Obama Addresses Climate Change in First Post-Election Press Conference

During the presidential campaign, both President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney seemed to be avoiding any comment on climate change, and what policies either would pursue if elected. Now that Mr. Obama has been elected to a second term, he still won’t say what he’ll do about the issue in the next four years.

In response to a question about what climate change policies he intends to tackle in his second term, the president reaffirmed his belief that climate change is real, but didn’t have many concrete policy suggestions.

From the Washington Post’s transcript of his remarks:

OBAMA: You know — 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 predicted even five years ago. We do know that there have been extraordinarily — there — 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 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 a partisan also. 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: It sounds like you’re saying (OFF-MIKE)

OBAMA: That — that I’m pretty certain of. And, look, we’re — 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 — if we don’t do something about it.

Notably, the president mentioned the new fuel efficiency standards his administration unveiled earlier this year, but stayed away from mention of the new restrictions on greenhouse gases from new coal-fired power plants. He also didn’t touch the idea of a carbon tax, which was specifically asked about in the original question.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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