After Sandy, Obama says climate change will cost us if we don’t act

  • Published on November 14th, 2012

Obama finally addresses climate change and global warming at press conference

Will President Obama’s second term feature more emphasis on climate change – only the most important issue facing the planet?

We’ve gotten a few tantalizing hints over the past few months but it took until today’s press conference for a reporter to actually ask the question. And Obama replied in depth. As Bill McKibben tours the country promoting the issue, and East Coasters dig out from the mess created by global-warming-fueled Hurricane Sandy, it appears we may finally get some action…

Here’s the exchange:

Question from Mark Landers:

Thank you, Mr. President.

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 going to, I assume, see people who are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which many people say is further evidence of how a warming globe is changing 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 attacks on carbon?

President Obama:

As you know, Mark, we can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change. [Note: This is no longer correct. Scientists now say we can attribute the increase in superstorms and weather calamities to the increase in heat in the global weather system caused by the greenhouse effect and global warming.]

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 predicted even five years ago. We do know that there have been extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.

And 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’ve got 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 continue 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 — next several months is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers, and elected officials to find out what more can we do to make short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then, you know, working through an education process that I think is necessary — a discussion, a conversation across the country about, you know, 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 — what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point, because, you know, this is one of those issues that’s not just partisan. I also think there’s — 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, you know, understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s gonna 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.

So, you know, you can expect that you’ll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps moves this — moves this agenda forward.

[question off-mike]

Look, we’re still trying to debate whether we can just make sure the middle- class families don’t get a tax hike. Let’s see if we can resolve that. That should be easy. This one’s hard. But it’s important because, you know, one of the things that we don’t always factor in are the costs involved in these natural disasters. We just put them off as — as something that’s unconnected to our behavior right now.

And I think what — based on the evidence we’re seeing is that what we do now is gonna have an impact and a cost down the road if we don’t do something about it.

(Image by Donkeyhotey)

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.

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