Obama calls out “climate change deniers in Congress” (sort of)

At a fundraiser in San Francisco Wednesday evening, President Obama took direct, and unusually blunt, aim at a faction in the U.S. Congress that played a major role in upending his plan to pass sweeping clean energy and climate change legislation.

“There are climate change deniers in Congress and when the economy gets tough, sometimes environmental issues drop from people’s radar screens,” Obama told about 200 guests at the Pacific Heights residence of internet billionaire Marc Benioff, according to an official transcript. “But I don’t think there’s any doubt that unless we are able to move forward in a serious way on clean energy that we’re putting our children and our grandchildren at risk. So that’s not yet done.”

Pretty strong for the President, but everything is relative with Obama on climate these days (see Obama’s ‘climate eyas’ moment today: “Carbon pollution” is contributing to “climate change”).  TPM puts it well:

Left unsaid here is that those climate change deniers are all Republicans. And, of course, his environment and energy agenda was scuttled by an alliance those climate change deniers forged with Democrats in fossil fuel states. For a third thing, it’s one thing to be so unvarnished at a tony Bay Area dinner party, and quite another to take that line on the campaign trail at major public rallies.

It’s not clear why Obama won’t make the partisan distinction here, when he has been willing to do so on, say, the GOP budget’s attack on Medicare.

But the remark was nonetheless unusual for a President who often avoids the frank language his sympathetic advocates use.

Or his unsympathetic advocates (see The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2).

The Hill has more on Obama’s California swing:

Obama also talked climate during his appearance at Facebook’s Palo Alto headquarters earlier in the day, listing it among the challenges facing the nation.

“Internationally, we’re seeing the sorts of changes that we haven’t seen in a generation.  We’ve got certain challenges like energy and climate change that no one nation can solve but we’re going to have to solve together,” Obama said. “And we don’t yet have all the institutions that are in place in order to do that.”

Still, it remains a good sign that the president is willing to be blunter on this subject.  After all, it’s pretty clear that he will be running against a climate change denier — and the worst possible strategy would be denying the denial.

One final point:  Most of the deniers in Congress aren’t really “climate change deniers” so much as “climate science deniers.”  The clever ones fall of the playbook of saying the climate is changing — but then launch into a bunch of denier talking points about the cause and so on.

20 Responses to Obama calls out “climate change deniers in Congress” (sort of)

  1. Not A Lawyer says:

    A researcher at Michigan State recently published a study on the growing partisan divide on global warming. Not surprisingly, it finds that the number of Democrats who think global warming is already occurring has increased over the past 10 years while the number of Republicans has decreased.

  2. cervantes says:

    Well look — although he did say it at a tony Bay area dinner party, it was on the record and he expected it to be reported. So I wouldn’t begrudge him credit on that basis. Whether it will make it into the stump speech or become a more concerted public theme remains to be seen, of course.

    I say, give encouragement and approval when the man does good and maybe he’ll do it more. If you slap him anyway, why should he bother?

  3. sault says:

    Good to see that Climate Change will be on the radar at least a bit this campaign season. I HOPE that this comes up at a debate between the President and Huckabee/Romney/??? and Obama gets to smack them down with their own endorsements of Cap-n-Trade just a few years ago. I HOPE the President’s new-found rhetorical fire will stick around and only get hotter and closer to the truth as November 2012 draws near.

  4. Jay Alt says:

    Obama talked of or alluded to halting climate change at most every chance in 2008.
    So we know he brings it up while campaigning, as he did in S.F.
    He just can’t bear to mention it while acting in his capacity as President.

  5. Jim Eager says:

    Why should he bother????

    How ’bout he has children.

  6. Michael Tucker says:

    “It’s not clear why Obama won’t make the partisan distinction here, when he has been willing to do so on, say, the GOP budget’s attack on Medicare.”

    I think it is because of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. These states all cast their electoral votes for President Obama in ’08 and I’m pretty sure he would like to count on them in 2012 AND they are all coal states. Together they account for over 30% of US coal production and Indiana, Ohio, and Colorado could easy go Republican in 2012.

    That is why President Obama STILL speaks of clean coal. That is why ‘clean coal’ is a part of President Obama’s new ‘clean’ energy policy. Is it possible to speak of ending coal power and not upset and entire industry and all their political supporters?

  7. Peter M says:

    Its about time- or this to butter up the base, before the election? I left the Democratic party this morning. At my town hall became a member of the Green Party of Connecticut. No longer will any Democratic candidate take me for granted. Will not get fooled again.

  8. DRT says:

    re: If you slap him anyway, why should he bother?

    Well, because maybe if he’s slapped enough he’ll begin to pay attention. See “Obama to Thousands of Young Climate Activists: Push Me” at

    We need Fee & Dividend and we need to push for it.

  9. Kevin says:

    To your final point: “Most of the deniers in Congress aren’t really “climate change deniers” so much as “climate science deniers.” The clever ones fall of the playbook of saying the climate is changing — but then launch into a bunch of denier talking points about the cause and so on.”

    In my conversations, many will admit that climate is changing — they believe however it is driven by natural causes (typically the sun or just “it has always changed” sort of stuff) not people. Then they typically go on to say something about bad temp data, climategate and so on.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    cervantes #2, the reason Obama deserves to be rebuked is that he is so inconsistent that one always suspects that his occasional rational utterances are solely for political advantage and that, once the heat is on, he will do yet another backflip or develop spinal atresia yet once more. I do not think for an instant that the criticism of the ‘little people’ makes any difference to Obama, or any other Western politician. Their ears are finely attuned to the siren call of other voices-those of the rich and powerful.

  11. MarkF says:

    and they all left the meeting in their escalades.

    Presidency, the senate, and the house, and no legislation?

    This is the answer:

    ” I left the Democratic party this morning. At my town hall became a member of the Green Party of Connecticut. No longer will any Democratic candidate take me for granted. Will not get fooled again.”

  12. sault says:

    Peter, ask all the “Green Party” members in Florida how the 2000 election worked out for them and their agenda. Good thing you live in Conn so your wasted vote doesn’t matter. In our current electoral system, there’s no functional place for 3rd parties and all they do is take crucial votes away from the mainstream party on their side. If you’re fustrated by the Democratic Party, work the primary elections and support candidates that agree with you, even if just to move the debate in a more progressive direction.

  13. Jeff Huggins says:

    Starting to Disagree — Sorry

    If my understanding of this post is correct, it seems to be crediting Obama, at least directionally, for mentioning the words and for making a few calm comments to Demo-friendly audiences in California.

    If that understanding is correct, I’ll need to disagree.

    My goodness! Presidents, including President Obama, sometimes send people to war — to fire bullets and bombs at people, and putting people in harm’s way. Presidents make decisions that ultimately put our spies in harm’s way. And so forth. Can they not, then, pound their hands on the table, speak emphatically about climate change, point fingers at the deniers, and DO SOMETHING?

    It is becoming increasingly frustrating to me, and deeply disappointing, to hear about these periodic, shy, overly polite comments. If President Obama doesn’t greatly increase his resolve, verve, passion, and effectiveness on climate change, well before the next election, he will not earn my vote in the election, and I’ll not vote for him. Period. I would sooner not vote at all, or I’ll vote for another Democrat or else for someone in a new party, if someone starts a party that will be serious about climate change.

    I hope that more and more people will deliver this sort of message to the President, to his Administration, to his advisors, to the Democratic party leadership, and (I guess) to CAP as well. The President is a grown man, he survived and excelled at Harvard, he made promises during the election, we voted for him, and he is falling way short of the promises he made. Any disagreements? So then, why are we applauding sheepish baby steps that fall way short of what’s necessary. Are we addicted to some sort of need to be able to point to such “good news”? Forget it. I see it as a continuation of bad news, insufficient passion, and terrible strategic thinking on the President’s part.

    So come at me, people: Tell me why I’m wrong. Should we be applauding this, or should we be telling the President that unless he changes, we won’t elect him again?

    Be Well,


  14. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Sault #12, the Greens started small everywhere but are now flourishing in many countries. However, it does help if you have a fairer voting system than first past the post, ME

  15. Peter M says:

    #12 sault

    What you say may have been true in 2000. Not today. In my home state of Connecticut we have a Democratic Governor, who won the election in November by 6350 votes. Those votes came mostly from poor urban African Americans, Latino and Gay voters.

    What has Governor Dan Malloy done? Gutted a health care plan for 400,000 people here with no insurance- and allied himself with the Insurance Industry and Connecticut Business & Industry Association.

    My change to the Green party is more based on my disgust for the Democratic party in Connecticut- but should also serve as a warning to the National Democratic party, that my vote now needs to be earned.

    I have a local representative- another ‘Democrat’ who knows zero about climate change. I wish it was so simple as you say about the choices we had 11 years ago, and what we have today. The Democratic party has lurched further to the right on every issue- including the environment.

    In Joining the Green Party, I feel I should be able to make a real choice again as a progressive. The Democratic party in Connecticut has made that choice now easy. Nationally, who I vote for next year in the Presidential election will be based on the performance of Obama from this day forward.

  16. opit says:

    If there was no such thing as a politically-driven agenda to package ‘science’ in religious parameters and make false comparisons like those on evolution…then a person who thinks all the facts cannot be in when foretelling the future might not believe he was talking to brainwashed idiots too.
    Some day we might even have a talk about dealing with real pollution….not dealt with by the administration either. There are reasonable questions and people discussing them. > Topical Index > Climate in Contention
    It even includes articles ‘debunking deniers’…if only to show how conversation and belief is running around in futile circles.

  17. Jeff Huggins says:

    Several Points

    First of all, I agree with people who say that the President now has to re-earn their votes, if he wants them next time around. His actions in THIS term will determine whether I vote for him next time around. Unless he changes his strategy regarding climate change, and gets much more vocal, passionate, persistent, clear, and vigorous, I’ll be voting for a third party or not at all. And I think that it’s important for large numbers of people to send that message, because that’s probably the only thing that will get him to change. No change, no vote from me.

    Nor do I feel a bit shy or bad about that stance at this point. Indeed, I think it’s a necessary, fair, and sensible stance. I voted for him last time, based on his promises and passionate speeches, and I feel deeply let down. I’ll be willing to vote for him again, but not based on mere promises or pleas, and not based on arguments such as “but he’ll be better than the alternative”. No. I’ll only be willing to vote for him again if he changes his approach to climate change in THIS TERM and if he begins to use the bully pulpit, passionately, to proactively educate the public and name names of deniers and people blocking progress. Period.

    In the post, there is a brief mention of the more “clever” deniers, who admit that the climate is changing but then launch into denier points about the cause and so forth. But if the President went “all out” and took to the bully pulpit, repeatedly, and adopted other clear and effective tactics as well, it would begin to become embarrassing and nearly impossible for such deniers, clever or not, to hold their own and to retain credibility. What more does a President need than to have virtually ALL of the major bona fide scientific groups on the planet supporting what he should say and should do? I ask, what more? If President Obama can’t educate the public, with the help of the entire scientific community, then frankly I don’t want him as President for another term, and also (if that’s the case) he simply doesn’t deserve to be President for another term.


    Be Well,


  18. max says:

    Obama’s comment:
    And we don’t yet have all the institutions that are in place in order to do that.”

    Don’t agree-we have the institutions, but they are dysfunctional-60 votes to get anything through the Senate? Doesn’t sound like democracy to me.

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Peter M #15, you have experienced the central truth of politics in Western capitalist economies, that is that there are no real ideological differences between the mainstream parties any more. Both, or all in the case of the UK, Canada and Germany, are beholden to the real power in those societies-the money power of the rich. ‘Capitalist democracy’ is the most perfectly self-contradictory expression ever confected by the devious wit of the human dissembler. Any party that arises that threatens the absolute dominance of the rich will be destroyed, by any means necessary.

  20. Edward. says:

    Did his kids tell him [Obarmy] to say that?

    Oh well!… back to Chicago soon and local bent politics.