As he bashed conservatives and the tea party, President Obama said Wednesday night that denial of man-made climate change is tantamount to not believing cigarettes cause cancer.
In a speech to the powerful environmental group, the League of Conservation Voters, the president continued his public battle with the tea party over his ambitious global-warming agenda, saying the "fringe elements" within the Republican Party continue to deny science and slow efforts to save the planet.
"Folks will tell you climate change is a hoax, or a fad, or a plot, it's a liberal plot," he said. "Many who say that actually know better and they're just embarrassed. They duck the question. They say 'I'm not a scientist," which really translates to, 'I accept man-made climate change is real, but if I say so out loud I'll be run out of town by a bunch of fringe elements ... I'll just pretend I don't know, that I can't read.'"
The president then said Republicans — or any other critics of his controversial actions to address climate change — don't need to be scientists or even understand much about carbon pollution to grasp the environmental threats facing the world.
"I'm not a doctor either, but if a bunch of doctors tell me tobacco can cause lung cancer, then I'll say, 'OK.' It's not that hard," he said.
Mr. Obama's speech to the influential organization came the same day White House officials met with billionaire climate activist and major Democratic party donor Tom Steyer. Mr. Steyer, along with former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others, put forward a new report this week detailing the purported economic dangers that will result from climate change.
The report mirrors a recent White House study on the same subject, which Mr. Obama has used to explain and justify his dramatic actions.
Most notably, the president's Environmental Protection Agency has proposed harsh limits on carbon emissions from power plants, expected to deal a serious blow to the domestic coal industry.
While coal still provides nearly 40 percent of U.S. electricity and transformed the country during the Industrial Revolution, Mr. Obama urged developing countries such as China — far and away the world's biggest carbon polluter — to avoid the relatively cheap, readily available fuel.
He said China, India and other countries "should leapfrog some of the technologies, learn lessons from us, and go right to a clean energy future."
"We should lead by example," Mr. Obama said. "They're waiting to see what America does."
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