The University of Miami
5:43 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone! Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. It is good to be at the University of Miami, and I want to thank all of you who are here for what you do to lead, to run, and to provide so much inspiration out of this institution for the rest of our country and the rest of the world.
I mentioned to the professors that I spent some time with earlier and the students that this truly — the work that’s happening here — is a model not only for our country but around the globe.
And as you know, I have been traveling around the world, talking about the modeling that we are doing in the United States around the scientific research and the innovation that is about — in the case of what I saw today, here — studying extreme weather patterns to figure out how we can be smarter in terms of resilience, in terms of what we do for adaptation, but also what we can do to reconstruct the natural resources that allow us to be smarter in all of those ways.
So I want to thank the university for hosting us today and the students for inspiring us. And I am counting on your leadership. And, Aliyah, I am counting on you, given all of your background and the spirit with which you do this work, because we need you. And to the students, we need you. We really do. (Applause.)
So, I will say that when I think about the history of our nation in terms of the movements that we have made toward progress, first of all, ours is a nation that I do believe has been strengthened by the expansion of rights, by a commitment to moving forward in a way that understands that we are stronger when we are more inclusive, we are stronger and better when we encourage ideas; that when we think about the progress we have made in our nation’s history — thinking about those students who fought for civil rights to, most recently, some of the gains we have been in terms of LGBTQ rights — we know that it is the students and our young leaders who fuel so much of this good work.
And so, that is why I’m going to always emphasize that we need your leadership at this moment, and our nation is counting on you.
So, let’s think about where we are and think about this moment in the context of all the challenges and all the opportunities.
You know, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson came with me, along with Congresswoman Sheila McCormick and — came with me on Air Force Two. And we’ve been talking a lot about the importance of being here in Miami to celebrate Earth Day and to talk about the work we must collectively do to protect our environment.
So let us begin our conversation by centering, then, on this moment.
The climate crisis represents a profound threat, as we all know, to our nation and to the world. And every community is at risk.
Each year — I don’t need to tell anyone here — hurricanes and tropical storms grow more and more powerful.
Here in Florida, so many people are still trying to recover from last year’s devastating storms, including Hurricane Ian.
Last summer, in Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois, floods washed away entire neighborhoods, leaving more than 50 dead.
And across our nation, historic droughts, often followed by historic rainfall, have left millions without reliable access to clean water.
Deadly heatwaves have forced tens of millions of people to endure record-setting temperatures.
And in my home state of California and across the West, wildfire season is now year-round.
In fact, in 2022, wildfires burned more than 7 and a half million acres. That’s an area larger than the entire Florida Panhandle.
And we all know that the climate crisis does not impact all communities equally. Poor communities, rural communities, and communities of color are often the hardest hit and the least able to recover.
So, as I’ve mentioned, as Vice President, I have traveled our country — and travelled our country to meet with folks to discuss their ideas for how we address this climate crisis, in addition to hearing from them about the effects that they have experienced every day. And in particular, talking with young Americans, who tell me about the anxiety they feel about their future.
In fact, last time I was here, I was at the Aspen Institute, and I know there’s some people here who were part of organizing that, where with Gl- — Gloria Estefan we talked about what is happening in this region and what’s happening in our country and in the world on this issue.
And there were young leaders there who I met with before I went on stage, and I said, “Tell me how you’re talking with your peers, how are you experiencing this issue?”
And they hit me to something and a phrase that I had not heard before. They said — they talked about “climate anxiety.”
“Climate anxiety.” The — the emotional, the — the psychological, the mental toll that the knowledge about this crisis is taking on our young people.
But I will tell you, because I’m an eternal optimist, I was so excited also to hear when they shared with me the reason they have hope. And I do believe the reason they have hope, as they shared it with me, is because they know we still have time to make a difference. And so, that’s why we’re here today.
Last year, our administration made the largest climate investment in America’s history: more than a trillion dollars in communities across our nation, including coastal communities.
Now, on the subject of coastal communities, just consider: 127 [million] Americans, 40 percent of our population, live near a coast — in big cities like Miami, Boston, New York, and Los Angeles, and in fishing towns in New England, Tribal villages in Alaska, and island communities like Galveston, Texas.
To live in a coastal community is to be on the frontlines of the climate crisis. For small businesses, those owners might have to shut down for days or weeks on end because of a hurricane evacuation.
For homeowners, it might mean paying thousands of dollars they don’t have to repair the damage from a storm surge — a particular challenge, of course, for folks who are living on fixed incomes, including many of our seniors.
And if you work in an industry like fishing or even shipping or tourism, the devastating effect on marine ecosystems could put your job at risk.
All that is to say that President Joe Biden and I understand the incredible challenges that coastal communities face. And we intend to do all in our power to help fight back.
And so, to that end, today, I am proud to announce that our administration will invest $562 million to fund climate resilient projects in 149 coastal cities, towns, and counties across America. (Applause.)
So, for this region, it means that, for example, in North Miami, we will restore —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes! (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — mangroves and dunes, Mayor. (Laughs.) (Applause.)
We got a mayor who’s got a lot at stake in this. (Laughter.)
Natural infrastructure — so, Professor, thank you for showing me, with your students, natural infrastructure, which reduces the impact of storm surges and hurricanes. (Applause.) Right? That’s really important. (Applause.) And by the way, that natural infrastructure is often more effective than concrete barriers and retaining walls.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes! (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Here’s the natural barriers section of the — (laughter) —
In the Gulf of Mexico, we will restore oyster reefs, which diminish — (applause) — let’s hear it for the oyster reefs. (Laughter and applause.)
I love this group. (Laughter.) I love this group.
And — and that work, by the way, will diminish the impact of tropical storms and hurricanes, and clean our oceans by filtering out polluted runoff from our cities.
All of this makes sense. And it works. And it is very doable. It is within our grasp. And that’s why I’m so optimistic about all of this. (Laughter and applause.) We can do this.
For example, we’re also very excited — I don’t think we have a Virginia section in here, but in the state — (applause) — (laughs) — okay. (Laughs.) It’s Friday afternoon. (Laughter.)
In Virginia, we will help the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe conserve ancestral land. (Applause.) How about that?
In Puerto Rico — (applause) — we will restore coral reefs and safeguard marine habitats. (Applause.)
So these are but just some of the examples. And these investments will not only protect our environment, they will also strengthen our economy.
For example, here in Florida, our work will create jobs for construction workers, environmental engineers, and landscape architects.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes! (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Lo- — you’re covering a lot of bases, sister. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Local businesses will save millions of dollars from damage caused by floods and hurricanes and erosion, more money in their pocket to hire employees and open new stores.
And through these investments, we will help safeguard Florida’s natural beauty — (applause) — oceans and beaches and coral reefs and all of this so that when we look out of these windows — right? — so that Miami remains a must-see destination for tourists worldwide. (Applause.)
And so this announcement today is obviously exciting many of us, and it is part of a larger story, as well.
Today, all across America, we are building and on our way to build a better future. We are rebuilding roads and bridges and ports and airports to make our infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather. We are laying thousands of miles of fiber-optic lines to connect families with high-speed Internet. We are removing every lead pipe in our nation so that our children can drink clean water — (applause) — and achieve their God-given potential. And we are creating jobs. (Applause.)
So, in all — think about it — since we took office, we have created more than 12 million new jobs — (applause) — including many good, union jobs. (Applause.)
And we have created more jobs in two years than any administration has created in four. (Applause.)
In fact, today, unemployment is near its lowest rate in over 50 years. (Applause.)
So, it all comes down to this: President Biden and I believe in the greatness of our nation. We believe in who we are as a nation, a people who are motivated by ambition and aspiration and dreams. And that’s why we believe America can meet any challenge presented, even a challenge as great as the climate crisis.
And so, that is why we are investing in America: because we know there is no limit to what our country can achieve, especially when we are all in it together.
So, with that, may God bless you all. And may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
END 5:59 P.M. EDT