President Obama: Politicians Need to Lose Their Seats for Climate Inaction

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 04 Oct 2016 14:20:00 GMT

In a far-ranging discussion with actor-activist Leo DiCaprio and climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe, President Barack Obama defended his approach to climate change and expressed concern about the future.

“We’ve got to change our politics. And as Leo said, it’s got to come from the bottom up. Until on a bipartisan basis, politicians feel that their failure to address this will cost them their seats, potentially, or will threaten their careers, then they’re going to continue to operate in ways that I think are really unproductive.”

In the same discussion, Obama repeated his questionable claim that the domestic fracking boom has led to a decrease in greenhouse pollution, asserting “the fact that we’re transitioning from coal to natural gas means less greenhouse gases.”

He also repeatedly characterized climate change as primarily a problem for future generations, saying that “climate change is almost perversely designed to be really hard to solve politically because it is a problem that creeps up on you.” He even repeated the now-debunked canard that there is “no single hurricane or tornado or drought or forest fire that you can directly attribute to climate change.”

Just last month, Obama visited the victims of the catastrophic Baton Rouge floods. Consoling the survivors of climate disasters has been a ritual of his presidency. With a fierce Hurricane Matthew churning towards a Florida landfall, the president will likely have another major opportunity to witness the creeping problem of global warming first hand at least once more.


THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. (Applause.)

MR. DICAPRIO: I want to thank you all for coming here this evening. I want to particularly thank our President for his extraordinary environmental leadership. (Applause.)


MR. DICAPRIO: Most recently, in protecting our oceans.

Katharine, thank you for the great work you do on climate change and in helping improve preparedness of communities to deal with the impacts of climate change. (Applause.)

And thank all of you for showing up here this evening.

Tonight I am pleased to present the U.S. premier of my new documentary, “Before the Flood.” This was a three-year endeavor on the part of myself and my director, Fisher Stevens. Together we traveled from China to India, to Greenland to the Arctic, Indonesia to Micronesia, to Miami to learn more about the effects of climate change on our planet and highlight the message from the scientific community and leaders worldwide on the urgency of the issue.

This film was developed to show the devastating impacts that climate change is having on our planet, and more importantly, what can be done. Our intention for the film was to be released before this upcoming election. It was after experiencing firsthand the devastating impacts of climate change worldwide, we, like many of you here today, realize that urgent action must be taken.

This moment is more important than ever where some power leaders who not only believe in climate change but are willing to do something about it. The scientific consensus is in, and the argument is now over. If you do not believe in climate change, you do not believe in facts or in science — (applause) — or empirical truths, and therefore, in my humble opinion, should not be allowed to hold public office. (Applause.)

So, with that, I’m so very honored and pleased to be joined onstage with one of those leaders — a President who has done more to create solutions for the climate change crisis than any other in history — President Barack Obama. (Applause.)


Q Along with leading climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe, for this conversation about how we can make real progress on this issue.

So, with that, let us begin with the first question. President Obama, you’re nearing the end of your second term as President. You’ve had an opportunity to reflect on the issues facing our country and our planet. How do you grade the global response to the climate change movement thus far?

THE PRESIDENT: We get an incomplete. But the good news is we can still pass the course if we make some good decisions now. So, first of all, I just want to thank everybody who’s been here — all day, some of you. (Applause.) Everybody who’s been involved in South by South Lawn. It looked really fun. (Laughter.) I was not allowed to have fun today. I had to work — although I did take some time — you guys may have noticed — to take a picture with one of the Lego men. (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Happy anniversary, Mr. President!

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. It is my anniversary today. (Applause.) We celebrated it yesterday — 24 years FLOTUS has put up with me. (Laughter.)

I want to thank Leo for the terrific job he’s done in producing the film, along with Fisher. All of you will have a chance to see it at its premier tonight. And I think after watching it, it will give you a much better sense of the stakes involved and why it’s so important for all of us to be engaged.

And I want to thank Katharine from Texas Tech.


THE PRESIDENT: There you go, we got a couple Texas Tech folks in here. But because Katharine, in addition of being an outstanding climate scientist, is a person of deep faith and she has really done some amazing stuff to reach out to some unconventional audiences to start fostering a broader coalition around this issue.

To your question, Leo, we are very proud of the work that we’ve been able to do over the last eight years here in the United States — doubling fuel efficiency standards on cars; really ramping up our investment in clean energy so that we doubled the production of clean energy since I came into office. We have increased wind power threefold. We’ve increased the production of solar power thirtyfold. We have, as a consequence, slowed our emissions and reduced the pace at which we are emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster than any other advanced nation.

And that’s the good news. The other big piece of good news was the Paris agreement, which we were finally able to get done. (Applause.) And for those of you who are not as familiar with it, essentially what the Paris agreement did was, for the first time, mobilize 200 nations around the world to sign up, agree to specific steps they are going to take in order to begin to bend the curve and start reducing carbon emissions.

Now, not every country is doing the exact same thing because not every country produces the same amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, per capita. So the expectation is, is that a country like the United States is going to do more than a small, underdeveloped country that doesn’t have the same scale of emissions.

But the good news about the Paris agreement was it committed everybody to do something. And although if you add it up, all the commitments that were made by all 200 nations, it would still not be sufficient to deal with the pace of warming that we’re seeing in the atmosphere. What it does do is set up for the first time the architecture, the mechanism whereby we can consistently start turning up the dials and reducing the amount of carbon pollution that we’re putting into the atmosphere.

And one last piece of good news about that is that I anticipate that this agreement will actually go into force in the next few weeks. India, just this past week, signed on. And we’re going to get a few more nations signing on. (Applause.) And so, officially, this agreement will be into force much faster than I think many of us anticipated when we first organized it.

Last two points, little tidbits of good news. This week we’ll begin negotiations on an aviation agreement, an international aviation agreement, where all airlines and major carriers around the world begin to figure out how they can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that they’re emitting, which can make a big difference. And over the next couple weeks, we’re also going to be negotiating around something called hydrofluorocarbons — or HFCs — which are other sources of greenhouse gases that, if we are able to reduce them, can have a big impact, as well.

So even with the Paris agreement done, we’re still pushing forward hard in every area that we can to keep making progress. But, having said all that — and this is where you’ll need to hear from Katharine because in the nicest way possible she’s going to scare the heck out of you as a precursor to the film.

What we’re seeing is that climate change is happening even faster than the predictions would have told us five years ago or 10 years ago. What we’re seeing is changes in climate patterns that are on the more pessimistic end of what was possible — the ranges that had been discerned or anticipated by our scientists — which means we’re really in a race against time.

And part of what I’m hoping everybody here comes away from is hope that we can actually do something about it, but also a sense of urgency that this is not going to be something that we can just kind of mosey along about and put up with climate denial or obstructionist politics for very long if, in fact, we want to leave for the next generation beautiful days like today. (Applause.)

MR. DICAPRIO: With that, Katharine, all the environmental crises we face have a huge toll on humanity — on poverty, security, public health, and disaster preparedness. The interconnected nature of our planet means that no country or community is going to be immune to any of these threats. What are the most urgent threats to our modern day civilization? And where do you feel the solutions lie?

MS. HAYHOE: Well, how many hours do we have again? (Laughter.) It’s true, when we think of global issues, we think of poverty; we think of hunger; we think of disease; we think of people dying today from preventable causes that no one should be dying from in 2016.

And when we’re confronted with these situations head on — and I, myself, spent a number of years as a child growing up in South America, so I know what this looks like — we think to ourselves, climate change, it’s important, but we can deal with it later. We can no longer afford to deal with it later. Because if we want to fix poverty, if we want to fix hunger, if we want to fix inequality, if we want to fix disease and water scarcity, we are pouring all of our money, all of our effort, all of our hope and prayers into a bucket, and the bucket has a hole in the bottom. And that hole is climate change. And it is getting bigger and bigger.

To fix the global issues that we all care about, including environmental issues, including humanitarian issues, we can no longer leave climate change out of the picture because we will not be able to fix them without it.

MR. DICAPRIO: Mr. President, in “Before the Flood,” we see examples of the environmental impacts of corporate greed — corporate greed from the oil and gas industry. For example, it’s happening right now in Standing Rock. But some companies are starting to realize that addressing the climate change issue can actually spur economic activity. How do you get more companies to start moving in this direction, to take fundamental action into their business decision?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, companies respond to incentives. And the question then becomes, can we harness the power and the creativity in the marketplace to come up with innovation and solutions?

And, look, the economics of energy are extremely complicated. But let me just simplify it as much as possible. Dirty fuel is cheap — because we’ve been doing it a long time, so we know how to burn coal to produce electricity. We know how to burn oil, and we know how to burn gas. And if it weren’t for pollution, the natural inclination of everybody would be to say let’s go with the cheap stuff.

And particularly when it comes to poor countries — you take an example like India, where hundreds of millions of people still don’t have electricity on a regular basis, and they would like to have the standards of living that, if not immediately as high as ours, at least would mean that they’re not engaging in backbreaking work just to feed themselves, or keep warm — it’s completely understandable that their priority is to create electricity for their people.

And if we’re going to be able to solve this problem, we are going to have to come up with new sources of energy that are clean and cheap. Now, that’s going to involve research; it’s going to involve investment in R&D. And there are going to be startups and innovators — and there are some in this audience who are doing all kinds of amazing things. But it takes time to ramp up these new energy sources. And we’re in a battle against time.

The best way we can spur that kind of innovation is to either create regulations that say, figure it out, and if you don’t figure it out then you’re going to pay a penalty, or to create something like a carbon tax, which is an economic incentive for businesses — (applause) — to do this.

Now, I’ll be honest with you. In the current environment in Congress, and certainly internationally, the likelihood of an immediate carbon tax is a ways away. But if you look at what we’re doing just with power plants, a major source of greenhouse gases, we put forward something called the Clean Power Plan —clean power rule — as a centerpiece of our climate change strategy. And we did this under existing authorities under the Environmental Protection Act.

And what we’re saying to states is, you can figure out the energy mix, but you’ve got to figure out how to reduce your carbon emissions, and you need to work with your utilities and you need to work with your companies, and come up with innovative solutions. And we’re not going to dictate to you exactly how do you do it, but if you don’t start reducing them you’re going to have problems. And we’ll come up with a plan for you.

So the good news is that in the past, where we create an incentive for companies, it turns out that we’re more creative, we’re more innovative, we typically solve the problem cheaper, faster than we expected, and we create jobs in the process.

And if you doubt that, I’ll just give you two quick examples — because this is probably a pretty young audience, and I know this is going to seem like ancient history, but when I arrived in college in Los Angeles in 1979, I still remember the sunsets were spectacular. I mean, they were just these amazing colors. It was like I’d never seen them before — because I was coming from Hawaii. And I started asking people, why are the sunsets here so spectacular? They said, well, that’s all smog, man. It’s creating this psychedelic stuff that normally is not seen in nature — (laughter) — because the light is getting filtered in all kinds of weird ways.

You couldn’t run for more than 10, 15 minutes on an alert day without really choking up — the same way you still do in Beijing. Well, L.A. is not pristine today, but we have substantially reduced smog in Los Angeles because of things like the catalytic converter and really rigorous standards. (Applause.)

The same is true with something called acid rain. In the Northeast, there was a time where — Doc, make sure I’m getting this right — it’s Sulphur dioxide, right?


THE PRESIDENT: Which was being generated from industrial plants, was going up into the atmosphere and then coming down in rain. It was killing forests all throughout the Northeast. And through the Clean Air Act, they essentially set up the equivalent of a cap and trade system. They said, companies, you figure out how to reduce your carbon dioxide emissions; we won’t tell you exactly how to do it, but we’re going to give you a powerful incentive — we’ll penalize you if you don’t do it. You can capture some of the gains if you do do it.

Most of you don’t hear anything about acid rain anymore, even though it was huge news 25, 30 years ago, because we fixed it.

And the last example I’ll use is the ozone. It used to be that one of the things we were really scared about was the ozone layer was vanishing. And when I was growing up I wasn’t sure exactly what the ozone layer was, but I didn’t like the idea that there was a big hole that was developing in the atmosphere. (Laughter.) It just didn’t sound good. And it turned out that one of the main contributors to this was everybody was using deodorant with aerosol. And so everybody starting getting speed strips, or whatever. (Laughter.)

And it wasn’t that big of an inconvenience. Deodorant companies still made money. But something that I was amazed by — and it gives you a sense of nature’s resilience when we do the right thing — we just have gotten reports over the last couple of months that that hole in the ozone layer is beginning to close, which is amazing. (Applause.)

And all it took was people not using aerosol deodorant.

MS. HAYHOE: A few more things. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: There were a couple other things. I’m exaggerating. (Laughter.) Well, but essentially, we regulated the kinds of pollutants that were creating this hole without impeding our economic development. Nobody misses what we — because companies were innovated enough to come up with substitutes that worked just fine.

And that’s the basic strategy that we’ve got to employ here. We’ve got to give incentives to companies — startups, existing companies. And we’re going to have to do that initially, country by country. But America has got to lead the way because not only do we have the highest carbon footprint, per capita, but also because we happen to be the most innovative, dynamic business and entrepreneurial sector in the world. And if we create incentives for ourselves, we will help to fix this problem internationally. I’m absolutely confident of the matter.

MR. DICAPRIO: Back to something you mentioned earlier, Mr. President, which I’d like both of you to talk a little bit about — the United States, as you said, has been the largest contributor to global emission in history. And as you said, as well, we need to set the example for the rest of the world to follow. Throughout my journey, most of the scientific community truly believes that the silver bullet to combat this issue is a carbon tax.

Now, a carbon tax, as complex as it is to implement, I would imagine, is something that needs to come from the people. It needs to come from the will of the people, which means there needs to be more awareness about this issue. Do you think that I will get to see a carbon tax in the next decade? Will we get to see this in our lifetime? Because most scientists specifically point to the idea that that’s going to be the game-changer.

MS. HAYHOE: I think he knows the likelihood of that more than I do, but I do know that one of my absolute favorite organizations is Citizens Climate Lobby, and they are founded on the premise of a simple carbon tax — nothing fancy; no difficult regulations; no three feet of code. It’s putting a price on carbon to allow the market to then figure out what’s the cheapest way to get our energy.

MR. DICAPRIO: Can you explain to our audience what a carbon tax would mean?

MS. HAYHOE: Sure. In very basic terms, when you burn carbon it has harmful impacts on us, on our health, on our water, on our economy, on our agriculture, even on our national security. By putting a fee on that carbon, it makes certain types of energy more expensive and it makes other types of energy less expensive.

And the way I like it — there’s many different flavors — the kind I like is where that extra revenue is returned to us through our taxes and also used to incentivize technological development.

MR. DICAPRIO: Or it could be given to education, for example.


MR. DICAPRIO: Bravo. (Laughter and applause.)

Katharine, you live in Texas.

MS. HAYHOE: I do. (Applause.) So do people over there.

MR. DICAPRIO: They’ve experienced unprecedented drought and floods in the past five years, and they’re also a major energy producer. AS you travel the state, what are the biggest misperceptions you hear from climate skeptics who often say these changes are the result of the cyclical nature of our planet’s temperature patterns? And how do you change their minds?

MS. HAYHOE: Any of us who pays attention to the weather, we know that we have cold and hot; we have dry and we have wet. And everybody who’s ever been to Texas knows that it looks more like this. Yes. So you might say, well, then, why does it matter if our weather is incredibly variable anyway? It matters because in a warmer planet, it’s taking that natural pattern of variability that brings drought and flood, heat and cold and it was stretching it.

So our heavy rainfalls are getting more extreme, because in a warmer atmosphere, the oceans are warmer and so more water evaporates. So the water is just sitting out there waiting for a storm to come through, pick it up and dump it on us — just as happened here in recent days, as it happened in Baton Rouge a little while ago.

And if you read the reports of the meteorologists and the weather people talking about these heavy downpours you’re experiencing, you’ll see this phrase they repeat again and again — the warm oceans — and again, this year is a 99 percent chance of being again the warmest year on record after last year and the year before — the warm oceans are providing a nearly infinite source of moisture for these storms. But at the same time, when we’re in a dry period, as we get all the time in Texas, and it’s hotter than average, then all of the moisture in our soil and our reservoirs evaporates quickly, leaving us dryer for longer periods of time.

So, yes, we know natural cycles are real. But we know that climate change is stretching that natural pattern, impacting us and our economy.

Here’s the cool thing about Texas, though. What do you think when you think of Texas?

THE PRESIDENT: Wind power.

MS. HAYHOE: Wind power — yes.


MS. HAYHOE: He cheated. He knows the answer. (Laughter.) Texas knows energy. And here’s the cool thing about Texas. Did you know that already Texas is getting 10 percent of its electricity from wind? On a windy night, we get 50 percent of our energy from wind.

Every time I go south from where I live there are a new crop of wind turbines going up. And a couple years ago, I spent an afternoon on a farm down in Manisha, Texas, with a very conservative farmer, wasn’t too sure about this scientist showing up, but I was from Texas Tech. And after about an hour we figured out that I knew somebody who went to his church, and vice versa. So we were good. And I got the nerve to ask him, well, I notice that your neighbor has wind turbines all the way up to the edge of your land, and you don’t have any wind turbines. You have a couple of oil wells. Is there any reason you don’t have wind turbines?

And I expected something along the lines of, oh, those are for those sissy tree-huggers, or something. And he said, yes, there is a reason. And I said, well, may I ask what it is? And he said, I’ve been on the list for two years. I’ve been waiting for my wind turbine. I said, well, why do you want one. He said, because the check arrives in the mail.

In Texas, we have entire towns going 100 percent renewable because it is the cheapest way for them to get their energy. We have Fort Hood, which is the biggest military installation in the U.S., signing a new electricity contract for wind and solar because they can save the American taxpayer $165 million by going green. (Applause.)

Green is no longer just a color of money — or the color of trees, I should say. Green is also increasingly in Texas, around the U.S., and even in China, becoming the color of money, as well. Wind and solar are the way of the future. And we’re seeing it happen — as a scientist, though, I have to say my only concern is we’re not seeing it happen fast enough.

MR. DICAPRIO: Mr. President, this has been an unusual election year, to say the least. (Laughter.) And Gallup regularly polls Americans with an open-ended question about the issues that matter most to them. And the environment consistently polls low on that list, around 2 percent. As you know, climate change is a long-term problem. It requires long-term solutions. How can we all do a better job of engaging the public, especially those who are skeptical, in a meaningful and productive debate about the urgency of these issues and inspire them to be a part of the solution now?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, climate change is almost perversely designed to be really hard to solve politically because it is a problem that creeps up on you. There’s no single hurricane or tornado or drought or forest fire that you can directly attribute to climate change. What you know is, is that as the planet gets warmer the likelihood of what used to be, say, a hundred-year flood, that’s supposed to happen only every hundred years, suddenly starts happening every five years, or every two years.

And so the odds just increase of extreme weather patterns. But people, they don’t see it as directly correlated. And the political system in every country is not well-designed to do something tough now to solve a problem that people are really going to feel the impacts of in the future. The natural inclination of political systems is to push that stuff off as long as possible.

So if we are going to solve this problem, then we’re going to need some remarkable innovation. Katharine is exactly right that solar and wind is becoming a job generator and an economic development engine. But what’s also true is we’re going to need some real innovation in things like, for example, battery storage. How do we keep wind and solar stored without too much leakage so that when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining, we still have regular energy power. We’re still going to need some really big technological breakthroughs.

But with the technology that we have right now, my goal has been to build that bridge to this clean energy future. To make sure that over the next 20 years, using existing technologies, we do everything we can even as we’re creating the even more innovative technology, so that by the time those technologies are ready we haven’t already created an irreversible problem.

And that’s going to require mobilization. It is going to require us all doing a better job of educating ourselves, our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, and ultimately expressing that in the polls. And in order to do that, I think it is important for those of us who care deeply about this — and Katharine is a wonderful example of the right way to do it — to not be dismissive of people’s concerns when it comes to what will this mean for me and my family. Right?

So if you’re a working-class family, and dad has to drive 50 miles to get to his job, and he can’t afford to buy a Tesla or a Prius, and the most important thing to him economically to make sure he can pay the bills at the end of the month is the price of gas, and when gas prices are low that means an extra 100 bucks in his pocket, or 200 bucks in his pocket, and that may make the difference about whether or not he can buy enough food for his kids — if you just start lecturing him about climate change and what’s going to happen to the planet 50 years from now, it’s just not going to register.

So part of what we have to do I think is to engage, talk about the science, talk about the concrete effects of climate change. We have to make it visual and we have to make it vivid in ways that people can understand. But then we also have to recognize that this transition is not going to happen overnight, and you’re not starting from scratch. People are locked into existing ways of doing business.

Look, part of the reason we have such a big carbon footprint is our entire society is built around interstate highway systems and cars. And you can’t, overnight, suddenly just start having everybody taking high-speed trains because we don’t have any high-speed trains to take. And we have to build them. And we should start building them. But in the meantime, people have to get to work.

So I think having an understanding that we’re not going to complete this transition overnight, that there are going to be some compromises along the way, that that’s frustrating because the science tells us we don’t have time to compromise; on the other hand, if we actually want to get something done, then we got to take people’s immediate, current views into account. That’s how we’re going to move the ball forward.

And I’ll just give you one example. And generally — this is a pretty sympathetic crowd, but some folks will push back on this. When you think about coal, we significantly reduced the amount of power that we’re generating from coal. And it’s going to continue to go down. Well, number one, coalminers feel like they’ve been battered, and they often blame me and my tree-hugger friends for having created real economic problems in places like West Virginia, or parts of Kentucky, or parts of my home state of southern Illinois.

Interestingly enough, one of the reasons why we’ve seen a significant reduction of coal usage in the United States is not because of our regulations. It’s been because natural gas got really cheap as a consequence of fracking. Now, there are a lot of environmentalists who absolutely object to fracking because their attitude is sometimes it’s done really sloppy and releases methane that is even a worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It leaks into people’s water supplies and aquifers, and when done improperly can really harm a lot of people. And their attitude is we got to leave that stuff in the ground if we’re going to solve climate change.

And I get all that. On the other hand, the fact that we’re transitioning from coal to natural gas means less greenhouse gases. Same thing with nuclear power. People don’t like nuclear power because they have visions of Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, what are we doing with the storage of the waste. Nuclear power generally evokes a lot of stuff in our imaginations. But nuclear power doesn’t emit greenhouse gases.

So we’ve got to make some decisions. If we’re going to get India or China to actually sign on to reducing carbon emissions, then we’re going to have to have a conversation with them about nuclear power, and help them with technologies that ensure safety and we can figure out how to store it until we invite the perfect energy source — crystals or whatever, and Scotty is there beaming us up — (laughter.) But until then, we’ve got to live in the real world.

So I say all that not because I don’t recognize the urgency of the problem. It is because we’re going to have to straddle between the world as it is and the world as we want it to be, and build that bridge. And what I always tell my staff, and what I told our negotiators during the Paris agreement is better is good. Better is not always enough; better is not always ideal, and in the case of climate change, better is not going to save the planet. But if we get enough better, each year we’re doing something that’s making more progress, moving us forward, increasing clean energy, then that’s ultimately how we end up solving this problem.

And that’s when we can start creating political coalitions that will listen to us, because we’re actually recognizing that some people have some real concerns about what this transition is going to do to them, to their pocketbook, and we’ve got to make sure that they feel like they’re being heard in this whole process. (Applause.)

MS. HAYHOE: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more, first of all. And second of all, I think that this really underscores one of the biggest lessons that I, as a scientist, have learned. So, so often we feel like facts and information are what’s going to make people care.

And so many times, I have somebody come into me and say, Katharine, if you could just talk to my mother, if you could just talk to my brother-in-law, if you could just talk to our city councilperson and give them the facts — it’s real, it’s us, it’s bad, we have to fix it — that will change their minds. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that facts are not enough. In fact, the more literate we are about science, the more polarized we are about climate change.

The most important thing to do is not to pile up scientific reports until they reach a tottering pile of about eight feet, where they’ll tip over and crush somebody. The most important thing to do is to connect this issue to what’s already in our hearts. Because one of the most insidious myths I feel like we’ve bought into is that I have to be a certain type of person to care about climate change. And if I am not that person, then I don’t care about it because I care about these other things. But the reality is, is that if we’re a human living on this planet — which most of us are — as long as we haven’t signed up for the trip to Mars — I don’t want to know if anybody has. I think you’re crazy. (Laughter.)


MS. HAYHOE: Oh, you did? Oh, I’m sorry, I take that back. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I think you’ll acknowledge he’s crazy. (Laughter.)

MS. HAYHOE: All right, we’ll go with that. (Laughter.) So if we’re a human living on this planet, this is the only planet we have. It’s our home. If we’re a parent, we would do anything for our children’s sake. If we’re a businessperson, we care about the economy. We care about the community that we live in. We care about our house. We care about the fact that we want to have clean air to breathe; we want to have enough water to drink; we want to have a safe and secure environment in which to live.

The single most important thing I feel like I’ve learned is that we already have all the values we need to care about climate change in our hearts, no matter who we are and what part of the spectrum we come from. We just have to figure out how to connect those values to the issue of climate. (Applause.)

MR. DICAPRIO: Katharine, well put. Yes. Does our planet — and this is one of the questions I posed to many scientists while doing the film — does our planet have the ability to regenerate if we do the right things? Or has there been enough lasting damage that can never be undone? Have we put enough carbon into the atmosphere that we’re going to feel the repercussions of climate change for decades to come? And a second question to that — do you see any cutting-edge technology besides solar and wind, any bright spots on the horizon that suggest we can rapidly change this course? For example, fusion.

MS. HAYHOE: Yes. So just like smoking, we know that if you’ve already smoked for a certain amount of time there’s some damage that has been done. When is the best time to stop smoking? Today? If not today, tomorrow? If not then, the next day? But we know that the longer we’ve been doing it the greater the repercussions.

So, in the case of climate change, if we could flip a magic switch and turn off all our carbon emissions today, we would still see the impact of the Industrial Revolution on our planet for well over 5,000 years. That’s how long we would see it.

But, on the other hand, there’s still plenty of time to avoid the worst of the impacts. If we act now. Every year that goes by without serious action is one more year of smoking, essentially, that increases our risk of lung cancer, so to speak. Except we’re not talking about our own lungs, we’re talking about the planet.

So there is an urgency to it. But there’s also hope, because by acting we can change the future. The future really is in our hands, because for the first time in the history of the human race on this planet, we are the ones in the driver’s seat of climate. It is both frightening as well as an opportunity that we cannot afford to lose.

So, technologies. You’ve already gone through great ones. There are so many amazing ones. Like in West Texas were some smart guys who had an idea. They saw oil wells. What if we used wind energy to pump water down those oil wells under high pressure so that when it wasn’t windy we could let that water back up to turn the turbines and make electricity. That’s a pretty cool idea.

I would love to live in a house where the shingles are solar panels, where the walls are painted with solar paint, where I had one — power walls in the garage storing the energy overnight, and I plug in my electric car when I get home. We would all like to live in a world where our bike paths and even our highways are made out of solar panels, where everything that we do is constantly being renewed, and we know that we have a source of energy that is never going to run out on us and that does not pollute our air.

I was amazed — and this is a scientist speaking here — I was amazed to learn that here in the United States, on average, every year, 200,000 people die from air pollution from burning fossil fuels. It’s over 5 million around the world — 200,000 people. Imagine if those 200,000 people were dying from a different cause. Imagine some of the causes we’re told about today whenever you turn on the news — things that we should be afraid of. Air pollution, simple air pollution alone gives us all the reason in the world we need to shift towards clean energy. Add on climate change, add on the fact that, as the President mentioned a while ago, developing countries need energy. There’s a billion people living in energy poverty today, with no access to energy.

But if you add up all the fossil fuel resources in Southeast Asia and Africa, they have less than 10 percent of the world’s fossil fuels. So the answer for the billion people living in energy poverty is not to do it the same way we did 300 years ago. I mean, that’s honestly a very colonialistic attitude to say, no, you have to go back to the 1700s and do it that way. It’s like saying you have to go through the party telephone, and then you can get your own telephone, and then you can get a cellphone in another 150 years. That’s not the way the world works.

We are leapfrogging over the old technology, and the answer is we can do it because it’s taking us to a better and a more secure place. (Applause.)

MR. DICAPRIO: I got the opportunity to sit with the head of NASA, and you’ll see a lot of this in the film, but he basically projected the next 20 to 30 years. And he started talking about specifically the United States and the possibility of another Dust Bowl coming up. I asked about my home state of California and the wildfires and the droughts that are occurring there. And he said you can expect to continue that.

Do you agree that — we’re going to feel some of the repercussions of climate change in the form of rising sea levels, more intense hurricanes, and we’re going to see droughts and wildfires like that start to occur in the future. What do you think the future is going to look like for us if we do not take immediate action? Do you think we’ll be able to sustain the projected levels of what’s going to happen to our planet for the next 20 years? Or do you think that if we don’t take immediate action things are going to get exponentially worse?

MS. HAYHOE: So nine times out of ten, the way climate change affects us is not through some strange thing that we’ve never seen before. It’s not like a biblical plague of locusts arriving. It’s through taking what you just referred to — it’s taking the ways that we’re already vulnerable to climate and weather today.

How is D.C. vulnerable? Heatwaves, flooding, snowstorms. How is Texas vulnerable? Droughts, dust bowls, flooding. When we look at all the ways we’re already vulnerable, and nine times out of ten, that is exactly how climate change is going to impact us — by changing the risks of these events. And that’s what you already talked about. It isn’t a single event where we can point out, we can say, okay, that event was definitely climate change, but that event was 100 percent natural.

It’s more like climate change is taking the natural weather dice — and there’s always a chance of rolling a double six, an event that has a huge impact on us, economically. And climate change is sneaking in when we’re not looking and it’s taking another one of those numbers and replacing it with a six, and then another number and replacing it with a six. So the chances of rolling that double six are increasing the further we go down this road.

THE PRESIDENT: One thing I’d say, Leo, and I think Katharine alluded to this — another analogy to think about is we’re heading towards a cliff at 90 miles an hour. And if we hit the brakes, we don’t come to an immediate stop without spinning out of control. And so what we have to do is we have to tap the brakes. And if we tap the brakes now, then we don’t go over the cliff.

So when you think about climate change, there’s a big difference between the oceans rising three feet or the oceans rising 10 feet. Three feet is going to be expensive and inconvenient and disruptive. And we already see that — if you live in Miami right now — and I think, in fact, in your film you reference this — there are sunny days where, at noon, suddenly there’s two feet of water in the middle of the streets. And the reason is because as the oceans and the tides rise, Miami is on pretty porous rock, so it’s not even sufficient to build like a wall because it’s coming up through the ground.

And it’s going to be really expensive for Miami with three feet of water — or three feet of higher ocean. But it’s probably manageable. Once you start getting to 10 feet, then you don’t have South Florida. There will still be Florida, but it will be the Florida that will look like maybe a million years ago. And that’s a lot of property value. South Beach and Coral Gables and there are a lot of really nice spots. (Laughter.)

My hometown of Hawaii, Honolulu — Honolulu will still be there, but three feet just means you’re moving houses a little bit back from the beach. Ten feet means the beach doesn’t exist. And so the ramifications of whether we work on this now, steadily and make progress, or we don’t could mean the difference between huge disruptions versus adaptations that are expensive and inconvenient, but that don’t fundamentally change the shape of our society or put us into potential conflict.

I’m using examples here in the United States. Poor countries are obviously much more vulnerable. If you see a change in monsoon patterns in the Indian subcontinent where you’ve got potentially a billion people who are dependent on a certain pattern of rains, the Himalayas getting a certain amount of snowpack, et cetera, and those folks’ margin of error is so thin that you might end up seeing migrations of hundreds of millions of people, which invariably will create significant conflict.

There’s already some really interesting work — not definitive, but powerful — showing that the droughts that happened in Syria contributed to the unrest and the Syrian civil war. Well, if you start magnifying that across a lot of states, a lot of nation states that already contain a lot of poor people who are just right at the margins of survival, this becomes a national security issue.

And that’s why, even as we have members of Congress who scoff at climate change at the same time as they are saluting and wearing flag pins and extolling their patriotism, they’re not paying attention to our Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon who are saying that this is one of the most significant national security threats that we face over the next 50 years.

ll of which is to say that as hard as it is for us to start acting now to solve a problem that has not fully manifested itself yet, this is going to be a really important test for humanity and our political system. And it’s a test that requires everybody to do better. It requires me to do better, as somebody who’s got a voice. It requires Katharine and scientist to communicate more effectively. Everybody should take a lesson from Katharine on how to explain this stuff in ways that people understand. (Applause.)

it requires us reaching out to the faith community in ways that Katharine has done a really good job of, because there are a lot of evangelicals who are actually generally on the conservative side of the spectrum that care deeply about this planet that God made. It requires us to reach out to sportsmen and hunters and fishermen who may not agree at all on Second Amendment issues, but they sure like and understand the notion that they’ve got a forest where they can go out and — although they probably don’t want to be mauled by a grizzly bear — (laughter) — that looks a little severe. (Laughter.)

So all of us I think are going to have to do better than we’re doing in elevating this issue. And as I said before, better is good. We can start with existing technologies. I’ll just use one last example on this.

If we just had the energy efficiency of Japan, which is an island nation that doesn’t have a lot of fossil fuels, and so, historically, in their development path have been much more conscious about energy efficiency, we could reduce our energy consumption by 20 percent without changing our standard of living. Simple stuff like when you leave a room the light automatically goes off instead of it still be on.

A lot of companies are doing some smart work because it affects their bottom line. Our ability to measure in houses sort of smartly how much energy we’re using and minimizing waste of energy and heat can make a huge difference. Folks in Texas — air conditioning is a great invention, but nothing gets me more frustrated than seeing somebody and it’s 100 degrees outside and they’re wearing a sweater indoors because the air conditioning is turned up too high. But we do that everywhere — partly because of building design. You can’t open the windows, and so, as a consequence, you can’t use natural temperature regulators.

There’s a bunch of stuff that seems kind of simple and stupid, but would make a big dent. All those things have to start getting factored in. But we’ve got to change our politics. And as Leo said, it’s got to come from the bottom up. Until on a bipartisan basis, politicians feel that their failure to address this will cost them their seats, potentially, or will threaten their careers, then they’re going to continue to operate in ways that I think are really unproductive. (Applause.)

MS. HAYHOE: I began to study climate science over 20 years ago, and I have lived through the period where climate change has become one of the most politicized issues in the entire United States to where the number-one predictor of what our opinions are about climate change is nothing more than where we fall on the political spectrum.

The reality is, as my husband says, who is an evangelical pastor, a thermometer is not Democrat or Republican. It does not give us different numbers depending on how we vote. The science is what it is. If we say gravity isn’t real, and we step off a cliff, we’re going down anyway. But the solutions are political. Do we go with a cap and trade? Do we go with a carbon tax? Do we go with technological incentivizes? What do we do about other countries? How do we build states and businesses and communities? These are political and they should be debated up and down the halls. But what should not be debated is the fact that we are all human, we share this amazing home that we live in, and it is in all of our best interests to make sure that we leave it a better place for our children. (Applause.)

MR. DICAPRIO: This is my last question. President Obama, you use the Antiquities Act to preserve more acres of land and sea than any President since Teddy Roosevelt. (Applause.) I was going to say, let’s give him a round of applause, but they did that automatically. (Applause.) The great Teddy Roosevelt. How important is it to have a President who not only believes in the science of climate change, but one who understands that we must conserve these natural resources to create conditions that are conducive to a sustainable life for future generations?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, this goes to the point Katharine made about values. And I mentioned I grew up in Hawaii. Those of you who have been there, it’s a really pretty place. And the native Hawaiian traditions are so woven with nature and the sea and outdoors, and so that seeps into you when you grow up there.

But I tell you, I don’t know any place in the country where there isn’t someplace that evokes the same kind of sense of place and beauty. It may be a desert landscape. It may be a forest somewhere. It may be a mountain. And as my girls start getting older, I start thinking about grandkids — not soon. (Laughter.) But it’s natural you start thinking about sort of the next stages of your life and the idea that my grandkids wouldn’t see something I had seen, that — you can be a conservative Republican in Alabama, but you’ve got a memory of your dad taking you out hunting, and you being quiet and still, and you want to do that same thing with your kid. And it may be different than me taking my grandkid bodysurfing at Sandy Beach, but there’s the same feeling of wanting to pass that on. Of feeling deeply about it and caring deeply about it.

And I think one of the ways for us to tackle the climate change issue is also to lift up the power and the values that are embodied in conservation. It’s kind of a twofer. When we went out to Midway Islands, which is already a historic site because in part this was the turning point of World War II. There are people who revere this site because of its history in World War II, and the incredible courage and bravery of people who were outnumbered but ultimately were able to turn back a Japanese fleet that was on its way to Hawaii.

But we were up there, and this is water that’s just untouched. And you’re seeing monk seals diving in and swimming next to you, and turtles that are climbing up on the beach just to sun themselves, and it used to be there were 60,000 birds and now there are 3 million birds on this island — bunch of species that were about to go extinct. It all came back just in the span of one generation because of conservation. Well, not only is that creating incredible beauty, but it also means now that you have this huge preserve of ocean that is not contributing to climate change.

And so I think these two things go hand in hand. In the same way that the issue of air pollution and disease is, in some ways, a way to get at the climate change issue if people aren’t directly concerned about climate change. In China, frankly, part of the reason that people are — that the government there was willing to work with us, they’re number-one priority is political stability. And what they started noticing was the number one Twitter feed in China was the air quality monitor that was put out each morning by the U.S. embassy. It was the single thing that more Chinese looked at than anything because people couldn’t breathe in Beijing.

And smog is not the same as carbon dioxide, but it is generated by the same energy pattern usages. So if that’s where people are at right now and they want to be sure their kids are healthy, then let’s go after that. If they’re interested in conservation as a way to start thinking about climate change, let’s go after that. There are so many entry points into this issue and we’ve got to use all of them in order to convince people that this is something worth caring about.

But at the end of the day, the one thing I’m absolutely convinced about is, everybody cares about their kids, their grandkids, and the kind of world we pass on to them. And if we can speak to them about our responsibilities to the next generation, and we can give people realistic ways to deal with this so that they don’t feel like they’ve got to sacrifice this generation to do it, they have to put hardship on their kids now in order to save their grandkids — then I tend to be a cautious optimist about our ability to make change. But events like this obviously make a big difference and really help. (Applause.)

MR. DICAPRIO: Mr. President, Katharine, thank you so much for your time. I’m truly honored to premier this film here on the White House lawn. Like I said, this was a three-year endeavor. I learned so much and I’m going to let the film speak for itself as far as everything that I experienced on this journey.

Thank you so much for your time. Let’s give them a round of applause. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Appreciate you. Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. DICAPRIO: Thank you all for showing up.

THE PRESIDENT: Have fun, everybody.

MR. DICAPRIO: Enjoy the film.

Tim Kaine's "Web of Denial" Speech: "Science and Religion Share a Duty to the Truth"

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 02 Aug 2016 15:38:00 GMT

A few weeks before Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) became the Democratic nominee for vice president on the Hillary Clinton ticket, he joined other senators to discuss the fossil-fuel industry’s “web of denial” preventing action to end their climate pollution. Below is a transcript of his July 12, 2016 speech.

Thank you, Madam President. I join rise to join my colleague to talk about the critical issue of climate change and especially the facts around climate change but also the fact that there are many who would deny the facts. This is a really important issue to the commonwealth of Virginia. Climate change is not a distraction. It’s not a next year or next decade issue. Climate change in Virginia is a today issue.

Earlier today, I was in Norfolk, Virginia, which is in the Hampton Roads area near the Atlantic Ocean. Norfolk and the surrounding communities is the largest concentration of naval power in the world. It’s the center of naval operations. The headquarters of the U.S. Atlantic fleet. And it is already having to spend millions of dollars to elevate the piers where aircraft carriers come and go due to sea level rise. The Hampton Roads area is listed as the second most vulnerable community on the east coast of the United States to rising sea levels after New Orleans.

This is a challenging issue in a lot of ways.

I have friends who live in these communities who bought homes recently but now their homes aren’t marketable. For most Americans, certainly for me, my home is the most valuable asset I own. And if you have that and then you suddenly can’t sell it because climate is changing sea level is rising, flooding is more recurrent, no one will buy your home, it’s a very, very serious issue.

In addition to the effect on individuals and businesses because of sea level rise, the effect on the naval station is significant. Current estimates are that rising sea levels in Norfolk will take the main road entrance into the center of American naval power and have that under water by 2040, three hours a day just because of normal tidal action. In times of storms it would be worse.

So imagine in America that counts on its navy, that counts on that naval presence around the globe having its largest naval base inaccessible because of sea level rise.

We have an interesting community. One of the most unique areas is Tangier Island. It’s been continually inhabited since the 1600’s as a community for men and women. The folks who have traditionally made their living by going out and catching crabs and oysters and fish, and this is a small island with a few acres. It’s one of the only places you can go in the United States where you can hear English spoken as Shakespeare would have spoken it with a language that is an Elizabethan language. The community is isolated in that way. You hear this beautiful English spoken there and the community has many wonderful virtues but the Chesapeake Bay is coming up around this community and eroding it. I received a letter from a middle school student within the last month, a handwritten letter that might have been the most heartfelt piece of communication I’ve received in four-plus years in the senate saying would are you doing about sea level rise, what can you do to help us deal with these issues so that Tangier as an island does not completely disappear.

For these reasons and many others in Virginia we take this very, very seriously and we have to deal with it. I’ll tell you something else about Virginians. Virginians believe in science. The Virginia political figure we most admire was the preeminent scientist of the day, Thomas Jefferson. Virginians overwhelmingly believe in science. 70% of Virginians accept the scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change and that it is urgent that we do something about it. 70% of Virginians believe in that proposition.

But I’m here today because my friend from Rhode Island asked me to come and talk about the fact that there is an organized effort, not just a battle about the policy about climate science but to knowingly try to misrepresent the status of climate science and suggest that climate change is not occurring. They’re denying it exists. They’re denying that it’s a concern. They’re working against any reasonable solutions.

Now, of course, we’ve got to be open to points of view and reasonable differences of opinion and have a debate, but when the science is settled on some things and people are in an organized way who know better are trying to fight against it, we should be suspicious. So a group of senators are speaking today and tomorrow to discuss these organizations that constitute what my friend from Rhode Island has termed a web of denial, an organized effort to deny science.

And so let me just talk a little bit because a number of these deniers are companies that at least have P.O. boxes or nonprofit organizations that at least have P.O. boxes in Virginia. The same Virginia where Tangier Island is disappearing, the same Virginia where the navy is having to spend to shore up their infrastructure also has some shadowy organizations that are trying to deny the real science involved.

There’s an organization called the Science and Public Policy Institute. And it purports to summarize available academic literature. Here’s a quote. “They further note that availability in sea level is observed but to date there’s no detectable secular increase in sea level rise. They also report that no increase in the rate of sea level rise has been detected for the entire 20th century.” closed quote.

This is a group, they throw in a few sciencey words like “decadal variability.”

This is at odds with the conclusions of virtually every scientist who studied this issue, including scientists at Virginia universities, Old Dominion University, Institute of Marine Sciences, William & Mary. Those scientists says sea level rise — on the Virginia coast it’s anywhere from one and a half additional feet to 7 feet by the year 2100. Now, they will acknowledge some question about is it going to a foot and a half. Is it going to be 7 feet, but they don’t challenge the basic science surrounding sea level rise.

So which is it? One and a half to 7 feet or you don’t need to worry about it? Don’t worry, be happy.

Without getting a Ph.D. in atmospheric science and building your own quantitative models, how do you know who is right?

Here’s a clue. Look at who funds these organizations.

In the case of ODU, William & Mary, the Virginia institute of Marine Sciences which is one of the most preeminent marine sciences institutions in the nation along with Scripps in San Diego and Woods Hole, Massachusetts, it’s not hard. They are state universities. They’re funded by the general assembly of Virginia which is two Republican houses. And they are reaching a scientific conclusion that says climate change is serious.

But with the Science and Policy Institute, it’s a bit nebulous and it’s kind of hard to figure out. But there’s online sources that enable you to track how organizations are funded through foundations with ties frankly to the energy industry. According to one of these sources, it’s called DeSmogBlog, one of this institute’s, the Science and Public Policy Institute’s major funders is the Donors Capital Fund which has distributed $170 million to various conservative causes and describes itself as being, quote, “dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility and free enterprise,” close quote.

A New York Times article as far back as 2003 documents a connection between this foundation and an organization that also has a point of view, ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil is a funder or in the past has been a funder of this organization. Now, why don’t—why doesn’t an ExxonMobil or conservative organization just publish the material on their own websites under their own bylines? Well, my guess is that they have scientists who actually know the science and there’s been recent information about ExxonMobil. They understand the climate science. They couldn’t publish this under their own byline and meet their own standards of truthfulness but they are providing funding to an organization that’s denying climate change.

In other words, the organization is a delivery vehicle for information that is meant to be seen as impartial scientific information but is in fact not impartial at all. So when you see one group saying that there’s been no sea level rise and another saying there’s been a lot and we could be in for more and if you’re wondering who to believe, take a look at who’s funding the research.

Here’s another organization, the Virginia Institute for Public Policy. Quote — here’s a quote from them. “Regulations prescribing a reduction or complete cessation of Virginia’s CO2 emissions will have absolutely no effect on global climate. “

If there’s Virginia regulations that even eliminate Virginia CO2 “it will have no effect on global climate.” That’s an interesting quote because it’s not technically a lie because it’s literally true. Virginia’s share of world CO2 emissions is infinitesimally small. It wouldn’t affect the entire globe in a measurable way but that’s like saying one vote? Your vote is not going to make a difference or one cigarette won’t hurt you so go ahead and have one.

This argument is a kind of a classic hide the ball argument that makes a statement that’s technically true but it essentially is promoting a false point of view that oh, well, we shouldn’t do anything about it. So again it’s the use of a literal truth that’s basically designed to pitch a message that’s grossly misleading.

So let’s ask about this group, the Virginia Institute for Public Policy. Who funds a group that would say something like that? Again the Donors Capital Fund that funded the first organization I discussed as well as the Chase Foundation of Virginia and the Roe foundation which support a list of conservative causes. If you call an organization the Virginia Institute for Public Policy it sounds kind of neutral and probably trying to do a good thing.

But if you go back and look at who’s funding it and you find the funding sources are heavily linked to the energy industry, groups like ExxonMobil you understand they’re not quite as impartial as they suggest.

Another group called the CO2 coalition, quote, “Concerns about carbon dioxide being a pollutant are not valid. Climate change is proceeding very slowly and the likely increase of the temperature for the 21st century is 1 degree celsius or less,” closed quote.

Well, yes, is that technically true? The temperature of the earth is increased by 1 degree since industrialization and 197 countries just signed an agreement in Paris last year to try to limit any further increase to no more than 1 degree additional. This group make it is sound like who cares about 1 degree. 100 degree is 1.4 degrees more than normal, enough to make you sick. The number of .08 sounds tiny in the abstract but if that’s your blood alcohol content, that gives you a DUI in Virginia. The number sounds small. Gosh, why would that make a difference? That gets you a DUI because you’re impaired. So, yes, the group using the one temperature, one degree in temperature makes it sound like it’s not that big a deal but it is that big a deal.

Now, here’s the last one I want to say, Madam President, before I close. This is kind of a doozy because it’s from an open letter to Pope Francis on the topic of the pope’s environmental encyclical. The group is called the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. Not like going big if you’re going to pick a name for yourself.

Their quote starts with a quote from the 19th Psalm. “The heavens declare the glory of god and the firmament claims his handiwork.” Then the group goes on to declare in their own words, “By using fossil fuels to generate energy to lift billions of god’s children, precious children out of poverty, we liberate from the tomb of earth the carbon dioxide on which plants and therefore all the rest of life depend. In light of these considerations, we believe it is both unwise and unjust to adopt policies requiring reduced use of fossil fuels for energy.”

So somebody is really using scripture to argue that making our energy production cleaner, safer, cheaper violates the Christian tenet of caring for the poor? I’m a Christian and many of us in this body have a deep faith background in one faith or another but I’ll use a non-Christian phrase to describe that argument. It takes a lot of chutzpah to claim your religious faith and compassion, especially when the organization refuses to reveal how it is funded.

In closing, Madam President, we certainly don’t want to imply that all groups that, you know, have an agenda or have a point of view are motivated by funding sources. But the web of denial that the senator from Rhode Island is asking us to come out and talk about tonight is one that includes a number of organizations that are climate deniers. They are denying science, that they actually in my view know to be true. There comes a point when the truth becomes so hard to deny that those who deny it or simply not credible.

And you have to ask the question then why are you denying it? I assert that most of these organizations understand the science and they accept the science. And they realize it to be true. Why do they deny the science? The answer is greed. That’s the basic answer.

Many of the organizations that we’re discussing are funded primarily by fossil fuel interests, and if they can delay even by a year or two years or five years or even six months, the enactment of policies that would move us toward fewer fossil fuels, it will hurt their bottom line. And so rather than come up here and argue about what the right transition should be, they’re handing funds over to organizations that are trying to confuse the American public about science itself. So let me close and read from Pope Francis’ — the Cornwall Institute on Stewardship. I’ll read a quote. “Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention.”

Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently. Future generations. We look at things differently. We realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to you, we can no longer view relate any in a utilitarian way geared entirely to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional but a basic question of justice since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.

Science and faith have a number of things in common, but one of the most important things they have in common is their first duty has to be to the truth. I hope all actors in the political process, whatever their views, will remember that and have that same commitment. Thank you, Madam President. With that, I yield the floor.

Letter from Ben Santer in Support of Tom Karl, Climate Scientist Under Attack by Lamar Smith

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 19 Nov 2015 02:15:00 GMT

Message from Ben Santer: Here is a message of support I sent to Tom Karl on November 17, 2015. I remain deeply concerned by the unwarranted Congressional scrutiny that the 2015 Karl et al. Science paper continues to receive.

I have no concerns about public distribution of this letter.

Dr. Thomas R. Karl
Director, National Center for Environmental Information
Veach-Baley Federal Building
151 Patton Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801-5001

Dear Tom,

I just wanted to express my gratitude and scientific appreciation for the critical research you and your NCEI colleagues have performed over the last several decades. You have been pioneers in many different areas: in producing observational estimates of global-scale changes in land and ocean surface temperatures, in identifying non-climatic artifacts in temperature measurements, in developing rigorous scientific methods of adjusting for such artifacts, and in accounting for the incomplete, time-varying coverage of observations.

NCEI has made its surface temperature data sets freely and openly available to the entire climate science community, thus enabling important research on the nature and causes of climate change, climate variability, and climate model evaluation. NCEI staff have clearly and thoroughly documented each surface temperature data set that NCEI has released – in scientific publications, in presentations to policymakers and professional societies, and in extensive online material. No scientific organization has done a more thorough or transparent job in developing and analyzing observations of 20th and early 21st century changes in Earth’s climate.

I am deeply concerned that NCEI’s science is now being subjected to Congressional scrutiny and criticism. Such scrutiny and criticism is not warranted. The leadership of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology should understand that science is dynamic rather than static. All observational temperature data sets have evolved in important ways over time, in tandem with improvements in the ability to identify and adjust for inhomogeneities introduced by changing measurement systems, changing measurement practices, and changes in the spatial coverage of measurements. This is true not only for surface temperature data sets, but also for measurements of the heat content of the world’s oceans, and for satellite-based estimates of temperature change in Earth’s lower and upper atmosphere. Evolution of observational temperature data sets is a normal, on-going scientific process. It is not evidence of non-scientific behavior.

If our country is to take informed decisions on how to address problems arising from human perturbations to the climate system, we need access to the best-available scientific information on how Earth’s climate has actually changed. NCEI provides such critically important information to the scientific community, policymakers, and the public. You and your NCEI colleagues deserve our sincere thanks and our continued support.

With best regards,

Ben Santer

Distinguished Member of Scientific Staff, Lawrence Livermore National Lab
Member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences

John Kasich Tells Pope: Climate Change Is 'Some Theory That's Not Proven'

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 10 Aug 2015 16:26:00 GMT

On Meet the Press this Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) rejected the science of fossil-fueled global warming. Kasich told host Chuck Todd that manmade climate change is “some theory that’s not proven”, in response to a question about Pope Francis, who recently authored the influential climate encyclical, Laudato Si’.

CHUCK TODD: You brought up the environment. [Pope Francis] is somebody who believes that climate change is manmade and that man needs to do something about it. Do you agree with him?

GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH: Well, I think that man absolutely affects the environment. But as to whether, you know, what the impact is, the overall impact, I think that’s a legitimate debate. But what I do think is, you know, in my state of Ohio, you know, we preciously take care of Lake Erie. We’ve reduced emissions by 30% over the last ten years. We believe in alternative energy. So of course we have to be sensitive to it. But we don’t want to destroy people’s jobs based on some theory that’s not proven.

Todd did not correct Kasich, moving on to a question about conservative activist Erick Erickson.

The National Journal’s Clare Foran published an attempt by the Kasich campaign to deny Kasich’s climate denial: “The governor has long believed climate change is real and we need to so something about it. The debate over exact percentages of why it is happening is less important than what can be done about it. We know it is real, we know man has an impact, and we know we need to do something.”

In reality, the carbon-dioxide greenhouse effect is a physical fact known since the 1800s. The only scientifically plausible systematic explanation for the rapid and continuing warming of the planetary climate since 1950 is industrial greenhouse pollution. The world’s national scientific societies and the world’s practicing climate scientists are in overwhelming agreement about this fact.

The First Law of Climate Policy

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 02 Jul 2015 22:43:00 GMT

The First Law of Climate Policy: Global warming won’t stop until we stop burning fossil fuels.

Charles Koch Affirms He's A Climate Denier

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 23 Apr 2015 04:00:00 GMT

KochIn an interview with USA Today, petrochemical baron Charles Koch reiterated his rejection of the scientific consensus on industrial global warming.

“You can plausibly say that CO2 has contributed” to the planet’s warming, he told USA Today reporter Fredreka Schouten, but he sees “no evidence” to support “this theory that it’s going to be catastrophic.”

Koch may have been forced to admit that carbon-dioxide pollution is warming the planet by research he funded—the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study, which replicated previous global temperature reconstructions.

In fact, the only scientifically plausible systematic explanation for the rapid and continuing warming of the planetary climate since 1950 is industrial greenhouse pollution. The world’s national scientific societies and the world’s practicing climate scientists are in overwhelming agreement that dangerous impacts of global warming are already being observed, and globally catastrophic impacts are inevitable if further carbon dioxide pollution is not curtailed.

The $100 billion fortune of the Koch brothers is built upon decades of greenhouse pollution. To protect their business, the Kochs have spent billions supporting a vast infrastructure of politicians and advocacy organizations to reject the science of climate change and prevent regulation of climate pollutants.

UPDATE: Greenpeace’s Connor Gibson has more.

Influential Climate Denier Jeffrey Salmon Manages Department of Energy's Science Grants and Budget

Posted by Brad Johnson Sat, 28 Mar 2015 15:31:00 GMT

Jeffrey T Salmon
Jeffrey T. Salmon in 2008
A key architect of the climate-denial machine oversees the nation’s energy and climate science research at the U.S. Department of Energy. Jeffrey T. Salmon is the Deputy Director for Resource Management of the Office of Science, overseeing its decisions on its grants and budget. In 1998, Salmon was part of the “Global Climate Science Team” of industry operatives who devised a strategy of attacking the validity of climate science in order to disrupt the Kyoto Protocol.

At the time, Salmon was the executive director of the ExxonMobil-funded George C. Marshall Institute.

Under his direction, the Marshall Institute was a major purveyor of climate denial, rejecting the scientific consensus and arguing against any limits on carbon dioxide pollution. Salmon instituted the practice of accepting corporate contributions at Marshall, starting with Exxon. In a 1996 appearance on CNN, Salmon said, “If you want to reduce carbon emissions for some reason, let’s hear that reason; let’s not hear that it’s global warming, which there’s no indication that human action is contributing to.” In 1993, Salmon wrote that there is “no solid scientific evidence to support the theory that the earth is warming because of man-made greenhouse gases.” In 1992, a Salmon op-ed in USA Today claimed, “New findings suggest that the greenhouse problem is a non-problem.”

A George W. Bush appointee to the Department of Energy, Salmon moved over into his current position in July 2008. As a civil-service job, Salmon’s position is protected from removal by the current administration, an example of the practice known as “burrowing.” Salmon served in the Department of Energy for the entire Bush administration, starting in March 2001, as Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary Spencer Abraham. In 2002, he joined the Office of Science as the Chief of Staff to the Director of the Office of Science Ray Orbach. In 2006, when the Energy Policy Act of 2005 created the office of the Under Secretary for Science, he became the Associate Under Secretary below Orbach.

Under Obama’s first Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, much of the Department of Energy’s science research funding was directed through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), funded by the 2009 stimulus bill.

Salmon, who has a doctorate in politics, was a speechwriter for both Dick Cheney when he was secretary of defense.

VIDEO: Legislators Choke with Laughter as Florida Official Struggles to Avoid Saying "Climate Change"

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 20 Mar 2015 18:31:00 GMT

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s secret climate-change gag rule turned a state legislative hearing into a screwball farce last Thursday. Legislators chortled as the state’s top emergency-management official struggled under the dry questioning of state Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) to avoid saying the words “climate change.” At one point, Clemens offered a suggestion to Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, recommending Floridians use the euphemism “atmospheric re-employment” as one that would be more acceptable to the governor, an outspoken denier of the science that the continued burning of fossil fuels is destabilizing the climate system and threatening Florida with rapid sea level rise.

The hearing room of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development broke out with laughter, including the legislator sitting next to Clemens, Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg).

The conversation about the new FEMA guidelines that include climate change considerations continued, with Clemens needling Koon’s apparent fear of saying the words “climate change.”

“My understanding at this point is that future versions of our mitigation plan will be required to have language discussing that issue,” Koon said.

“What issue is that?” Clemens replied.

“Uh, the issue you mentioned earlier, regarding, um . . .”

At this point, the chair of the committee, Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), doubled over in his chair, choking with laughter.

A spokesman told the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting: “The Florida Division of Emergency Management does not have any policy which prohibits the use of the words ‘climate change.’ ”

The exchange was featured on The Daily Show’s Wednesday episode. Stewart piled on with other climate-change euphemisms, including “moisture inconvenience” and “state-wide jacuzzification.”


CLEMENS: You were in DC last time when we went through this particular issue and as you said these are federal funds. Are you familiar with the new procedures FEMA issued just this week dealing with climate change and the, the fact that they’re going to be requesting or demanding that states have a climate change plan before they’re going to, to issue some of these preparedness dollars?

KOON: I am.

CLEMENS: Is this going to affect those moneys at all?

KOON: It will not. That, that one refers to, uh, a state’s hazard mitigation plan which is done every five years, uh, and the next iterations of them will required to have, uh, language to that effect.

OFF-CAMERA: What were those words, Mr. Chairman? What were the words you were using?”

CLEMENS: I used ‘climate change,’ but I’m suggesting that maybe as a state we use ‘atmospheric re-employment.’ That might be something that the governor would . . .


CLEMENS: So, my worry obviously is with these dollars even in a more general sense to make sure we as a state have to come up with some sort of plan to keep our preparedness dollars for hurricanes. I’m assuming that’s something you’re going to speak with the governor about, and trying to take up, so we don’t lose our dollars in the future.

KOON: Yes, Senator. Our next state mitigation plan is due to the feds in 2018 so we have some time, uh, in which to have that conversation.

CLEMENS: Even though that takes place, the edict starts in March of 2016 we only have to . . .

KOON: That’s right, but my understanding at this point is that future versions of our mitigation plan will be required to have language discussing that issue.

CLEMENS: What issue is that?

KOON: Uh, the issue you mentioned earlier, regarding, um . . .


CLEMENS: I’m going to turn the chair back over. Well, maybe I shouldn’t right now.

Secretary of State John Kerry Calls Climate Inaction "Just Plain Immoral"

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 12 Mar 2015 19:55:00 GMT

In a passionate address yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry called inaction on carbon pollution “just plain immoral,” as it is “gambling with the future of Earth itself.” Kerry’s remarks were made at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., setting the stage for this December’s international climate negotiations in Paris.

“Lincoln took risks, Gandhi took risks, Churchill took risks, Dr. King took risks, Mandela took risks, but that doesn’t mean that every risk-taker is a role model. It’s one thing to risk a career or a life on behalf of a principle or to save or liberate a population,” Kerry said. “It’s quite another to wager the well-being of generations and life itself simply to continue satisfying the appetites of the present or to insist on a course of inaction long after all the available evidence has pointed to the folly of that path.”

“Gambling with the future of Earth itself when we know full well what the outcome would be is beyond reckless,” he continued. “It is just plain immoral.”

“And it is a risk that no one should take. We need to face reality. There is no planet B.”

Kerry also called for a renewed global commitment to cutting carbon pollution to avoid the 2-degree-Celsius warming threshold agreed to by President Obama. Using language that could have practical policy implications, Kerry argued that energy-investment decisions must “include the long-term cost of carbon pollution.”

It is time, my friends, for people to do real cost accounting. The bottom line is that we can’t only factor in the price of immediate energy needs. We have to include the long-term cost of carbon pollution. We have to factor in the cost of survival. And if we do, we will find that pursuing clean energy now is far more affordable than paying for the consequences of climate change later.

Such decisions notably include the long-awaited Presidential determination on the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, which if built would have the carbon-pollution impact of 40 new coal-fired power plants.

The Secretary of State made reference to the news uncovered by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting that Florida governor Rick Scott’s administration censored use of the words “climate change,” “global warming,” and “sea level rise.”

So when science tells us that our climate is changing and humans beings are largely causing that change, by what right do people stand up and just say, “Well, I dispute that” or “I deny that elementary truth?” And yet, there are those who do so. Literally a couple of days ago, I read about some state officials who are actually trying to ban the use of the term “climate change” in public documents because they’re not willing to face the facts.

Now folks, we literally do not have the time to waste debating whether we can say “climate change.” We have to talk about how we solve climate change. Because no matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, it will not alter the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible. I have been involved in public policy debates now for 40-plus years, whatever, since the 1960s. It is rare, rare, rare – I can tell you after 28 years-plus in the Senate – to get a super majority of studies to agree on anything. But 97 percent, over 20-plus years – that’s a dramatic statement of fact that no one of good conscience has a right to ignore.

Climate activist group Forecast the Facts is petitioning for an investigation.

Kerry’s speech had one factual misstep – he claimed that the first Senate hearings on climate change were held in 1988, when Dr. James Hansen famously warned Congress that global warming was already measurably affecting the climate.

Climate change is an issue that is personal to me, and it has been since the 1980s, when we were organizing the very first climate hearings in the Senate. In fact, it really predates that, going back to Earth Day when I’d come back from Vietnam. It was the first political thing I began to organize in Massachusetts, when citizens started to make a solid statement in this country. And I might add that’s before we even had an Environmental Protection Agency or a Clean Water Act or Safe Drinking Water Act or a Marine Mammal Protection Act or a Coastal Zone Management Act. It all came out of that kind of citizen movement. And that’s what we have to be involved in now. And the reason for that is simple: For decades now, the science has been screaming at us, warning us, trying to compel us to act.

And I just want to underscore that for a moment. It may seem obvious to you, but it isn’t to some. Science is and has long been crystal clear when it comes to climate change. Al Gore, Tim Wirth, and a group of us organized the first hearings in the Senate on this, 1988. We heard Jim Hansen stand in – sit in front of us and tell us it’s happening now, 1988. So we’re not talking about news reports or blog posts or even speeches that some cabinet secretary might give at a think tank. We’re talking about a fact-based, evidence-supported, peer-reviewed science. And yet, if you listen to some people in Washington or elsewhere, you’d think there’s a question about whether climate change really is a problem or whether we really need to respond to it.

In fact, the first Senate hearings on climate change were 11 years earlier in 1977, when the science subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology held a series of four hearings on the National Climate Program Act. The first House hearings on the same act of legislation were a year earlier.

The risk of fossil-fueled climate change was brought to the Congress’s attention by President Lyndon B. Johnson in his February 8, 1965 address on the environment, now over fifty years ago.

Transcript of full remarks:

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning, everybody. Fred, thank you very, very much for a very generous introduction. I’m delighted to be here with everybody. Distinguished ambassadors who are here this morning, thank you for taking time to represent your countries and come here and share your concern about this critical issue.

And I’m delighted to be accompanied by our envoy on climate, who’s been toiling away in the fields for a long time now in helping to shape President Obama’s and the State Department’s policy on this, Todd Stern. Todd, thanks for your many efforts on it.

Fred, thank you for leadership here at the Atlantic Council. I think Fred has demonstrated that he seems to always have the ability to have his finger on the most critical issues of the day, not just today actually, but of tomorrow. And as a result, we can always count on the Atlantic Council to be ahead of the curve and to be challenging all of us to think. So we appreciate very much what you do. And thank you, all of you, who are on the board and/or a part of and committed to the efforts of the council.

I have to add you also have an impeccable eye for talent. I was not surprised to hear that you had the good sense to hire Ambassador Richard Morningstar. He’s one of the most experienced global energy experts and a good friend of mine and Massachusetts – a son of Massachusetts. And now that he’s the director of the new Global Energy Center, you couldn’t be in better hands. And secondly, my former legislative assistant on energy and climate and then went to the White House, Heather Zichal, is part of this great family of effort on climate. So I think we’re kind of a family here this morning, in fact.

It’s clear that from Venezuela to Iraq to Ukraine, there is no shortage of energy challenges in the world today. And we’ve had many conversations recently. I was in Brussels. We had an U.S.-EU energy summit, where we laid out an agenda for how we can liberate some of these countries from their one-country dependency in the case of Russia and others. It has huge strategic importance. But I have to tell you, at the top of the list of energy challenges is climate change. And that is why the Road to Paris series, the very first hosted by the center, is so very important, and I am really delighted to be here and be a part of it.

As Fred mentioned, climate change is an issue that is personal to me, and it has been since the 1980s, when we were organizing the very first climate hearings in the Senate. In fact, it really predates that, going back to Earth Day when I’d come back from Vietnam. It was the first political thing I began to organize in Massachusetts, when citizens started to make a solid statement in this country. And I might add that’s before we even had an Environmental Protection Agency or a Clean Water Act or Safe Drinking Water Act or a Marine Mammal Protection Act or a Coastal Zone Management Act. It all came out of that kind of citizen movement. And that’s what we have to be involved in now. And the reason for that is simple: For decades now, the science has been screaming at us, warning us, trying to compel us to act.

And I just want to underscore that for a moment. It may seem obvious to you, but it isn’t to some. Science is and has long been crystal clear when it comes to climate change. Al Gore, Tim Wirth, and a group of us organized the first hearings in the Senate on this, 1988. We heard Jim Hansen stand in – sit in front of us and tell us it’s happening now, 1988. So we’re not talking about news reports or blog posts or even speeches that some cabinet secretary might give at a think tank. We’re talking about a fact-based, evidence-supported, peer-reviewed science. And yet, if you listen to some people in Washington or elsewhere, you’d think there’s a question about whether climate change really is a problem or whether we really need to respond to it.

So stop for a minute and just think about the basics. When an apple falls from a tree, it will drop toward the ground. We know that because of the basic laws of physics. Science tells us that gravity exists, and no one disputes that. Science also tells us that when the water temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it turns to ice. No one disputes that.

So when science tells us that our climate is changing and humans beings are largely causing that change, by what right do people stand up and just say, “Well, I dispute that” or “I deny that elementary truth?” And yet, there are those who do so. Literally a couple of days ago, I read about some state officials who are actually trying to ban the use of the term “climate change” in public documents because they’re not willing to face the facts.

Now folks, we literally do not have the time to waste debating whether we can say “climate change.” We have to talk about how we solve climate change. Because no matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, it will not alter the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible. I have been involved in public policy debates now for 40-plus years, whatever, since the 1960s. It is rare, rare, rare – I can tell you after 28 years-plus in the Senate – to get a super majority of studies to agree on anything. But 97 percent, over 20-plus years – that’s a dramatic statement of fact that no one of good conscience has a right to ignore.

But what’s really troubling is that those same scientists are telling us what’s going to happen, not just the fact of it being there, but they’re telling us what’s coming at us. These scientists also agree that if we continue to march like robots down the path that we’re on, the world as we know it will be transformed dramatically for the worse. And we can expect that sea levels will continue rising to dangerous levels. We will see nations moved as a consequence in the Pacific and elsewhere – Bangladesh, countries that are low.

We will see large swaths of cities and even some countries under water. We can expect more intense and frequent extreme weather events like hurricanes and typhoons. We can expect disruptions to the global agricultural sector that will threaten job security for millions of farmers and undermine food security for millions of families. We can expect prolonged droughts and resource shortages, which have the potential to fan the flames of conflict in areas that are already troubled by longstanding political, economic, religious, ideological, sectarian disputes. Imagine when they’re complicated by the absence of water and food.

These are the consequences of climate change, and this is the magnitude of what we are up against. And measured against the array of global threats we face today – and there are many. Terrorism, extremism, epidemics, poverty, nuclear proliferation, all challenges that respect no borders – climate change belongs on that very same list. It is, indeed, one of the biggest threats facing our planet today. And even top military personnel have designated it as a security threat to not just the United States but the world. And no one who has truly considered the science, no one who has truly listened objectively to our national security experts, could reach a different conclusion.

So yes, this is personal to me. But you know what? The bottom line is it ought to be personal to everybody, every man, woman, child, businessperson, student, grandparent, wherever we live, whatever our calling, whatever our personal background might be. This issue affects everyone on the planet. And if any challenge requires global cooperation and urgent action, this is it.

Make no mistake, this is a critical year. And that is why this Road to Paris series is so important. The science tells us we still have a window of time to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, but that window is closing quickly. We’re already in a mode where we’re looking at mitigation, not just prevention. In December, the world will come together at the UN Climate Conference in Paris, and we will see whether or not we can muster the collective political will to reach an ambitious, comprehensive agreement.

Now even those of us who are most involved in the negotiations – and Todd and I have talked to this, and talked about it with the President – we all understand. We know that even the agreement we’re trying to reach in Paris will not completely and totally be able to eliminate the threat. It’s not going to. But it is an absolutely vital first step, and it would be a breakthrough demonstration that countries across the globe now recognize the problem and the need for each and every one of us to contribute to a solution. And it will set the market moving; it will change attitudes; it will change governments. And then progressively, no one can quite measure what the exponential productivity of all of that effort will produce. So we have nine short months to come together around the kind of agreement that will put us on the right path.

Now rest assured – not a threat, but a statement of fact – if we fail, future generations will not and should not forgive those who ignore this moment, no matter their reasoning. Future generations will judge our effort not just as a policy failure but as a collective moral failure of historic consequence. And they will want to know how world leaders could possibly have been so blind or so ignorant or so ideological or so dysfunctional and, frankly, so stubborn that we failed to act on knowledge that was confirmed by so many scientists, in so many studies, over such a long period of time, and documented by so much evidence.

The truth is we will have no excuse. You don’t need to be a scientist to see that the world is already changing and feeling the impacts of global climate change and significantly. Many of the things I mentioned a moment ago are already beginning to unfold before our eyes. Just look around you. Fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record in all of history have occurred since 2000, in all of recorded history. Last year was the warmest of all. And I think if you stop and think about it, it seems that almost every next year becomes one of the hottest on record.

And with added heat comes an altered environment. It’s not particularly complicated. I don’t mean to sound haughty, but think about it for a minute. Life on Earth would not exist without a greenhouse effect. That is what has kept the average temperature up, until recently, at 57 degrees Fahrenheit, because there is this greenhouse effect. And it was called the greenhouse effect because it does exactly what a greenhouse does. When the sun pours in and bounces off at a different angle, it goes back up at a different angle. That can’t escape, and that warms things – a very simple proposition.

Now it’s difficult to tell whether one specific storm or one specific drought is solely caused by climate change, or a specific moment, but the growing number of extreme events scientists tell us is a clear signal to all of us. Recently Southeastern Brazil has been experiencing a crippling drought, the worst the region has seen in 80 years. The situation is so dire that families in Sao Paulo have been drilling through their basement floors in search of groundwater.

And the historic droughts in some parts of the world are matched only by historic floods in others. Malawi is currently in the midst of a disaster in which more than 150 people have died. Tens of thousands of people have been stranded by the rushing waters, cut off from food, clean water, healthcare, and thousands more have been forced from their homes.

This is happening now. It’s not a future event. And you can find countries, places – in fact, California, where they’ve had 100-year, 500-year droughts and massive fires and so forth as a consequence of the changes. Ask any scientist who studies the movement of species, and they’ll tell you how species are moving steadily north, fish moving. Everything is changing. It’s happening before our eyes, and that’s the first reason there is no excuse for ignoring this problem.

The second reason is that, unlike some of challenges that we face – I can readily attest to this – this one has a ready-made solution. The solution is not a mystery. It’s staring us in the face. It’s called energy policy. Energy policy. That’s the solution to climate change. And with the right choices, at the right speed, you can actually prevent the worst effects of climate change from crippling us forever. If we make the switch to a global, clean-energy economy a priority, if we think more creatively about how we power our cars, heat our homes, operate our businesses, then we still have time to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. It really is as simple as that. But getting there is proving not to be as simple.

So what, more specifically, do we need to do? I’m not going to come here and just describe the problem. What do we need to do?

To begin with, we need leaders with the political courage to make the tough, but necessary, policy choices that will help us all find the right path. And I am pleased to say and proud to serve with a President who has accepted that challenge, who has taken this head on. Today, thanks to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the United States is well on its way to meeting our international commitments to seriously cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. And that’s because we’re going straight to the largest sources of pollution. We’re targeting emissions from transportation and power sources, which account for about 60 percent of the dangerous greenhouse gases that we release. And we’re also tackling smaller opportunities in every sector of the economy in order to be able to address every greenhouse gas.

The President has put in place standards to double the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks on American roads. We’ve also proposed regulations that will curb carbon pollution from new and existing power plants.

But it’s not enough just to address the pollution generated by dirty sources of energy; we also have to invest in cleaner alternatives. Since President Obama took office, the United States has upped its wind energy production more than threefold and increased our solar energy generation more than tenfold. We’ve also become smarter about the way we use energy in our homes and businesses.

And this is by far the most ambitious set of climate actions that the United States of America has ever undertaken. And it’s a large part of why today we’re emitting less than we have in two decades. It’s also the reason that we were able to recently announce the goal of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 percent, from 2005 levels, and accomplish that by year 2025. And that will put us squarely on the road to a more sustainable and prosperous economy. Now, this upper end target would also enable us to be able to cut our emissions by 83 percent by mid-century, which is what scientists say we need to do in order to prevent warming from exceeding the threshold level of 2 degrees centigrade, Celsius.

But I can’t emphasize this enough, no single country, not even the United States, can solve this problem or foot this bill alone. And that isn’t just rhetoric. It’s physically impossible. Think of it this way: Even if every single American bikes to work or carpooled to school, or used only solar panels to power their homes; if we each planted a dozen trees, every American; if we somehow eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse gas emissions – guess what? That still wouldn’t be enough to offset the carbon pollution coming from the rest of the world. The same would be true if China went to zero emissions but others continued with business as usual. It’s not enough for one country or even a few countries to reduce emissions if their neighbors are unwilling to do their share. So when I say we need a global solution, I mean it. Anything less won’t work.

Now of course, industrialized countries, obviously, play a major role in bringing about a clean-energy future. And the days of the Industrial Revolution all the way through the last century – obviously the industrial countries benefitted by developing and growing, but they also created the basic template for this problem. But even if all the industrial countries stopped today, it doesn’t solve the problem. And it certainly is a signal that other countries shouldn’t go off and repeat the mistakes of the past. We have to remember that, today, almost two-thirds of global emissions come from developing nations. So it is imperative that developing nations be part of the solution also.

Now I want to make this very, very clear. In economic terms, this is not a choice between bad and worse. Some people like to demagogue this issue. They want to tell you, “Oh, we can’t afford to do this.” Nothing could be further from the truth. We can’t afford not to do it. And in fact, the economics will show you that it is better in the long run to do it and cheaper in the long run. So this is not a choice between bad and worse, not at all. Ultimately, this is a choice between growing or shrinking an economy. Pursuing cleaner, more efficient energy is actually the only way that nations around the world can build the kind of economies that are going to thrive for decades to come.

And here’s why. Coal and oil are only cheap ways to power a nation in the very near term. But if you look a little further down you road, you begin to see an entirely different story. When you think about the real numbers over time, the costs of those outdated energy sources actually pile up very quickly.

Start with the economic impacts related to agriculture and food security and how scientists estimate that the changing climate is going to cause yields of crops like rice and maize and wheat to fall by 2 percent every decade. Consider what that means for millions of farmers around the world and the inflationary impact that will have on food prices. Now factor in how that would also exacerbate global challenges like hunger and malnutrition that we already face. Add to that the other long-term health-related problems caused by dirty air – asthma is an example, which predominantly affects children and already costs Americans an estimated $50 billion annually. The greatest single cause of young American children being hospitalized in the course of a summer in the United States is environmentally-induced asthma, and that costs billions.

The reality is that carbon-based air pollution contributes to the deaths of at least 4.5 million people every year. No part of that is inexpensive. And any nation that argues that it simply can’t afford to invest in the alternative and renewable energy needs to take a second look at what they’re paying for, consider the sizable costs that are associated with rebuilding in the wake of devastating weather events. In 2012 alone, extreme weather cost the United States nearly $120 billion in damages. When Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines a little over a year ago, the cost of responding exceeded $10 billion. And that’s just the bill for the storm damage. Think of the added health care costs, the expenses that result from agricultural and environmental degradation. It is time, my friends, for people to do real cost accounting.

The bottom line is that we can’t only factor in the price of immediate energy needs. We have to include the long-term cost of carbon pollution. We have to factor in the cost of survival. And if we do, we will find that pursuing clean energy now is far more affordable than paying for the consequences of climate change later.

But there’s another piece of reality to take into account. And as you can see, these arguments begin to compound and grow, become irrefutable, frankly. Clean energy is not only the solution to climate change – guess what? It’s also one of the greatest economic opportunities of all time. Want to put people to work? This is the way you put people to work. The global energy market of the future is poised to be the largest market the world has ever known. We’re talking about a $6 trillion market today, with four to five billion users today. That will grow to nine billion users over the next few decades. By comparison, the great driver of wealth creation in this country in the 1990s, when super-billionaires and millionaires were created and every income level of America went up, that was a technology market. And it was a $1 trillion market with only a billion users – just to get a sense of the possibilities here.

Between now and 2035, investment in the energy sector is expected to reach nearly $17 trillion. That’s more than the entire GDP of China and you just have to imagine the opportunities for clean energy. Imagine the businesses that could be launched, the jobs that will be created in every corner of the globe. And by the way, the United States of America, in the year 2015, doesn’t even have a national grid. We have a great big gaping hole in the middle of our country. You can’t sell energy from the wind farm in Massachusetts or in Minnesota to another part of the country, because we can’t transmit it. Think of the jobs in creating that grid. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. All you have to do is look at the results that we are already seeing in places like my home state of Massachusetts.

In 2007, we set a couple of goals. We pledged to build 2,000 megawatts of wind power capacity by 2020, and more than 250 megawatts of solar power by 2017. It was pretty ambitious. It was unprecedented. But we knew that the potential benefits to the state were enormous.

Fast forward to today, and Massachusetts has increased renewable energy by 400 percent in the last four years alone. We used a bulk purchasing program for residential solar to help keep prices low for residents and businesses across the state. And because of that, today there are residential solar installations in 350 of Massachusetts’s 351 cities and towns. Today, the commonwealth’s clean energy economy is a $10 billion industry that has grown by 10.5 percent over the past year and 47 percent since 2010. It employs nearly 100,000 people at 6,000 firms, and it’s the perfect example of how quickly this transformation could happen and how far its benefits reach.

If we put our minds to it, folks, if we make the right decisions and forge the right partnerships, we can bring these kinds of benefits to communities across the United States and around the globe. To get there, all nations have to be smarter about how we use energy, invest in energy, and encourage businesses to make smart energy choices as well.

Now, we’ll have to invest in new technology, and that will help us bring renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydro not only to the communities where those resources are abundant, but to every community in every country on every continent. We’ll have to stop government money from going towards nonrenewable energy sources, like coal and oil. It makes no sense to be subsidizing that. Which is why the United States has been helping to drive efforts in the G-20 and APEC to phase out wasteful fossil fuel subsidies.

And we’ve actually taken steps to prevent now global financial institutions from funding dirty power plants and putting public money into those things that we know are going to go in the wrong direction. We’ll have to strengthen legal and regulatory frameworks in countries overseas to help spur investment in places where it’s insufficient. It’s much easier for businesses to deploy capital when they have confidence in the local legal and regulatory policy. And to attract money, we need to control risk. The more you can minimize the risk, the greater confidence people, investors will have to bring their capital to the table.

We also have to continue to push for the world’s highest standards in the environmental chapters of the trade agreements that we’re pursuing, just like we are doing in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And just like labor standards in other agreements, these environmental agreements have to be really fully enforceable.

Finally, we have to find more ways for the private and the public sector to work together to make the most of the innovative technology that entrepreneurs are developing here in the United States and around the world. And this is the idea that is behind the White House announcement that they made last month, the Clean Energy Investment Initiative. Its starting goal is to attract $2 billion in private sector investment to be put toward clean energy climate change solutions.

Now, the good news is much of the technology that we need is already out there. And it’s becoming faster and faster, easier to access and cheaper to access. A report that the Department of Energy released this morning actually projects that in the United States, wind power is going to be directly competitive with conventional energy technologies within the next 10 years. None of this, therefore, none of what I have said, is beyond our capacity. It’s not a pipe dream; it’s a reality. It’s right there. And it’s up to us to grab it. The question is whether or not it is beyond our collective resolve.

Now, we have seen some encouraging progress, frankly, over the past few months. During President Obama’s trip to New Delhi early this year, and Fred referred to it in his introduction, India – well, both China and India – the President – affirmed its far-reaching solar energy target, and our two nations agreed on a number of climate and clean energy initiatives. We also committed to working closely together to achieve a successful global agreement in Paris. So India is joined in that challenge.

And that came on the heels of the historic announcement in China that the United States and China, the world’s two largest emitters of carbon pollution – two countries, by the way, long regarded as the leaders of opposing camps in the climate negotiations – have now found common ground on this issue. And I joined President Obama as he stood next to President Xi, and Todd was there when we unveiled our respective ambitious post-2020 mitigation commitments. That is an enormous achievement.

And it had an impact. It was felt in Lima at the COP meeting in Lima recently, and had an impact on the ability to move towards Paris with greater momentum. Around the same time, the EU announced its target as well, which means we now have strong commitments from the three largest emitters in the world.

Now we need more and more nations to follow suit and announce their ambitious mitigation targets as well. And because this has to be a truly all-hands-on-deck effort, I invite all of our partners – businesses and industry groups, mayors, governors throughout the country and around the world to announce their own targets, their commitments leading up to Paris, so we can set an example and create a grassroots movement towards success. This will help us come forward with plans that will help every country be able to reach their goals.

Now I am keenly aware that we can do a better job of engaging the private sector and our partners at the sub-national level of government in this effort. And I can tell you today that I plan to make certain in the next months that that happens. I know many of you have already made impressive announcements, those of you engaged in business or on the boards of an enterprise or eleemosynary or educational institutions. And you’ve helped to lay out how we can combat climate change, and I thank you for doing that. But now it’s time to build on those pledges. Let us know how you are doing. I say let us know through the State Department, through, and how we can help you make progress. And this is the kind of shared resolve that will help ensure that we are successful in Paris and beyond.

In closing, I ask you to consider one basic question. Suppose stretching your imaginations, as it will have to be, that somehow those 97 percent of studies that I just talked about – suppose that somehow they were wrong about climate change in the end. Hard to understand after 20 years of 97 percent, but imagine it. I just want you to imagine it. What are the consequences we would face for taking the actions that we’re talking about, and based on the notion that those might be correct? I’ll tell you what the consequences are. You’ll create an extraordinary number of jobs, you’ll kick our economies into gear all around the world, because we’ll be taking advantage of one of the biggest business opportunities the world has ever known.

We’ll have healthier people. Those billions of dollars of costs in the summer and at hospitals and for emphysema, lung disease, particulate cancer, will be reduced because we’ll be eliminating a lot of the toxic pollution coming from smoke stacks and tall pipes. Air will be cleaner. You can actually see your city. We’ll have a more secure world because it’ll be far easier for countries to attain the long-lasting energy independence and security they thrive – they need to thrive and not be blackmailed by another nation, cut off, their economy turned into turmoil because they can’t have the independence they need and the guarantees of energy supply.

We will live up in the course of all of that to our moral responsibility to leave the planet Earth in better condition than we were handed it, to live up to even scripture which calls on us to protect planet Earth. These – all of these things are the so-called consequences of global action to address climate change. What’s the other side of that question? What will happen if we do nothing and the climate skeptics are wrong and the delayers are wrong and the people who calculate cost without taking everything into account are wrong? The answer to that is pretty straightforward: utter catastrophe, life as we know it on Earth.

So I through my life have believed that you can take certain kinds of risks in the course of public affairs and life. My heroes are people who dared to take on great challenges without knowing for certain what the outcome would be. Lincoln took risks, Gandhi took risks, Churchill took risks, Dr. King took risks, Mandela took risks, but that doesn’t mean that every risk-taker is a role model. It’s one thing to risk a career or a life on behalf of a principle or to save or liberate a population. It’s quite another to wager the well-being of generations and life itself simply to continue satisfying the appetites of the present or to insist on a course of inaction long after all the available evidence has pointed to the folly of that path. Gambling with the future of Earth itself when we know full well what the outcome would be is beyond reckless. It is just plain immoral. And it is a risk that no one should take. We need to face reality. There is no planet B.

So I’m not suggesting it’s going to be easy in these next months or even these next few years. If it were, we would have solved this decades ago when the science first revealed the facts of what we were facing. But it is crunch time now. We’ve used up our hall passes, our excuses. We’ve used up too much valuable time. We know what we have to do. And I am confident that we can find a way to summon the resolve that we need to tackle this shared threat. And we can reach an agreement in Paris, we can carve out a path toward a clean energy future, we can meet this challenge. That is our charge for ourselves and for our children and grandchildren, and it is a charge we must keep. Thank you all. (Applause.)

MR. KEMPE: I wanted to thank Secretary Kerry for his significant, passionate, focused remarks, important remarks that I think will really set up the road to Paris, but really way beyond that. We understand that you have to rush out to a very important meeting at the White House. I do want to ask just one question to close this off, and if you can broaden this to the energy world at large. We’re seeing falling prices, we’ve got the U.S. energy boom. How are you looking at the impact of both of those things in context of this? What is the geopolitics of these falling prices and the rise of America as really the leading, if not a leading energy producer in the world?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the impact is very significant, obviously. It’s certainly affected Russia’s income and the current situation in Russia. It’s affected the situation in Iran. It’s affected the budgets of those producing states. It has potential on some sides to strategically be helpful and the potential on other sides to be strategically damaging. For instance, if Petrocaribe were to fall because of events in Venezuela or because of price and so forth, we could wind up with a serious humanitarian challenge on our – in our near neighborhood.

And so there are a lot of pluses and minuses of it, but you have to remember the primary reason for America’s good fortune in this turnaround right now is LNG. It’s the production of gas and fracking and what’s happened in terms of our independence, at least – and we’re also producing more oil, by the way, at the same time. And we’ve become one of the world’s largest, if not the largest energy producer. That’s positive as long as we’re on a road to deal with the problem I just laid out here today.

But remember, while LNG is 50 percent less carbon-intensive than oil, it’s nevertheless carbon, and it has its impact. So it’s a movement in the right direction, but in the end, we’re going to have to do all the things I just talked about, which is move to sustainable, renewable, alternative other kinds of energy that don’t have that problem. And the way the world is going right now because of the dependency – another negative impact of that is that it has greatly reduced the price of coal, and therefore in certain countries, people are just going on a price basis and racing to coal. And that means we have a number of coal-fired power plants coming online in various countries at a rate that is simply destructive. And they’re not coming on with the latest technology in all cases.

There is no such thing in the end as absolutely clean coal. And so we have a challenge with respect to what we’re going to do. There are technologies that significantly clean coal, and when put in place, that’s very helpful. And if you can do carbon sequestration and storage, which isn’t happening enough – there’s a way to use it – but it’s, in the marketplace, I think, going to be far more expensive in the end than these other technologies which are coming online to produce other things at a far better cost. As I mentioned to you, wind is about to be in the next 10 years competitive with other energy. So that’s going to be an enormous transformation.

But what really has to happen here is the setting of a goal through the Paris agreement so that people suddenly see that countries everywhere are moving in this direction, and then the marketplace begins to move. That’s when innovators and entrepreneurs and investors start to say this is the future and it takes hold, and that accelerates the process itself. And when that begins to happen, that’s when this $6 trillion market and the ultimately 9 billion users component of this really kicks in and takes over.

So it’s a mixed bag for the moment, but I think we certainly see the roadmap to move in the right direction. Thank you.

Coal Giant Southern Company Claims It Will No Longer 'Engage In Influencing the Science' of Climate Change

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 03 Mar 2015 01:05:00 GMT

The massive coal-powered utility Southern Company, recently revealed as a top funder of Harvard-Smithsonian climate denier Willie Soon, claims it is getting out of the business of climate denial. Southern Company’s contract with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics included conditions giving it oversight over Soon’s research and a pledge to keep its funding secret.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy reports:
We have been given assurance that Southern Company takes responsibility for the funding but stated that upper management did not have direct knowledge of this activity. We also appreciate the perspective that the funding contract with Dr. Soon was of a recurring nature and that Southern has stated that they will not renew funding contracts in this line of research. Southern further acknowledges that going forward, it is does not want to “engage in influencing the science.”

Although Southern Company may cease directly financing the very few legitimate scientists who promote disinformation about man-made cliamte change, it’s doubtful the company will stop supporting the massive climate-denial infrastructure that is nearly indistinguishable from the American right. In the 2014 cycle, Southern Company made hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to climate-science-denying Republicans. The utility giant has spent over $130 million since 2004 lobbying Congress, with a focus on blocking the regulation of coal pollution.

In 2014, Southern Company ran a “sponsored content” series on The New Republic’s website, entitled “Powering the Future, Honoring the Past,” which celebrated the utility’s “secure energy mix” of “the full portfolio of energy resources: nuclear, twenty-first-century coal, natural gas, renewables, and energy efficiency.”

“Corporate responsibility is part of our DNA,” one of the Southern Company “sponsored content” public-relations pieces claimed.

In a separate article, the New Republic’s Rebecca Leber criticized the Southern Company-Willie Soon relationship.

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