“Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it,” Obama said. “You will be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.”
Of course, many of the politicians whom the president was addressing still do want to dispute the science. That includes Ted Cruz, the current Republican presidential front-runner in Iowa. While the Obama administration was busy hashing out the Paris agreement in December, Cruz literally was debating with the US military (the retired oceanographer of the Navy, anyway) on the realities of climate science.
Obama sought to push past these distractions by broadly outlining how he planned to address the problem in his final year in office. “We’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources,” he said. Obama criticized fossil fuel subsidies. He nodded to one of the top priorities of environmental activists when he said he planned to “push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.” And he called for putting “tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st-century transportation system.”
Still, Obama couldn’t resist taking a shot at his Republican critics who reject scientific facts. “Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there,” he said. “We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and 12 years later, we were walking on the moon.”
Obama has made big climate policy promises before. My colleague Tim McDonnell examines the mixed results of proposals the president laid out in his past seven State of the Union speeches in the video below:
* This post has been revised.
Master image: Rena Schild/Shutterstock