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Obama Remarks Reveal DC's Unwillingness to Address Climate Change

Between the lines: Obama's answer shows 'addressing climate change is secondary to promoting economic growth'

Common Dreams staff

Showing the disconnect among Washington politicians when it comes to a sustainable energy future in the US, Obama said Wednesday that if asked to choose between economic growth and addressing climate change, he said neither major party would be willing to take on the tough political challenges involved. "I won't go for that," he said. (Photo: AP)

During President Barack Obama's first press conference since his re-election, reporter Mark Landler of The New York Times asked Obama how he plans to tackle climate change -- an issue that was largely ignored during Obama's campaign. Though Obama used several key phrases that may keep climate change activists happy, he still made it clear that climate change was not his first priority.

Landler asked:

In his endorsement of you a few weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg said he was motivated by the belief that you would do more to confront the threat of climate change than your opponent. Tomorrow you’re going up to New York City where you’re, I assume, going to see people who are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which many people say is further evidence of how a warming globe is affecting our weather.

What specifically do you plan to do in a second term to tackle the issue of climate change, and do you think the political will exists in Washington to pass legislation that could include some kind of a tax on carbon?

Obama's answer:

As you know, Mark, we can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change. What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing — faster than was predicted even ten years ago. We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was even predicted five years ago. We do know that there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.

I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions, and as a consequence I think we have an obligation to future generations to do something about it.

Now, in my first term, we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks. That will have an impact. That will take a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere. We doubled the production of clean energy, which promises to reduce the utilization of fossil fuels for power generation. And we continued to invest in potential breakthrough technologies that could further remove carbon from our atmosphere.

But we haven’t done as much as we need to. So what I’m going to be doing over the next several weeks, the next several months is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers, and elected officials to find out what more we can do to make short-term progress in reducing carbon and then working through an education process that I think is necessary — a discussion, a conversation across the country about what realistically can we do long-term to make sure that this is not something we’re passing on to future generations that’s going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.

I don’t know what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point. This is one of those issues that is not just a partisan issue. I also think that there are regional differences. There’s no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices and understandably, you know, I think right now the American people have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that if the message somehow is that we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anyone’s going to go for that. I won’t go for that.

If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth, and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that’s something that the American people would support.

You can expect that you’ll hear more from me over the coming months and years that garners bipartisan support that moves this agenda forward.

He continued:

That I’m pretty certain of.

Look, we’re still trying to debate if we can make sure that middle class families don’t get a tax hike. Let’s see if we can resolve that. That should be easy. This one is hard.

But it’s important. Because one of the things that we don’t always factor in are the costs that are involved in these natural disasters. We just put them off as something that’s unconnected to our behavior right now. Based on the evidence that we’re seeing, what we do now is gonna have an impact and a cost down the road if we don’t do something about it.

Here are some twitter reactions to Obama's answer:


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