[*Technically, Obama said he was “surprised [global warming] didn’t come up in one of the debates,” but he is the friggin’ POTUS. He doesn’t actually have to wait for the moderator or an extreme conservative to broach the subject in 4 and a half hours of debates if he thinks it is truly such a “critical issue”! — JR]
By Brad Johnson
Today, after the history-making silence on global warming during the national debates, MTV’s Sway Williams challenged President Barack Obama to address his climate silence. The president acknowledged to the young voters watching the Friday afternoon interview that the climate crisis is a “critical issue,” but said he was “surprised it didn’t come up in one of the debates”:
The answer is number one, we’re not moving as fast as we need to. And this is an issue that future generations, MTV viewers, are going to have to be dealing with even more than the older generation. So this is a critical issue. And there is a huge contrast in this campaign between myself and Governor Romney. I am surprised it didn’t come up in one of the debates.
The President of the United States shouldn’t pretend to befuddled why he promoted deadly coal, gas, and oil production during the debates instead of addressing the urgent threat of carbon pollution.
President Obama was right to finally tout in this interview the steps his administration has taken to cut carbon pollution and the commitments he made to the world in Copenhagen, but he was even more right to acknowledge that “we’re not moving as fast as we need to.”
The president unfortunately continued to portray global warming as a threat to “future generations” that is “going to have a severe effect.” But global warming is not a someday problem, it is now. The freakish Hurricane Sandy, barreling down on millions of Americans and powered by superheated seas, is likely to be the latest in the growing barrage of long-predicted billion-dollar climate disasters fueled by carbon pollution.
The network of Jersey Shore should be applauded for doing the job that PBS’s Jim Lehrer, CNN’s Candy Crowley, and CBS’s Bob Schieffer failed to do in breaking the candidates’ climate silence. Gov. Mitt Romney has been asked by MTV to also appear, but has given no response. This writing off of young voters is only fitting, as Romney’s aggressively pro-carbon agenda would write off any hope for their future.
There is now a little more than a week left for the presidential candidates to present a serious plan to eliminate carbon pollution before Election Day.
Brad Johnson is the campaign manager of Forecast the Facts and ClimateSilence.org
Q: Until this year global climate change has been discussed in every presidential debate since 1988. It was a big part of your previous campaign but pushed back on the back burner. Given the urgency of the threat, do you feel that we’re moving quickly enough on this issue, number one, and Samantha from New Jersey wants to know what will you do to make it a priority?
OBAMA: The answer is number one, we’re not moving as fast as we need to. And this is an issue that future generations, MTV viewers, are going to have to be dealing with even more than the older generation. So this is a critical issue. And there is a huge contrast in this campaign between myself and Governor Romney. I am surprised it didn’t come up in one of the debates. Gov. Romney says he believes in climate change. That’s different than a lot of members of his own party that deny it completely. But he’s not sure that man-made causes are the reason. I believe scientists who say we are putting too much carbon emissions into the atmosphere and it’s heating the planet and it’s going to have a severe effect.
There are a lot of things we have done a lot of things in the last four years. We have already doubled the fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks. That’s the first increase in 30 years in the fuel mileage standards. As a consequence we will be taking huge amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, even as we’re also saving folks money at the pump and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
We have doubled clean energy production — wind, solar, biofuels — and that means that increasingly people are getting electricity, companies are generating power, without the use of carbon-producing fuels. And that’s helping as well.
The next step is to deal with buildings and really ramp up our efficiency in buildings. If we had the same energy efficiency as Japan, we would cut our energy use by about 20 percent, and that means we’d be taking a whole lot of carbon out of our atmosphere.
And if we do those things, we can meet the targets that I negotiated with other countries in Copenhagen, to bring our carbon emissions down by about 17 percent, even as we’re creating good jobs in these industries.
In order for us to solve the whole problem though, we’re gonna have to have some technological breakthroughs. Because countries like China and India, they’re building coal-power plants and they feel that they have to prioritize getting people out of poverty ahead of climate change. So what we have to do is help them and help ourselves by continuing to put money into research and technology about how do we really get the new sources of power that are going to make a difference.