"While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged," a White House memorandum announcing the order said. "Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our children’s health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment."
The plan will include brand new federal regulations to limit carbon emissions from existing power plants, a move that faced stringent opposition from energy producers and Republican leaders.
It also opens the door for more renewable sources, including wind, solar and hydropower energy, to be placed on public lands. And an $8 billion federal loan aims to encourage further research and innovation into clean sources of energy.
Obama's action will raise efficiency standards for federal buildings to lower carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons, about half the annual pollution from the energy sector, by 2030, and further improve fuel economy of new cars.
The plan also attempts to take preemptive action to prepare for more frequent severe weather in hurricane-prone regions and for farmers facing droughts and wildfires.
Finally, the action includes a renewed push to encourage international cooperation on raising clean energy standards, particularly with China and India.
While scientists for years have agreed that human factors have contributed to shifts in global weather patterns, efforts to put policy changes in place have been stonewalled by political deadlock.
The president's plan will side-step Congress and issue an executive order to reduce carbon emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change.
"Framing issues around some of the near-term impacts on families is probably a more effective way to make people understand the benefits of these changes," said Paul Billings, a vice president for the American Lung Association, who will attend Tuesday's rollout event at Georgetown University.