State of the Union: R&D, Climate Change

Share This

Publication date: 
21 January 2015

As he has in his previous State of the Union addresses, last night President Obama discussed the importance of R&D and climate change.  Excerpts from his remarks follow:

Research and Development:

“21st century businesses will rely on American science, technology, research and development.  I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine -- one that delivers the right treatment at the right time.  In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable.  Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes -- and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.

“I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.

“I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs -- converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay.  Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars.  In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space.  Good luck, Captain -- and make sure to Instagram it.

“Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber.  Members of both parties have told me so.  Where we too often run onto the rocks is how to pay for these investments.”

Climate Change:

“And no challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. 

“2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.  Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does -- 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century. 

“I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act.  Well, I’m not a scientist, either.  But you know what -- I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities.  The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.  The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security.  We should act like it.

“That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it.  That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history.  And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts.  I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action.  In Beijing, we made an historic announcement -- the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions.  And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.”

Following the President’s address, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy distributed a fact sheet with additional information.  Of note:

Investing in R&D, in Key Areas from Precision Medicine to the BRAIN Initiative: America's long-term economic competitiveness and growth depend on robust investments in research and development (R&D), which provide the foundation needed to further grow the economy. The President is calling for a major increase in R&D investments, including precision medicine, combatting antibiotic resistance, and the President’s signature BRAIN Initiative. The President’s proposal would invest in precision medicine, an innovative field that provides healthcare professionals with tools, knowledge, and treatments to tailor care to a person’s unique characteristics – such as their genetic makeup. Recent advances in genomics and digital data have produced powerful new discoveries about health and disease that have made it possible to design highly effective, targeted treatments for cancer and other diseases. The President’s proposal will engage patients and healthcare providers in delivering this new era of medicine. To help address the global threat of infectious disease created by rampant spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the President also proposes to nearly double the Federal investment in antibiotic discovery. The President’s proposal also continues to invest in Alzheimer’s research and the multi-agency BRAIN Initiative.”

Leading the World to Take On the Threat of Climate Change and Win the Clean Energy Economy: In America, the past decade has been our hottest on record.  Along our eastern seaboard, a number of cities now flood regularly at high tide.  In the West, 20 of the 25 largest fires in the last 100 years have occurred since 2000. Severe weather events over the last decade related to climate change have cost families, businesses, and taxpayers billions of dollars. It’s clear that we need to act.
“The Obama Administration has made climate a high priority by working hard to reduce carbon pollution here in the United States and by bringing other countries along to forge an effective global effort to combat this problem.  Two months ago, President Xi of China joined President Obama to announce a historic step for climate change action. President Obama announced an ambitious but achievable goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.  And China agreed to peak its carbon emissions around 2030 – the first time China has ever committed to peak its carbon pollution -- and to double the share of zero-emission energy sources to 20 percent by 2030. In the United States, our carbon pollution is near its lowest levels in almost two decades.  We set higher standards for fuel economy, so that our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas, and are setting a new standard for trucks that will drive American manufacturing and spur the development of new technologies. 
“Recognizing the need to help communities step up to prepare and respond to the impacts of climate change they are already seeing, we are also working with governors, local officials, and tribal leaders to prepare for climate change. Additionally, part of the President’s commitment on climate and clean energy means leading by example: setting a new aggressive 2025 target to cut the Government’s pollution emissions.”


Explore FYI topics: