At Lake Tahoe, President Obama Bashes Climate Deniers, Denies Surge in Carbon Pollution
You know, we tend to think of climate change as if it’s something that is just happening out there that we don’t have control over. But the fact is that it is man-made.
It is not, “We think it is man-made.”
It is not, “We guess it is man-made.”
Not, “A lot of people are saying it’s man-made.”
It’s not, “I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know.”
You don’t have to be scientist. You have to read or listen to scientists to know that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence shows us that climate change is caused by human activity.
Obama noted that global warming is continuing at a frightening clip, with 2016 on pace to be the hottest year on record.He later repeated one of his administration’s favored canards:
During the first half of this year, carbon pollution hit its lowest level in a quarter of a century.
Obama is referring to the decline in carbon-dioxide emissions from electricity production in the U.S., using “carbon” as a synonym for “carbon dioxide.” However, the decline in CO2 emissions has been matched by a surge in methane emissions, another carbon-based greenhouse gas.
Furthermore, the U.S. has been dramatically increasing its production of oil and natural gas, helping fuel the continued global surge in carbon pollution during Obama’s presidency.
Full video of Obama’s speech:
Hello, Lake Tahoe! [applause]
This is really nice. I, I will be coming here more often. [cheers and applause]
You know, my transportation won’t be as nice but I’ll be able to spend a little more time here. First of all, I want to thank Harry Reid. [applause]
And, because he is a captive audience he doesn’t actually like people talking about him but he is stuck here so I’m going to talk about him for a second. You know, Harry grew up in a town that didn’t have much. No high school, no doctors office. Searchlight sure didn’t have much grass to mow or many trees to climb. It didn’t look like this. So when Harry discovered a lush desert oasis down the road called Paiute Springs, he fell in love. And when Harry met the love of his life, he couldn’t wait to take her there but when he got to the green spring that Harry remembered, he was devastated to see that the place had been trashed. And that day Harry became an environmentalist. And he has been working hard ever since to preserve the natural gifts of Nevada, and these United States of America. [cheering] Harry has protected fish and wildlife across the state. He helped to end a century-old water war. He created Nevada’s first and only national park. Right after I took office the very first act Harry’s Senate passed was one of the most important conservation efforts in a generation. We protected more than two million acres of wilderness and thousands of miles of trails and rivers. That was because of Harry Reid. [cheering] [applause]
Last summer thanks to Harry Reid’s leadership we protected more than 700,000 acres of mountains and valleys right here in Nevada, establishing the basin and Range National Monument. Two decades ago the senator from Searchlight trained a national spotlight right here on Lake Tahoe. And as he prepares to ride off into the sunset, although I don’t want him getting on a horse, this 20th anniversary summit proves that the light Harry lit shines as bright as ever. [cheers and applause]
In a few months I will be riding off into that same sunset. No, it’s true. It’s okay. I’m still, I’m going to be coming around, I told you. I just won’t have marine one. I will be driving. But, but let me tell you one of the great pleasures of being president is having strong relationships with people who do the right thing. They get criticized, they have got a tough job but they get in this tough business because ultimately they care about this country and they care about the people they represent. And that is true of Dianne Feinstein. [cheers and applause]
That is true of Barbara Boxer. That is true of the outstanding governor of California, Jerry Brown. [cheers and applause]
That’s true of our outstanding folks who work for the department of interior and work for the, and, who help look after our forests, that help after our national parks, but help manage our water and try to conserve the wildlife and the birds and all of the things that we want to pass on to the next generation. And, so I’m going to miss the day-to-day interactions that I’ve gotten, and I will miss Harry though he is not a sentimental guy. We talked backstage, anybody who has gotten on phone with Harry Reid, you will be mid conversation, once he is finished with the whole point of the conversation, you will still be talking and you realize he has hung up. He does that to the President of the United States. [laughter] And it takes you like three or four of these conversations to realize he is not mad at you, but he doesn’t have much patience for small talk. But Harry is tough. I believe he is going to go down as one of the best leaders that the senate ever had. I could not have accomplished what I accomplished without him being at my side. So, I want to say publicly, to the people of Nevada, to the people of Lake Tahoe, to the people of America, I could not be prouder to have worked alongside the democratic leader of the senate, Harry Reid. Give him a big round of applause. [cheers and applause]
So it’s special to stand on the shores of Lake Tahoe. I have never been here. No, I, it is not like I didn’t want to come. Nobody invited me. I didn’t know if I had a place to stay. So now that I have, I finally got here I’m going to come back. [cheering] and, and I want to come back not just because it’s beautiful, not just because—not just because I love you back. Not just because the Godfather II is maybe my favorite movie. I was flying over the lake I was thinking about Fredo. [laughter] Tough. But, this place is spectacular because it is one of the highest, deepest, oldest and purest lakes in the world. [cheering] [applause]
It’s been written the lake’s waters were once so clear when you were out on a boat you felt like you were floating in a balloon, unless you were Fredo. It has been written that the air here is so is fine it must be the same air that the angels breathe. So, it’s no wonder that for thousands of years this place has been a spirit—spiritual one. For the Washoe people it is center of their world. [applause]
Just as this place is sacred to Native Americans it should be sacred to all Americans and that’s why we’re here, to protect this special pristine place, to keep these waters crystal clear. To keep air as pure as heavens. To keep alive the spirit and keep this truth, challenges of climate change are linked.
[inaudible] Okay, I’m sorry. I got you. Okay. I got you. Thank you. That’s a great banner. I’m about to talk about it though, so you’re interrupting me. Now, I was going to talk about climate change and why it is so important. You know, we tend to think of climate change as if it’s something that is just happening out there that we don’t have control over. But the fact is that it is man-made. It is not, “We think it is man-made.” It is not, “We guess it is man-made.” Not, “A lot of people are saying it’s man-made.” It’s not, “I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know.”
You don’t have to be scientist. You have to read or listen to scientists to know that—[cheering] that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence shows us that climate change is caused by human activity. And when we protect our lands, it helps us protect the climate for the future. So conservation is critical, not just for one particular spot, one particular park, one particular lake. It is critical for our entire ecosystem and conservation is more than just putting up a plaque and calling something a park. [applause]
We embrace conservation because healthy, diverse lands and waters help us build resilience to climate change. We do it to free more of our communities and plants and animals and species from wildfires, and droughts and displacement. We do it because when most of the 4.5 million people who come to Lake Tahoe every year are tourists, economies like this one live or die by the health of our natural resources. [applause]
We do it because places like this nurture and restore the soul and we want to make sure that’s there for our kids too. [applause]
Now as a former Washo tribe leader once said, the health of the land and the health of the people are tied together and what happens to the land also happens to the people. That is why we worked so hard, everybody on the stage, Harry’s leadership, the work we’ve done in our administration to preserve treasures like this for future generations. And we have proven that the choice between our environment, our economy and our health is a false one. We’ve got to strengthen all of them together. [applause]
In the 20 years that President Clinton and Senator Reid started this summit, they improved habitats, improved roads, stopped pollution and stopped wildfires. That is especially important that the severe drought, all of you know and can see with your own eyes. A single wildfire in a dangerously flammable Lake Tahoe basin can erase decades of progress when it comes to water quality. It endangers one of the epicenters of food production in California. Changing climate threatens even the best conservation efforts.
Keep in mind, 2014 was the warmest year on record, until you guessed it, 2015. And now 2016 is on pace to be even hotter. For 14 months in a row now the earth has broken global temperature records. Lake Tahoe’s average temperature is rising at fastest rate ever and its temperature is the warmest on record. Because climate and conservation are challenges that go hand in hand, our conservation mission is more urgent than ever. Everybody who is here, including those who are very eager for me to finish so they can listen to the Killers. [cheering] [laughter]. I’ve only got a few more pages. Our conservation effort is more critical, more urgent than ever. And we made this a priority from day one. We, as Harry mentioned, protected more acres of public lands and water than any administration in history. Now—[cheers and applause]
Last week alone we protected land, water and wildlife from Maine to Hawaii. Including creation of the world’s largest marine protected area. [cheers and applause]
And, apropos of that young lady’s sign, we have been working on climate change on every front. We worked to generate more clean energy, use less dirty energy, waste less energy overall. In my first month in office Harry helped America make the single largest investment in renewable energy in our history. Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, have been at the forefront of this. Jerry Brown has been doing incredible legislative work in his state. These investments that helped drive down the cost of clean power, so it is finally cheaper than dirty power in a lot of places. It helps us multiply wind power threefold, solar power more than 30 fold. It has created tens of thousands of good jobs. It is adding to paychecks, subtracting from energy bills. It has been the smart and right thing to do. [cheers and applause]
Then one year ago this month we finalized the Clean Power Plan that spurs new sources of energy and gives states the tools to limit pollutions that power plants spew into the sky. As I mentioned last week, California passed an ambition plan to cut carbon pollution and Jerry, I know you agree, more states need to follow California’s lead. [applause]
On a national level we’ve enacted tough fuel economy standards for cars which means you can drive further on a gallon of gas. It will save you your pocketbook, and save the environment. We followed that up with the first-ever standards for commercial trucks, vans and buses. And as a consequence, during the first half of this year, carbon [dioxide] pollution hit its lowest level in a quarter of a century, and by the way, during the same time, we have had the longest streak of job creation on record. The auto industry is booming. There is no contradiction between being smart on the environment and having a strong economy and we got to keep it going. [cheers and applause]
So, so this isn’t just a challenge, this is an opportunity. And today in Tahoe we’re taking three more significant steps to boost conservation and climate action. First, we’re supporting conservation projects across Nevada to restore watersheds, stop invasive species, and further reduce the risks posed by hazardous fuels and wildfires. Number two. We’re incentivizing private capital to come off the sidelines and contribute to conservation because government can’t do it alone. Number three, in partnership with California we’re going to reverse the deterioration of the Salton Sea before it is too late. That will help a lot of folks all across the west. [applause]
So, so we’re busy. And from here I’m going to travel to my original home state of Hawaii where the United States is proud to host the World Conservation Congress for the first time. Tomorrow I’m going to go to Midway to visit the vast marine area we just created. And to honor those who sacrificed their lives to protect our freedom. [cheers and applause]
Then I head to China with whom we have partnered as the world’s two largest economies and two largest carbon emitters to set historic climate targets that will lead the rest of the world to cleaner, more secure future. [applause]
So just two back to quote from Marshall Elder. What happens to the land also happens to the people. I made it a priority in my presidency to protect the natural resource we inherited because we shouldn’t be the last to enjoy them. Just as the health of the land and people are tied together, just as climate and conservation are tied together, we share a sacred connection with those who are going to follow us. I think about my two daughters. I think about Harry’s 19 grandchildren. Yeah, that is a lot of grand kids. [laughter]. The future generations who deserve clean water and clean air that will sustain their bodies and sustain their souls. Jewels like Lake Tahoe. And it is not going happen without a lot of hard work and if we pretend a snowball in winter means nothing’s wrong. It will not happen how we boast we’ll scrap international treaties or, or have elected officials who are alone in the world in denying climate change. Or put our energy and environmental policies in the hands of big polluters. It is not going to happen if we pay lip service to conservation but then refuse to do what’s needed.
When scientists first told us that our planet was changing because of human activity, it was received as a bombshell but in a way we shouldn’t have been surprised. The most important changes are always the changes made by us. And the fact that we’ve been able to grow our clean energy economy proves that we have agency. We’ve got power. Diminishing carbon pollution, proves we can do something about it. Our healing of Lake Tahoe proves it is within our power to pass on the incredible bounty of this country to a next generation. Our work isn’t done. So after I leave office and Harry leaves office and Barbara, she is going to be right alongside us, on a slightly smaller horse, because she has to get up on top of it, after we’ve all left office, the charge, to continue to make positive change is going to be in all of our hands as citizens. I always say the most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen. Change happens because of you. Don’t forget that. Thank you, God bless you.