Obama: Climate Pessimism More Dangerous Than Climate Deniers

In a speech much anticipated by those tracking the D.C. environmental debate, President Obama today took on opponents of congressional action on climate change, decrying "naysayers" who "make cynical claims" that ignore scientific evidence of the harm caused by emissions.

innovation_obama.jpg(Photo: BusinessWeek)

But "far more dangerous" than the rhetoric of climate deniers or skeptics, Obama added, is the tendency towards cynicism about America’s chances of ending its dependence on fossil fuels.

Speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Obama described a perspective that "we’re all somewhat complicit in":

It’s the pessimistic notion that our politics are too broken and
our people too unwilling to make hard choices for us to actually deal
with this energy issue that we’re facing. And implicit in this argument
is the sense that somehow we’ve lost something important, that fighting
American spirit, that willingness to tackle hard challenges, that
determination to see those challenges to the end, that we can solve
problems, that we can act collectively, that somehow that is something
of the past.

I reject that argument.

Obama’s speech, which focused on building confidence in U.S. scientific innovation and lawmakers’ efforts to find "consensus" on climate change, sounded broader political notes that proved effective during his campaign last year.

Still, while the president offered no shortage of hopefulness, he made few direct references to the Senate climate bill that will take its first major step towards passage next week with a series of environment committee hearings. Obama praised Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for partnering this month with the Senate climate bill’s chief sponsor, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), on an op-ed that outlined a potential compromise approach on emissions limits.

But the question of where the White House would stand on some of the most contentious issues in the climate debate, including how much revenue to set aside for clean transportation, remains unanswered. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood suggested during the summer that the administration may not weigh in on the transport issue until climate talks reach their final stages.

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