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President Obama's Statement on Climate Change

Posted on 24 November 2012 by John Hartz

This is an exceprt from the transcript of President Obama's post-election news conference with the White House press corps on Wed, Nov 14. In this segment, the President explains how he intends to address climate change in his second term of office. The reporter asking the question about climate change and a follow-up question, is Mark Landler, a White House correspondent for The New York Times. 


THE PRESIDENT: Just going to knock through a couple others. Mark Landler. Where’s Mark? There he is right in front of me.

Q 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 a tax on carbon?

THE PRESIDENT: 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 10 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 -- there have been an 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 can -- what more can we do to make a short-term progress in reducing carbons, 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, because this is one of those issues that's not just a partisan issue; I also think 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, 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 if the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody is 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.

So 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 move this agenda forward.

Q Sounds like you're saying, though, in the current environment, we're probably still short of a consensus on some kind of attack.

THE PRESIDENT: That I'm pretty certain of. And, look, we're still trying to debate whether we can just 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 involved in these natural disasters; we just put them off 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 going to have an impact and a cost down the road if we don’t do something about it.


The above exceprt is from the transcipt of the press confernece posted on the White House website. Click here to access the entire transcript.

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Comments 1 to 6:

  1. ...and then working through an education process that I think is necessary....

    Yes, starting at the Whitehouse!
    ...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...

    Discussion good, thinking this is just a potential problem for future generations bad, very bad. Has no one yet told you that drought and crop failure will be very hurtful in the world your own children will live in?

    I don't know what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point,....


    Not much if you just talk to electeds in congress. A lot, I think, if you go over their heads and talk seriously to the people as a leader. (First you need that education. Pa'lante!)

    ...the American people right now have been so focused, ... on our economy....

    Hello? Who was it that didn't even mention climate during the election campaign?
    This one is hard....

    It is probably impossible unless you figure out that we must "solve" climate and jobs together, and you must show some leadership, and spend to create jobs.
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  2. This article, Some Electoral Math For ‘All You Climate People’, first points out that the GOP gained very strong support in the recent election compared to the 2008 election in "coal counties". It also points out that coal miners are people with families and they need jobs just like anyone else. Following through the comments, it seems that the people in coal country were turned against the president by political adds financed largely by the Koch brothers, and the counties in question are mostly in "red states" anyway.

    But to come to my point: this comment has a good idea. If we are to make the big, needed changes

    If they ever get to the point of having the cojones to simply list the many compelling reasons why the U.S. and ultimately the world, must quickly and, yes, drastically transfer to a low carbon economy then it seems to me that an incredibly obvious part of the Big Pitch would be a ‘First In Line’ component. First In Line would send all sorts of monetary and training incentives and prioritizations EXACTLY towards the companies and workers in the fossil fuel industries. They already possess a huge batch of trained, skilled ‘energy infrastructure’ workers.

    Let's start this with coal miners.

    By the way, if you have the time, note the difference between the above discussion and this one at Neven's.
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  3. Q Sounds like you're saying, though, in the current environment, we're probably still short of a consensus on some kind of attack.

    THE PRESIDENT: That I'm pretty certain of.

    Really? You think Republicans are not in a consensus with Democrats about Global Warming? Well, I never!
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  4. No measures have any lasting effect without the cornerstone in the battle against climate change: a global carbon tax.

    This becomes clear from the evolution of CO2 emissions in the last 10 years: Global CO2 emissions are rising faster than according to even the worst scenarios predicted by the IPCC, despite all efforts.

    We urgently need to get rid of the theorem "Every little bit helps". Because it is incorrect. To give some examples:

    1. The promotion of Compact Fluerescent Lamps (CFLs) leads to an increased energy consumption. This phenomenon is called ‘Jevon’s paradox’. To explain it in economical terms: it is a consequence of the law of supply and demand. If certain goods get cheaper (in this case: the cost of one ‘lamp hour’), consumption of these goods will go up. Total energy consumption increases as a result.
    2. Promoting bio-fuels, meant as a measure to slow down climate change, leads to massive deforestation, which accelerates climate change.
    3. After the oil crisis in the 1970s the American Congress approved a law stating that fuel efficiency had to double in 10 years time. The American car manufacturers succeeded in this task, but the consequence was that total fossil fuel consumption went up.

    Clinging on to the “Every little bit helps” delusion is both useless and dangerous.

    Once a global carbon tax has been imposed it does make sense to improve fuel efficiency, reduce the ecological footprint, build renewable energy plants etc. but mainly as tactics to create and maintain prosperity, within the border conditions of the carbon tax.
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  5. I haven't the time to delve deeply into this, and it is interesting: however, I was deeply involved in the car 'bidness,' in the 70s, and saw the CAFE deal unfold.

    "After the oil crisis in the 1970s the American Congress approved a law stating that fuel efficiency had to double in 10 years time. The American car manufacturers succeeded in this task, but the consequence was that total fossil fuel consumption went up."

    Not as a result of the legislation: as a result of WAY more more vehicle-miles traveled (incidentally, because of increased safety standard at the same time, traffic deaths *decreased*).

    Had the vehicle-miles remained static, total CO2 emissions from cars would have gone down in relation to the number of gallons used, per unit of distance. A gallon of petroleum fuel, irrespective of how *fast* it is burned, gives off essentially the same amount of carbon.

    This is why I'm glad there are bona fide stats experts in the world, and on SkS, to give more meaning to statements like above. I can only do so, in my limited ability to spout stats, due to my intimate knowledge of things that suck-smash-bang-blow!
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  6. @vrooomie : “Had the vehicle-miles remained static”… but they don’t ! That is exactly the point I am trying to make: scientists are used to do experiments in which 1 parameter varies, while all other parameters remain fixed. It doesn’t work like that in the real world.

    According to the economic law of supply and demand: if the price of a product goes down (in this case the price of a vehicle-mile) then the consumption of this product increases. So consumed vehicle-miles go up as a direct consequence of improving the fuel efficiency. There is a relationship, and it must be taken into account.
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