Obama Touts Climate Action, Mocks The ‘I’m Not A Scientist’ Caucus

Obama delivers the 2015 State of the Union address CREDIT: AP/MANDEL NGAN
Obama delivers the 2015 State of the Union address CREDIT: AP/MANDEL NGAN

In his State of the Union address, President Obama told a joint session of Congress and the American public on Tuesday night that “no challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” He mocked the now-standard “I’m not a scientist” dodge used by climate science deniers. And he touted his record on climate change and clean energy.

Did you know, as Obama said, that “America is number one in wind power”? It’s true — if instead of going by installed capacity you go by “the total amount of electricity, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), that each country produces from wind and delivers to customers each year,” according to statistics from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

The President noted that, “2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does — 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.”

With a climate scientist watching in his wife’s box, Obama eviscerated those who ignore the warnings from scientists and the Pentagon. He responded directly to the absurd “I’m not a scientist” dodge used by many conservatives (including Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who delivered the GOP response):

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.

The President touted his record on climate change — a record that was made immeasurably stronger last fall with the game-changing climate deal the White House negotiated with China.

That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement — the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.

As has become standard for the President, even while touting his record on climate change and clean energy, he couldn’t avoid boasting about our record production of oil and gas — fossil fuels that, of course, are major causes of climate change:

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.

The GOP response by Sen. Ernst made no mention of climate change, instead devoting a whole paragraph to the absurdly named “Keystone jobs bill” — despite the fact that the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would only create a few dozen permanent jobs.

Obama didn’t mention Keystone by name, but he dismissed those who have kept touting it as some sort of major job creator, saying, “let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.”

The GOP response makes clear that Obama will have to go it alone on climate action and clean energy. His address shows he is prepared to do just that.

UPDATE — Here is an extended excerpt from the speech: