President Barack Obama speaks about climate change, Tuesday, June 25, 2013, at Georgetown University in Washington.
In an interview airing on Monday night, President Obama reveals his frustration with lawmakers who question the very existence of manmade global warming. The interview, conducted for the Showtime documentary series "Years of Living Dangerously," features a revealing exchange between New York Times columnist Tom Friedman and Obama, in which the president admits to having the desire to "unload on" lawmakers, such as House Republicans, who question the existence of manmade global warming as well as its severity.
Excerpts of the interview were published in the New York Times on Sunday, and a video clip was posted to Youtube.
“Look, it’s frustrating when the science is in front of us," Obama said. "...We can argue about how. But let’s not argue about what’s going on. The science is compelling. ...
The baseline fact of climate change is not something we can afford to deny.The baseline fact of climate change is not something we can afford to deny. And if you profess leadership in this country at this moment in our history, then you’ve got to recognize this is going to be one of the most significant long-term challenges, if not the most significant long-term challenge, that this country faces and that the planet faces.
"The good news is that the public may get out ahead of some of their politicians,” Obama said, citing the examples of Hurricane Sandy and the California drought as driving home the potential consequences of climate change. "... People start thinking, ‘You know what? We’re going to reward politicians who talk to us honestly and seriously about this problem,’” Obama said.
The interview was taped before the administration proposed its landmark EPA carbon rule that would reduce emissions from existing power plants by 30% relative to 2005 levels by 2030. (In late March, Mashable broke the news that Obama had given the interview.)
In the interview, Obama says that in order to limit the severity of global warming, some oil and gas needs to be left in the ground. This view may come as a shock to the fossil fuel industry. Exxon Mobil Corp, for example, has told its shareholders that it does not foresee any policy scenario that would force the company not to exploit all of its oil and gas reserves.
“We’re not going to be able to burn it all," Obama said. Over the course of the next several decades, we’re going to have to build a ramp from how we currently use energy to where we need to use energy. And we’re not going to suddenly turn off a switch and suddenly we’re no longer using fossil fuels, but we have to use this time wisely, so that you have a tapering off of fossil fuels replaced by clean energy sources that are not releasing carbon..."
According to Obama, one of his biggest concerns in climate policy and communication is avoiding cynicism, considering how much bad news has come out lately, such as the studies on the Antarctic ice sheet that concluded some of them are on course for an unstoppable, slow-motion melt.
“The most important thing is to guard against cynicism,” Obama told Friedman. “I want to make sure that everybody who’s been watching this program or listening to this interview doesn’t start concluding that, well, we’re all doomed, there’s nothing we can do about it. There’s a lot we can do about it. It’s not going to happen as fast or as smoothly or as elegantly as we like, but, if we are persistent, we will make progress.”
"Years of Living Dangerously" airs on Showtime Monday night at 8 p.m. ET