WASHINGTON - Environmental groups hailed President Barack Obama's warning about climate change in his second inauguration speech but said the president's words will soon be tested as he decides whether to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
Obama pledged Monday to respond to what he called "the threat of climate change," saying the failure to do so would be a betrayal of the nation's children and future generations.
"Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science" that global warming exists and has human causes, Obama said, "but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms."
The president has pledged to boost renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, along with more traditional energy sources such as coal, oil and natural gas.
"The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition. We must lead it," Obama said.
Environmental groups praised the mention of climate change, a topic virtually ignored during the presidential campaign. They said they will insist on Obama keeping his promise to make climate change a top priority in a second term.
A key test could be the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline that would run from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.
Obama blocked the pipeline last year, citing uncertainty over its route through environmentally sensitive land in Nebraska. The State Department has federal jurisdiction because the $7 billion pipeline begins in Canada.