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Obama Makes Climate Case in Florida's Everglades

President Obama visits the Florida Everglades Wednesday for Earth Day. Obama stressed the importance of dealing with climate change as he spoke to a crowd gathered inside the park.
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/ Source: NBC News

President Obama made an Earth Day trip to the Everglades on Wednesday as he rolled out a set of new environmental initiatives, several of them focusing on the role national parks play in protecting the planet.

The threat posed by climate change “can no longer be denied or ignored,” the administration said in an outline of the new projects, which include a $26 million allocation from the National Park Service toward restoration projects across the country.

“Protecting the one planet we’ve got is what we have to do for the next generation," Obama said on Wednesday.

About two-thirds of Americans think that the globe is warming, according to a national survey conducted in March by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Fifty-two percent think that global warming is caused by human actions, according to the survey.

Obama chose to make his Earth Day appearance in a state where climate change is a contentious issue. The state is home to two potential Republican presidential candidates, Senator Marco Rubio (who has declared his candidacy) and former state Governor Jeb Bush (who has not), both of whom have expressed skepticism about human-driven climate change.

Florida Governor Rick Scott released a statement the day before the president’s visit blaming him for holding up millions in federal funds earmarked for the Everglades that haven’t been delivered—a responsibility that actually falls to Congress.

“Our environment is too important to neglect and it’s time for the federal government to focus on real solutions and live up to their promises,” Scott said in his statement.

Republicans, who control Congress, oppose much of the president’s agenda on the environment and say his administration’s push has resulted in government overreach that stymies businesses and hurts energy customers.

Last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned international leaders to “proceed with caution” in a global climate change agreement because a number of U.S. lawmakers and a sizeable number of states are wary of the administration’s efforts.

That resistance is a signal of the opposition in Congress that the Obama administration will continue to face on the president’s push to address climate change.

Last week, a panel of federal judges at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seemed disinclined to halt proposed EPA rules aimed at curbing pollution from coal-fired power plants. The goal: Get states and companies to move to cleaner energy production. The coal industry has argued that the rule, if finalized, could put them out of business.

The White House pointed to two reports published on Wednesday that show the economic and environmental impact of national parks. In one, the NPS reported 292 million visits to its more than 400 sites in 2014, generating an estimated $15.7 billion in spending in areas surrounding the parks. A separate report from the NPS and the U.S. Geological Survey said that national parks as a whole help absorb 14.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere every year.