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President Obama on Outlook for Climate Change Action

Richard M. Jones
Number 136 - November 15, 2012  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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“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.” – President Obama

During his press conference yesterday, President Obama responded to a question about what his administration will do in the next four years regarding climate change.  After citing regulatory changes and S&T investments made by his administration, the President acknowledged “we haven’t done as much as we need to,” adding “some tough political choices” will have to be made to “take on climate changee in a serious way.”

The complete transcript of this exchange follows:

New York Times Correspondent Mark Landler:

“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?"

President Obama:

“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.”

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095