Fifty years ago today, Apollo 11 landed, the module hatch opened, and a man first set foot on the moon.
That giant leap for humanity was made possible by an America that set ambitious goals and believed it could achieve them.
When President Kennedy challenged the nation to reach the moon within a decade, it was an almost absurdly audacious objective. But roughly 400,000 Americans dedicated themselves to the task, from engineers and mechanics to secretaries and factory workers. By some estimates, the United States spent $288 billion in today’s dollars on the Apollo program. And we didn’t just reach the moon — we got there a year ahead of schedule.
As we stand on the verge of a new American era, it has never been more urgent that we summon that ambition again. From devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico to raging infernos in California, we face the life-and-death challenge of a changing climate.
Here in South Bend, I’ve had to activate our city’s emergency operations center twice in two years — for floods that were supposed to come less than once in a lifetime.
Climate disruption is here. It is an existential threat to life on this planet. And this timetable isn’t being set in Congress — it’s being set by reality. Those deadlines are going to hit with or without us. The time to act was yesterday.
To meet this once-in-a-generation challenge, we must be as bold in our time as President Kennedy was in his.
So I’m going to implement a carbon tax and dividend to reorient our economy away from fossil fuels. I will quadruple American research and development, investing at least $25 billion a year into developing renewable energy, energy storage, and carbon storage. And I will empower local communities — especially rural America — to be part of the solution, with a Pittsburgh Summit in addition to rejoining the Paris Agreement.
Tackling the threat of our changing climate likely won’t culminate in a single moment, like a man planting a flag on the surface of the moon. But 50 years from now, I want to be able to look back and say that we achieved a feat every bit as extraordinary — that we came together to beat the odds and get ahead of climate change before all was lost.