By Kate Tummarello - 06/14/14 04:13 PM EDT
President Obama laid out a billion-dollar climate change challenge on Saturday, urging the nation to help combat the effects of natural disasters.
“Can you imagine a more worthy goal, a more worthy legacy, than protecting the world we leave to our children,” the president said as he delivered the commencement address at the University of California, Irvine.
"U.S. action is critical on climate change, as the world is watching and will follow the U.S.’s lead, he said. “This is a fight America must lead.”
Obama announced a $1 billion fund for towns and cities recovering from disasters that would “help communities prepare for the impacts of climate change and build more resilient infrastructure across the country.”
According to the White House, approximately $180 million will be set aside for relief efforts to address critical housing needs in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the 2012 storm that severely impacted New York and New Jersey.
In his address, Obama criticized lawmakers who opposed climate change, calling them “a serious threat to everybody’s future.”
“Today’s Congress, though, is full of folks who stubbornly and automatically reject the scientific evidence about climate change,” he said.
“They will tell you climate change is a hoax, or a fad. One member of Congress actually says the world might actually be cooling.”
Obama also slammed congressional members and the press for politicizing the issue.
“This should not be a partisan issue,” he said, pointing to past Republican support for environmental measures such as free market-based cap-and-trade policies “before the Tea Party decided it was a massive threat to freedom and liberty.”
“People are thinking about politics instead of thinking about what’s good for the next generation,” he added.
As a solution to the problem, Obama encouraged the graduating students “to finish the job” by educating themselves on the issue of climate change and pushing lawmakers to take action.