Obama Calls Climate-Change Skeptics ‘Fringe’ to Tout Record

Jun 26, 2014 12:02 am ET

June 26 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama derided climate-change skeptics as a “fringe” element as he highlighted his record on the environment and cutting greenhouse gas emissions before a conservation group.

Obama yesterday indirectly criticized congressional Republicans, who he said view climate change as “a liberal plot.”

“Many who say that actually know better and they’re just embarrassed, they duck the question,” Obama told the audience at a League of Conservation Voters dinner in Washington. “They say, hey, I’m not a scientist, which really translates into, I accept that manmade climate change is real, but if I say so out loud, I will be run out of town by a bunch of fringe elements.”

His comments came a year after his administration unveiled a plan to tackle climate change using his executive authority.

The Environmental Protection Agency this month released a rule mandating pollution limits on power plants, the centerpiece of the president’s climate plan. The proposal would require state-by-state limitations on carbon dioxide emissions that would reduce the national output by 17 percent from current levels by 2030.

The new rules followed the unveiling of a National Climate Assessment in May and executive actions including promoting renewable fuels and building better defenses against extreme weather.

Climate Debate

The White House has worked to cast the debate over climate change in personal terms, highlighting the health impacts and other effects of global warming that impact Americans’ daily lives.

Now in his second term, Obama is speaking more directly about the challenges of a warming planet, say aides, and is trying to use the bully pulpit to change the dialog around an issue that ranks as a low priority for most Americans.

“We know that communities across the country are struggling with longer wildfire seasons, more severe droughts, heavier rainfall, more frequent flooding,” he said. “That’s why, last month, hundreds of experts declared that climate change is no longer a distant threat -- it has moved firmly into the present.”

Obama delivered the same message, including the jibes at climate-change skeptics, in two speeches since last month as he tries to change the debate about global warming.

The president has also taken steps to shore up his conservation legacy. Last week, he created the world’s largest ocean preserve by designating a remote stretch of the Pacific Ocean off-limits to fishing, energy exploration, and other activities.

--With assistance from Elissa Nadworny and Angela Greiling Keane in Washington.