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US protesters urge Obama to act on global warming

Barack Obama speaks during a visit to the Copper Mountain Solar Project in Boulder City, Nevada, on March 21, 2012
Barack Obama speaks during a visit to the Copper Mountain Solar Project on March 21, 2012. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Washington Sunday to urge President Barack Obama to take concrete measures to fight global warming.

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Washington Sunday to urge President Barack Obama to take concrete measures to fight global warming.

Waving banners and signs with slogans like "what will be your climate legacy?," the protesters called on Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring oil from Canada to Texas, and order the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set carbon standards for power plants.

"It's time for the country to wake up, the US has been dragging its feet too long," said Mimi Body, one of the protesters.

The event was organized by local and national environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, under an umbrella group named Forward on Climate. The Sierra Club said that 30,000 demonstrators were at the event.

"It's a big deal because the world is watching us," said Canadian-born actress Evangeline Lilly, star of TV's "Lost."

"We want to challenge president Obama to be a main actor as opposed to being a puppet of the big oil companies," Lilly told AFP. "It's about telling him his speech did not fall in deaf ears."

Organizers claim the event will be the largest climate rally in US history, and includes protesters who have arrived aboard buses from 28 states.

The crowd rallied at the National Mall, and was then set to march to the White House.

The president mentioned climate change during his inauguration speech in January, and in Tuesday's State of the Union he vowed to take action "for the sake of our children and our future" if Congress fails to do so.

"I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy," Obama said in his speech.

Celebrities who have signed a petition supporting the protesters include Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, Morgan Freeman, Robert Kennedy Jr and Yoko Ono.

The rally comes after the United States last year endured record high temperatures and lengthy droughts, as well as superstorm Sandy, which devastated the New York-New Jersey coastline.

To dramatize their demand for action against the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline protesters planned to form a "a human pipeline" -- a chain of people -- between the National Mall and the White House.

Soon after taking office in 2009 Obama presented an ambitious measure aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions -- the United States is the world's second largest CO2 emitter after China. But the bill ran into stiff resistance from the Republican opposition.

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