign issued a statement from Kate Michelman, the former head of NARAL Pro-Choice America and an Edwards backer, charging that Clinton is using her gender "as a shield when the questions get too hot."

During the debate Tuesday, Clinton's six male rivals challenged her character, electability and apparent unwillingness to answer tough questions.

Clinton's campaign characterized the debate as "piling on." At a speech at Wellesley College on Thursday, Clinton referred to the "all boys club of presidential politics."

In her statement, Michelman said: "When unchallenged, in a comfortable, controlled situation, Senator Clinton embraces her political elevation into the 'boys club.'

"But when she's challenged, when legitimate questions are asked, she is just as quick to raise the white flag and look for a change in the rules. She then calls questioning, 'attacking'; she calls debate among her peers, 'piling on.'"

On Saturday, Phil Singer, a Clinton spokesman, said Clinton is not running for president "because she's a woman" but because "she's the best person for the job."

"She's leading in the polls so it's no surprise to see her opponents pile on," he said.

Earlier Saturday, Edwards attended a fundraiser for South Carolina state Senate candidate Bill Clyburn. He is the cousin of Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina's only black congressman.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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