By Laura Barron-Lopez - 09/04/14 07:52 PM EDT
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday said action on climate change and renewable energy will send a signal that the "U.S. can still do big things".
The likely 2016 Democratic front-runner drove a hard line on the need to pursue clean energy sources to help mitigate climate change and spur economic growth, asserting that the U.S. can become the "clean energy superpower our world needs."
"Sea levels are rising, ice caps are melting, storms and wildfires are wreaking havoc … but if we come together to make the hard choices America can be the clean energy superpower of the 21st century," she added to applause.
Clinton fired back at arguments by climate skeptics, and Republicans who say the U.S. should not put its neck out on climate change when other nations do little.
If the U.S. doesn't lead, no one will, she said, adding that she of all people knows what it takes to mobilize leaders internationally.
"This is about our strategic position in the world, this is about our competitiveness, our job creation, our economic growth as well as dealing with a challenge that we ignore at our detriment and our peril," Clinton said.
Focusing on wind, solar and other renewables, Clinton called for investments as a means to help raise U.S. families into the middle class faster than traditional energy sources.
Clean energy jobs "tend to pay higher than average wages," Clinton explained.
Flipping the GOP script that acting on climate is unsustainable, and will kill jobs, Clinton said: "For those on the other side, they have to answer to the reality. They are denying peoples' jobs, and middle-class incomes, and upward mobility by their refusal to look to the future."
The former first lady did touch on the natural gas boom, repeating excerpts from her book, Hard Choices, that gas will be key as a "bridge" to cleaner sources, but "smart regulations" and "not drilling when the risks are too high" will be necessary.
Clinton made no mention of the Keystone XL pipeline, which green groups have pressured her on in recent months.