With congressional elections looming, President Obama increasingly is catering to a staunch part of his political base: environmental groups, hard-core opponents of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline and others who share the administration’s lofty goals surrounding climate change.
White House officials will meet Wednesday with billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who is poised to pour $100 million into campaigns of congressional Democrats to help pursue the climate change agenda that he and the president share.
Mr. Obama is scheduled to address the powerful League of Conservation Voters on Wednesday night, one year to the day after laying out his ambitious climate change agenda during a speech at Georgetown University.
Critics say a climate report commissioned by Mr. Steyer, former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is nothing more than another “PR scare tactic” cooked up by the administration and its allies on the environmentalist left.
Some Republicans also have taken aim at the president’s connection with Mr. Steyer. They blame the former hedge fund manager’s fundraising for Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden, and his pledge to spend more this election cycle, for endless delays in deciding whether to construct the Keystone pipeline.
The pipeline has been under federal review for more than five years, despite the administration’s own research showing it will create more than 40,000 jobs and won’t significantly increase carbon dioxide emissions.
“I have no misgivings about individuals participating in that meeting. Their political activities notwithstanding, the administration is committed to making progress in addressing the cause of climate change and reducing carbon pollution,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “That’s something Mr. Steyer has well-known views on, but there are a lot of other people with well-known views the White House is consulting.”
Both detail the dangers if mankind fails to act on climate change, though the Risky Business report focuses more on potential economic damages, such as a claim that “between $66 billion and $106 billion in coastal property will likely be below sea level by 2050.”
“Climate change is nature’s way of charging us compound interest for doing the wrong thing,” Mr. Steyer said. “The longer we wait to address the growing risks of climate change, the more it will cost us all. From a business perspective, given the many benefits of early action, it would be silly to allow these risks to accumulate to the point where we can no longer manage them.”
Mr. Steyer, the president and others in the environmental movement have used increasingly harsh rhetoric against climate change “deniers.”
Two weeks ago, Mr. Obama took direct aim at those who question the liberal orthodoxy of human-caused climate change, particularly those in the tea party wing of the Republican Party.
During a commencement address at the University of California, Irvine, the president said tea partyers’ views on climate change are “a fairly serious threat to everybody’s future.”
Critics of the president say the real threat to the nation’s future are the administration and environmental groups pushing for dramatic action. They specifically object to the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to limit carbon emissions from power plants, a move expected to deal a serious blow to the domestic coal industry.