Here’s Every State of the Union Climate Promise Made by Obama

This video shows seven years of global warming proposals—and how he did on each one.


If history is any guide, climate change is likely to make a prominent appearance when President Barack Obama gives his final State of the Union address Tuesday night. He’s brought it up in every one of his previous SOTU speeches, most strongly in 2015, when he said that “no challenge—no challenge—poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”

Along with dire warnings about rising sea levels, droughts, and other climate impacts, Obama has made an evolving series of commitments to the American people and demands to Congress regarding climate action. He has called repeatedly for a cap-and-trade bill, for an end to fossil fuel subsidies, for federal investment in renewable energy, and for American leadership in the international fight against global warming.

It’s safe to say that his speech Tuesday, at 9 p.m. EST, will revisit some of these ideas. Obama is likely to bring up his administration’s success in shepherding the Paris Agreement—the first global pact to fight climate change—that was adopted in December. And he might mention some of the remaining items on his climate change to-do list, which include setting new emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks and fending off Republican attacks on his new regulations restricting power plant emissions.    

For some clue about what we might expect to hear this year, we took a look back at the climate-related statements from Obama’s previous SOTU speeches. Then we compared his proposals to what actually happened. Turns out, while Obama has pretty clearly done more on climate change than any of his predecessors, there are plenty of goals that remain unfulfilled. Watch the video above for a complete rundown.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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