The growing threat of climate change is "one of the most significant long-term challenges" that the American and global communities face, President Obama told graduates Saturday at the University of California, Irvine.
"The question is not whether we need to act," Obama warned about 8,000 students during his commencement address in Anaheim's Angel Stadium. "The question is whether we have the will to act before it's too late."
As part of his pledge to "do more," the president announced a new $1 billion fund to help communities combat droughts, fires, storms, floods, and other weather-related disasters, which Obama said "are going to get harsher and costlier" as the years go by.
The speech came just over a month after the U.S. National Climate Assessment report found that the effects of climate change are already here, and wreaking havoc across the country.
"Climate change is no longer a distant threat, but 'has moved firmly into the present,'" said Obama, quoting the report. Obama made similar comments in a recent interview with The New York Times, during which he aired his frustration with lawmakers’ refusal to acknowledge the science in front of them.
After moving to dramatically cut greenhouse-gas emissions from the nation's power plants this month, Obama faced criticism from Republican leaders.
"The climate change deniers suggest there's still a debate over the science. There's not. The talking heads on cable news suggest public opinion is hopelessly deadlocked. It's not," Obama said Saturday. "We actually believe we can do this. We believe we can make a difference. And the sooner we do, the better."