Saying he wants to "light a fire" under young Americans and inspire real action to fight climate change, President Obama on Saturday bashed the tea party, the news media and others who he argues are standing in the way of progress.
During a commencement speech at the University of California Irvine, the president announced a new $1 billion "competitive fund" to help communities prepare for climate change while challenging graduates to deal with the problems stemming from a warming planet.
If they don't, he said, this generation "will fail one of our primary reasons for being on this world in the first place."
"We've got to do more. What we're doing is not enough," Mr. Obama said.
The president's fiery speech comes on the heels of drastic new steps proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency to limit carbon pollution from power plants. The plan is designed to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 30 percent over the next 15 years and is widely expected to deal a serious blow to the domestic coal industry, the largest offender when it comes to carbon pollution.
The president vehemently defended that plan Saturday and said the rest of the world — especially major carbon polluters such as China — will follow America's lead and will reduce harmful emissions in their own countries if they have a strong example to follow.
But the president saved his harshest words for conservative Republicans and the media, both of which, he said, are hindering further action to protect the environment.
He specifically blasted so-called "climate change deniers," particularly those who identify themselves as members of the tea party.
"Their view may be wrong, and a fairly serious threat to everybody's future, but at least they have brass to say what they actually think," Mr. Obama said. "There are some who also duck the question. They say, when they're asked about climate change, they'll say, 'Look, I'm not a scientist.' I'll translate that for you. What that really means is — I know man-made climate change is really happening, but if I admit it I'll be run out of town by a radical fringe who thinks climate science is a liberal plot."
The president also warned Americans not to get all of their information about climate change and environmental issues from the media, which he said is more interested in politics than changes to our planet.
"When we introduced those new anti-pollution standards a couple weeks ago, the instant reaction from the Washington political press wasn't about what it means for our planet, it was about what it would mean for an election six months from now," he said. "That kind of misses the point. Of course, they're not scientists either."
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