Obama said the nation's economic future is tied to its environmental promise, describing innovation as key to righting a flagging economy, saving the globe's natural resources and ensuring U.S. competitiveness.
"I do believe a consensus is growing," Obama told his audience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Using familiar refrains from his campaign and his administration as Congress mulls its next move on the climate bill, the speech was designed as a nudge for lawmakers to act on a top priority of the president's.
"The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy," Obama said. "I am convinced of that."
Next week, the Senate environment committee will take up its version of a global warming bill. The legislation would cut greenhouse gases by about 80 percent by 2050 - as the president called for in his campaign - and require more domestic energy to come from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydropower. The House passed a similar bill in June.
But with work still to be done on health care and deep divisions in Congress over the best approach to climate change, the chances the Senate will pass a climate bill by the end of the year are slim. That means U.S. negotiators are likely to not have firm targets set before 192 nations gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, to hammer out a new treaty to slow global warming.
"This should not be a partisan issue," Obama said, urging bipartisan answers on a day largely devoted to raising campaign money for fellow Democrats. "The closer we get, the harder the opposition will fight."
Associated Press writer Dina Cappiello contributed to this report from Washington.