WASHINGTON — President Obama used a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut on Wednesday to cast his push for urgent action to combat climate change as a national security imperative, arguing that the warming of the planet poses an “immediate risk” to the United States.
The speech is part of an effort by Mr. Obama to make a multipronged case for his ambitious climate-change agenda, which he identifies as a top priority for the remainder of his time in office and regards as a central element of his legacy. Instead of promoting his plan strictly in environmental terms, he has pitched it as beneficial for the economy and vital to the nation’s security.
In March, Mr. Obama unveiled a blueprint for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by up to 28 percent from 2005 levels over the next decade. The plan, which hinges on new Environmental Protection Agency rules intended to drastically reduce planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions from cars and coal-fired power plants, will be the White House’s formal submission to the United Nations ahead of a summit meeting in Paris in December.
But Mr. Obama faces strong opposition from many Republicans and coal industry officials, who say the proposal is a vast executive overreach and would devastate the economy. Facing such resistance, the president is working to build support in other ways, including by focusing on national defense.
“You are part of the first generation of officers to begin your service in a world where the effects of climate change are so clearly upon us,” Mr. Obama told the graduates during their ceremony at the academy. The campus, in New London, is situated on the Thames River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
In a report issued on Wednesday, the White House said climate change would act as “an accelerant of instability around the world,” prompting water scarcity and food shortages that could escalate tensions globally, and leading to overpopulation. It also said that rising temperatures would “change the nature of U.S. military missions,” increasing the demand for resources in the Arctic and other coastal regions that would be affected by rising sea levels, and resulting in humanitarian crises that are larger and more frequent.