Obama To College Students: ‘Denying Climate Change Won’t Make It Stop’. Seriously!

Recently, climate change has been the Voldemort of the Obama Administration: “The Threat-That-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

In January, the President omitted any discussion of climate change from his State of the Union address, since, what really does the gravest threat to Americans and indeed all homo “sapiens” have to do with the state of the union? Then the White House edited climate change from Obama’s Earth Day 2012 proclamation.

But in an April Rolling Stone interview, Obama pulled a Harry Potter, saying outright that he thought “climate change” would be a campaign issue. Nervous campaign aides looked around to see if invoking the threat that must not be named would somehow cause it to mysteriously appear. And it did, as the nation went through brutal heatwaves and wildfires and a record-smashing drought.

Having learned his lesson, the President was back to being “Silent On Climate Change In his Big Iowa Energy Speech” by the end of May. Then earlier this month, the president recounted the story of climate change record-breaking heat and ever-worsening drought, but wisely decided not to tempt fate by naming names or causes or what’s gonna happen in the future if we keep doing bloody little or any of that scary sciency stuff.

But it turns out that the President was just being coy. He will talk about climate change to select audiences, you know, the kind that are going to suffer the most from climate change — thanks to their parents’ greed and myopia: college students, Generation CO2.

Here is Obama at Iowa State University Tuesday afternoon:

Hello, Cyclones!  Thank you….

The decisions we make as a country on big issues like the economy and jobs and taxes and education and energy and war and climate change — all these decisions will directly affect your life in very personal ways. And I’ve got to say, this is something I’m acutely aware of when I make these decisions, because they’re decisions that are going to affect Malia and Sasha, my daughters, as well. It’s the way it’s always been — one generation makes decisions on behalf of the next.

But here’s the thing, Cyclones — your generation chooses which path we take as a country….

Will this be a country that keeps moving away from foreign oil and towards renewable sources of energy like wind and solar and biofuels — (applause) — energy that makes our economy more secure, but also makes our planet more secure? (Applause.) …

You believed four years ago that we could use less foreign oil and reduce the carbon pollution that threatens our planet.  And in just four years, we’ve doubled — doubled — the generation of clean, renewable energy like wind and solar.  (Applause.)
We developed new fuel standards so that your car will get nearly 55 miles per gallon by the middle of the next decade.  (Applause.)  That’s going to save you money at the pump.  That will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a level roughly equivalent to a year’s worth of emissions from all the cars in the world.  (Applause.)
Today, America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly 20 years.  We’re on track to emit fewer greenhouse gases this year than we have in nearly 20 years. You can keep those trends going.  You believed in America, and that’s what’s brought about change.

Governor Romney wants to pass a new $5 trillion tax cut targeted towards the wealthiest Americans. That’s not going to cut our debt. Ignoring inequality doesn’t make it go away. Denying climate change won’t make it stop. These things won’t make for a brighter future. They won’t make your future stronger.

Go, team! Of course, Obama was only kidding when he told the students their generation chooses which path we take as a country. He wasn’t was addressing Hogwarts students, after all.

In the real world, the students’ parents and grandparents have already set the world on a path towards catastrophic warming and only their parents and grandparents can reverse course fast enough to prevent bringing unimaginable peril to all the world’s children.

Note to team Obama: Not talking about climate change doesn’t make it stop, either (see Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?“)

Since the Iowa State team is the Cyclones, Obama was being very gutsy here, taking the risk that by mentioning climate change he would be blamed if an actual cyclone made land fall that day.

The fact that one did, however, should merely be taken as coincidence because a few hours later, at Colorado State University, Obama said:

Hello, Colorado State! (Applause.) How’s it going, Rams? …

The decisions that we make as a country on the economy, and jobs, and taxes, and education, and energy, and war, and climate change, and the Supreme Court — these are all decisions that will affect you directly in very personal ways. And I feel that same sense of urgency because the decisions I make are ones that are going to affect Malia and Sasha, my daughters, for generations to come….
And the thing is, Colorado State, your generation can choose the path we take this country on.

Will this country be one that keeps moving away from foreign oil and towards renewable sources like wind and solar and biofuels that make our economy and planet more secure? (Applause.) ………

Denying climate change doesn’t make it stop…….

Well, you get the picture. It’s pretty much the same exact speech — not that repetition is a bad thing, far from it — except the team is the Rams, and I have seen no news accounts of climate change harming any rams this week.

The next day, at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, the President said:

Hello, Virginia!  (Applause.)  Go, Hoos!  (Applause.)  Wahoowah!  (Applause.)  I still don’t know what a Wahoo is.  (Laughter.)  But I know we’ve got some here today.  (Applause.)

Denying climate change doesn’t make it stop. (Applause.)  Looking backwards doesn’t make our future brighter.  It doesn’t make your future stronger.
In the next two months, you get to choose.  And we’ve got a plan that will actually lead to a better future.  And you can prove the cynics wrong one more time.


First off, “Wahoos, or Hoos for short, is an unofficial nickname for sports teams of the University of Virginia, officially referred to as the Cavaliers. The terms are both also used in a more general context by students and alumni to refer to themselves as fans and alumni of The University.”
Now Hoo is harmed by climate change? Sorry about that, but don’t blame me, it’s the president who has the cavalier attitude about climate change.
Indeed, some might say it is cynical to talk at length about climate change only when you are speaking to college students — a group who cares a great deal about the issue but can’t do bloody much about it. Where is Dumbledore when you need him?

18 Responses to Obama To College Students: ‘Denying Climate Change Won’t Make It Stop’. Seriously!

  1. Dan Ives says:

    Great job with the snark and wit in this article, Joe. It’s rare that the posts on this blog make me smile, but that’s mostly because of the news they contain.

  2. Gillian King says:

    Well, I guess it is SOMETHING — one candidate talking about climate change with one particular audience.

    He’s not taking any risks is he? Not actually trying to persuade anybody of anything. He’s just telling people what they want to hear in the hope they might elect him.

    Given the system, what else can he do at this point in the electoral cycle?

  3. Phil Blackwood says:

    I feel like I’ve waited 5 years for “the fierce urgency of now” to kick in on this issue. Let’s hear the President spell out the dimensions of our current situation and what needs to be accomplished. Then pull every possible lever of executive power while brow-beating Congress relentlessly to move on the issue.

  4. SecularAnimist says:

    It’s hardly surprising that Obama delivered “pretty much the same exact speech” to pretty much the same sort of audience a few times in a row. That’s what every politician does on the stump — they memorize a few “canned” speeches and recite them over and over again.

  5. Sasparilla says:

    Nice article Joe.

    Yes, this is just a grab for votes since this target demographic cares about this issue particularly – he talks about it when speaking to them even if he’s really not going to do a thing about it (except increase coal sales on U.S. public lands or increase tar sands oil imports or any of the other things he’s done over these last almost 4 years to set back action on climate change) – cause it’ll possibly get him some votes if the college kids aren’t informed on what’s happened during his tenure – but they hear him talking about it like he cares.

    Bit sad actually, I’d rather he didn’t stoop to this but he is just a politician I suppose.

  6. PJMD says:

    This is the President who just gave the green light to Shell’s drilling in the Arctic? Who fast-tracked the southern leg of Keystone XL? Who thinks an “all of the above” strategy will solve the climate crisis? Who tells Congress that it’s okay to disagree on the science, rather than shaming the deniers? In what undisclosed location have they imprisoned John Holdren and Steven Chu? We are seeing the power of big money operating here, and the only antidote is an informed and aroused public that knows BS when it hears it.

  7. Joe Romm says:

    It’s more surprising he thought nobody would notice the content shift for this demographic.

  8. Doug Grandt says:

    Sasparilla (and Joe in response to SecularAnimist, above) – what I find intriguing is the plain vanilla package he presents to COLLEGE STUDENTS. If I were a college student again, I’d be insulted.

    He could get some pretty solid points by a tiny mention of what ARPA-E has been doing on his watch. Just a few words and the url would be more collegiate that cookie cutter platitudes … in the same word and time constraints while using REPEAT-SMALL-WORD METAPHORS.

    Or he could TWEET: Entrepreneurial innovators are inventing amazing unforeseen breakthrough carbon-free technological quantum advances at (139 char)


    GO!! BO!! GO!!
    RAH! RAH! RAH!

  9. Isn’t the larger–and sadder–point of this article that the most powerful man in America is laying off his accountability onto college kids?

    I guess we could squint and turn our heads sideways and sorta see this as a “bully pulpit” thing. But it still comes across as gutless.

    It’s complicated, I understand. I’m sure the political calculus is that he can’t confront the powers that be because they’re, well, too powerful. Also, the fact that the denier/obstructionist crowd largely intersects with the 2nd-Amendment-solutions crowd is not lost on him. But doesn’t he have power? Isn’t he the President of the United States? Isn’t the Pentagon actively planning for climate change by trying to become as green as possible?

    Why can he not assemble an awesome coalition to push a WW2-style effort to stop the ice cap from collapsing? That’s the key. Once the ice cap goes, it’s positive feedback time forever. Only we don’t want this positive feedback.

  10. Jack Burton says:

    I agree Mr. Obama has been a massive disappointment on the global warming issue. Though you must understand that a president is not a free agent. The corporate forces that finance the political system and also control the economy are hardly going to let Obama go on a strict path to confronting the carbon emissions issue. Just like the continued war making, Obama serves the establishment powers that be, and they do not favor action on climate change.
    Let’s fast forward to Romney’s presidency. He has just announced that HE will be dedicated to providing economic expansion and job creation, while his opponent Obama wants to institute “Job Killing” global warming carbon limits. Romney is making clear over and over again that his goal will be the exploitation of fossil fuels, domestic fossil fuels, to the maximum possible extent and that he will promise to do nothing at all to limit carbon emissions.
    He is clear on this point. If he is elected, you can throw out any idea that an American government will ever to anything to even slow the rate of increase in US carbon emissions.
    I am sorry to say, this game is over. Fossil fuel interests hold the stronger hand in both parties. Obama will do little or nothing to limit carbon, Romney will encourage as much carbon as possible.
    Obviously, we are in for the worst case scenario and sooner than any model predicted. No model and no scientist dared predict the arctic sea ice melt we now are seeing, this was supposed to happen according to them in the year 2050! Wrong!

  11. He’d better be careful. He might invoke the wrath of the Mainstream Media which appears to have decided to completely shut down anyone who talks about ‘the crisis which must not be mentioned.’

  12. Mike Roddy says:

    Holdren and Chu have disgraced Berkeley. They should have resigned in protest a long time ago. Instead, Chu goes along with the all of the above strategy, in spite of the fact that he knows all about global warming. Holdren just keeps his mouth shut, knowing that if he opens it one of the big boys who hang around every White House won’t like it.

  13. Jay Alt says:

    Your reporting suggests cameras ran as he spoke the words. How the heck did that happen?

    Re: Comments at U Va Cavaliers fans.
    Did our ever-indifferent US media give former faculty S. Fred Singer & Pat Michaels 4 minutes for rebuttal?

  14. Agree about Romney. Game over.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Given the system, what else is he allowed to do at any point in the perpetual electoral cycle?

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Certainly it’s game over for the USA and the Anglosphere. Societies run entirely by the morally insane Right inevitably decline into spiritual evil, internecine conflict and self-destruction.However the less deranged Europeans, particularly the Germans, along with the Chinese, Koreans and Japanese might just, possibly, get together to create and produce the technology required to pull our chestnuts out of the fire. It’s about ten to one against at the moment, but miracles sometimes happen.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘The fierce urgency of now’-something you ate? ‘Now’ is all there is, ever was or ever will be.