At Lake Tahoe, President Obama Bashes Climate Deniers, Denies Surge in Carbon Pollution

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 01 Sep 2016 01:35:00 GMT

In a stirring speech at Lake Tahoe, President Barack Obama celebrated outgoing Senator Harry Reid’s conservationist legacy, while highlighting the urgency of man-made climate change. Obama mocked Republican climate deniers repeatedly:
You know, we tend to think of climate change as if it’s something that is just happening out there that we don’t have control over. But the fact is that it is man-made.

It is not, “We think it is man-made.”

It is not, “We guess it is man-made.”

Not, “A lot of people are saying it’s man-made.”

It’s not, “I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know.”

You don’t have to be scientist. You have to read or listen to scientists to know that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence shows us that climate change is caused by human activity.

Obama noted that global warming is continuing at a frightening clip, with 2016 on pace to be the hottest year on record.

He later repeated one of his administration’s favored canards:
During the first half of this year, carbon pollution hit its lowest level in a quarter of a century.

Obama is referring to the decline in carbon-dioxide emissions from electricity production in the U.S., using “carbon” as a synonym for “carbon dioxide.” However, the decline in CO2 emissions has been matched by a surge in methane emissions, another carbon-based greenhouse gas.

Furthermore, the U.S. has been dramatically increasing its production of oil and natural gas, helping fuel the continued global surge in carbon pollution during Obama’s presidency.

Full video of Obama’s speech:

Full transcript:

Hello, Lake Tahoe! [applause]

This is really nice. I, I will be coming here more often. [cheers and applause]

You know, my transportation won’t be as nice but I’ll be able to spend a little more time here. First of all, I want to thank Harry Reid. [applause]

And, because he is a captive audience he doesn’t actually like people talking about him but he is stuck here so I’m going to talk about him for a second. You know, Harry grew up in a town that didn’t have much. No high school, no doctors office. Searchlight sure didn’t have much grass to mow or many trees to climb. It didn’t look like this. So when Harry discovered a lush desert oasis down the road called Paiute Springs, he fell in love. And when Harry met the love of his life, he couldn’t wait to take her there but when he got to the green spring that Harry remembered, he was devastated to see that the place had been trashed. And that day Harry became an environmentalist. And he has been working hard ever since to preserve the natural gifts of Nevada, and these United States of America. [cheering] Harry has protected fish and wildlife across the state. He helped to end a century-old water war. He created Nevada’s first and only national park. Right after I took office the very first act Harry’s Senate passed was one of the most important conservation efforts in a generation. We protected more than two million acres of wilderness and thousands of miles of trails and rivers. That was because of Harry Reid. [cheering] [applause]

Last summer thanks to Harry Reid’s leadership we protected more than 700,000 acres of mountains and valleys right here in Nevada, establishing the basin and Range National Monument. Two decades ago the senator from Searchlight trained a national spotlight right here on Lake Tahoe. And as he prepares to ride off into the sunset, although I don’t want him getting on a horse, this 20th anniversary summit proves that the light Harry lit shines as bright as ever. [cheers and applause]

In a few months I will be riding off into that same sunset. No, it’s true. It’s okay. I’m still, I’m going to be coming around, I told you. I just won’t have marine one. I will be driving. But, but let me tell you one of the great pleasures of being president is having strong relationships with people who do the right thing. They get criticized, they have got a tough job but they get in this tough business because ultimately they care about this country and they care about the people they represent. And that is true of Dianne Feinstein. [cheers and applause]

That is true of Barbara Boxer. That is true of the outstanding governor of California, Jerry Brown. [cheers and applause]

That’s true of our outstanding folks who work for the department of interior and work for the, and, who help look after our forests, that help after our national parks, but help manage our water and try to conserve the wildlife and the birds and all of the things that we want to pass on to the next generation. And, so I’m going to miss the day-to-day interactions that I’ve gotten, and I will miss Harry though he is not a sentimental guy. We talked backstage, anybody who has gotten on phone with Harry Reid, you will be mid conversation, once he is finished with the whole point of the conversation, you will still be talking and you realize he has hung up. He does that to the President of the United States. [laughter] And it takes you like three or four of these conversations to realize he is not mad at you, but he doesn’t have much patience for small talk. But Harry is tough. I believe he is going to go down as one of the best leaders that the senate ever had. I could not have accomplished what I accomplished without him being at my side. So, I want to say publicly, to the people of Nevada, to the people of Lake Tahoe, to the people of America, I could not be prouder to have worked alongside the democratic leader of the senate, Harry Reid. Give him a big round of applause. [cheers and applause]

So it’s special to stand on the shores of Lake Tahoe. I have never been here. No, I, it is not like I didn’t want to come. Nobody invited me. I didn’t know if I had a place to stay. So now that I have, I finally got here I’m going to come back. [cheering] and, and I want to come back not just because it’s beautiful, not just because—not just because I love you back. Not just because the Godfather II is maybe my favorite movie. I was flying over the lake I was thinking about Fredo. [laughter] Tough. But, this place is spectacular because it is one of the highest, deepest, oldest and purest lakes in the world. [cheering] [applause]

It’s been written the lake’s waters were once so clear when you were out on a boat you felt like you were floating in a balloon, unless you were Fredo. It has been written that the air here is so is fine it must be the same air that the angels breathe. So, it’s no wonder that for thousands of years this place has been a spirit—spiritual one. For the Washoe people it is center of their world. [applause]

Just as this place is sacred to Native Americans it should be sacred to all Americans and that’s why we’re here, to protect this special pristine place, to keep these waters crystal clear. To keep air as pure as heavens. To keep alive the spirit and keep this truth, challenges of climate change are linked.

[inaudible] Okay, I’m sorry. I got you. Okay. I got you. Thank you. That’s a great banner. I’m about to talk about it though, so you’re interrupting me. Now, I was going to talk about climate change and why it is so important. You know, we tend to think of climate change as if it’s something that is just happening out there that we don’t have control over. But the fact is that it is man-made. It is not, “We think it is man-made.” It is not, “We guess it is man-made.” Not, “A lot of people are saying it’s man-made.” It’s not, “I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know.”

You don’t have to be scientist. You have to read or listen to scientists to know that—[cheering] that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence shows us that climate change is caused by human activity. And when we protect our lands, it helps us protect the climate for the future. So conservation is critical, not just for one particular spot, one particular park, one particular lake. It is critical for our entire ecosystem and conservation is more than just putting up a plaque and calling something a park. [applause]

We embrace conservation because healthy, diverse lands and waters help us build resilience to climate change. We do it to free more of our communities and plants and animals and species from wildfires, and droughts and displacement. We do it because when most of the 4.5 million people who come to Lake Tahoe every year are tourists, economies like this one live or die by the health of our natural resources. [applause]

We do it because places like this nurture and restore the soul and we want to make sure that’s there for our kids too. [applause]

Now as a former Washo tribe leader once said, the health of the land and the health of the people are tied together and what happens to the land also happens to the people. That is why we worked so hard, everybody on the stage, Harry’s leadership, the work we’ve done in our administration to preserve treasures like this for future generations. And we have proven that the choice between our environment, our economy and our health is a false one. We’ve got to strengthen all of them together. [applause]

In the 20 years that President Clinton and Senator Reid started this summit, they improved habitats, improved roads, stopped pollution and stopped wildfires. That is especially important that the severe drought, all of you know and can see with your own eyes. A single wildfire in a dangerously flammable Lake Tahoe basin can erase decades of progress when it comes to water quality. It endangers one of the epicenters of food production in California. Changing climate threatens even the best conservation efforts.

Keep in mind, 2014 was the warmest year on record, until you guessed it, 2015. And now 2016 is on pace to be even hotter. For 14 months in a row now the earth has broken global temperature records. Lake Tahoe’s average temperature is rising at fastest rate ever and its temperature is the warmest on record. Because climate and conservation are challenges that go hand in hand, our conservation mission is more urgent than ever. Everybody who is here, including those who are very eager for me to finish so they can listen to the Killers. [cheering] [laughter]. I’ve only got a few more pages. Our conservation effort is more critical, more urgent than ever. And we made this a priority from day one. We, as Harry mentioned, protected more acres of public lands and water than any administration in history. Now—[cheers and applause]

Last week alone we protected land, water and wildlife from Maine to Hawaii. Including creation of the world’s largest marine protected area. [cheers and applause]

And, apropos of that young lady’s sign, we have been working on climate change on every front. We worked to generate more clean energy, use less dirty energy, waste less energy overall. In my first month in office Harry helped America make the single largest investment in renewable energy in our history. Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, have been at the forefront of this. Jerry Brown has been doing incredible legislative work in his state. These investments that helped drive down the cost of clean power, so it is finally cheaper than dirty power in a lot of places. It helps us multiply wind power threefold, solar power more than 30 fold. It has created tens of thousands of good jobs. It is adding to paychecks, subtracting from energy bills. It has been the smart and right thing to do. [cheers and applause]

Then one year ago this month we finalized the Clean Power Plan that spurs new sources of energy and gives states the tools to limit pollutions that power plants spew into the sky. As I mentioned last week, California passed an ambition plan to cut carbon pollution and Jerry, I know you agree, more states need to follow California’s lead. [applause]

On a national level we’ve enacted tough fuel economy standards for cars which means you can drive further on a gallon of gas. It will save you your pocketbook, and save the environment. We followed that up with the first-ever standards for commercial trucks, vans and buses. And as a consequence, during the first half of this year, carbon [dioxide] pollution hit its lowest level in a quarter of a century, and by the way, during the same time, we have had the longest streak of job creation on record. The auto industry is booming. There is no contradiction between being smart on the environment and having a strong economy and we got to keep it going. [cheers and applause]

So, so this isn’t just a challenge, this is an opportunity. And today in Tahoe we’re taking three more significant steps to boost conservation and climate action. First, we’re supporting conservation projects across Nevada to restore watersheds, stop invasive species, and further reduce the risks posed by hazardous fuels and wildfires. Number two. We’re incentivizing private capital to come off the sidelines and contribute to conservation because government can’t do it alone. Number three, in partnership with California we’re going to reverse the deterioration of the Salton Sea before it is too late. That will help a lot of folks all across the west. [applause]

So, so we’re busy. And from here I’m going to travel to my original home state of Hawaii where the United States is proud to host the World Conservation Congress for the first time. Tomorrow I’m going to go to Midway to visit the vast marine area we just created. And to honor those who sacrificed their lives to protect our freedom. [cheers and applause]

Then I head to China with whom we have partnered as the world’s two largest economies and two largest carbon emitters to set historic climate targets that will lead the rest of the world to cleaner, more secure future. [applause]

So just two back to quote from Marshall Elder. What happens to the land also happens to the people. I made it a priority in my presidency to protect the natural resource we inherited because we shouldn’t be the last to enjoy them. Just as the health of the land and people are tied together, just as climate and conservation are tied together, we share a sacred connection with those who are going to follow us. I think about my two daughters. I think about Harry’s 19 grandchildren. Yeah, that is a lot of grand kids. [laughter]. The future generations who deserve clean water and clean air that will sustain their bodies and sustain their souls. Jewels like Lake Tahoe. And it is not going happen without a lot of hard work and if we pretend a snowball in winter means nothing’s wrong. It will not happen how we boast we’ll scrap international treaties or, or have elected officials who are alone in the world in denying climate change. Or put our energy and environmental policies in the hands of big polluters. It is not going to happen if we pay lip service to conservation but then refuse to do what’s needed.

When scientists first told us that our planet was changing because of human activity, it was received as a bombshell but in a way we shouldn’t have been surprised. The most important changes are always the changes made by us. And the fact that we’ve been able to grow our clean energy economy proves that we have agency. We’ve got power. Diminishing carbon pollution, proves we can do something about it. Our healing of Lake Tahoe proves it is within our power to pass on the incredible bounty of this country to a next generation. Our work isn’t done. So after I leave office and Harry leaves office and Barbara, she is going to be right alongside us, on a slightly smaller horse, because she has to get up on top of it, after we’ve all left office, the charge, to continue to make positive change is going to be in all of our hands as citizens. I always say the most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen. Change happens because of you. Don’t forget that. Thank you, God bless you.

Tim Kaine's "Web of Denial" Speech: "Science and Religion Share a Duty to the Truth"

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 02 Aug 2016 15:38:00 GMT

A few weeks before Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) became the Democratic nominee for vice president on the Hillary Clinton ticket, he joined other senators to discuss the fossil-fuel industry’s “web of denial” preventing action to end their climate pollution. Below is a transcript of his July 12, 2016 speech.

Thank you, Madam President. I join rise to join my colleague to talk about the critical issue of climate change and especially the facts around climate change but also the fact that there are many who would deny the facts. This is a really important issue to the commonwealth of Virginia. Climate change is not a distraction. It’s not a next year or next decade issue. Climate change in Virginia is a today issue.

Earlier today, I was in Norfolk, Virginia, which is in the Hampton Roads area near the Atlantic Ocean. Norfolk and the surrounding communities is the largest concentration of naval power in the world. It’s the center of naval operations. The headquarters of the U.S. Atlantic fleet. And it is already having to spend millions of dollars to elevate the piers where aircraft carriers come and go due to sea level rise. The Hampton Roads area is listed as the second most vulnerable community on the east coast of the United States to rising sea levels after New Orleans.

This is a challenging issue in a lot of ways.

I have friends who live in these communities who bought homes recently but now their homes aren’t marketable. For most Americans, certainly for me, my home is the most valuable asset I own. And if you have that and then you suddenly can’t sell it because climate is changing sea level is rising, flooding is more recurrent, no one will buy your home, it’s a very, very serious issue.

In addition to the effect on individuals and businesses because of sea level rise, the effect on the naval station is significant. Current estimates are that rising sea levels in Norfolk will take the main road entrance into the center of American naval power and have that under water by 2040, three hours a day just because of normal tidal action. In times of storms it would be worse.

So imagine in America that counts on its navy, that counts on that naval presence around the globe having its largest naval base inaccessible because of sea level rise.

We have an interesting community. One of the most unique areas is Tangier Island. It’s been continually inhabited since the 1600’s as a community for men and women. The folks who have traditionally made their living by going out and catching crabs and oysters and fish, and this is a small island with a few acres. It’s one of the only places you can go in the United States where you can hear English spoken as Shakespeare would have spoken it with a language that is an Elizabethan language. The community is isolated in that way. You hear this beautiful English spoken there and the community has many wonderful virtues but the Chesapeake Bay is coming up around this community and eroding it. I received a letter from a middle school student within the last month, a handwritten letter that might have been the most heartfelt piece of communication I’ve received in four-plus years in the senate saying would are you doing about sea level rise, what can you do to help us deal with these issues so that Tangier as an island does not completely disappear.

For these reasons and many others in Virginia we take this very, very seriously and we have to deal with it. I’ll tell you something else about Virginians. Virginians believe in science. The Virginia political figure we most admire was the preeminent scientist of the day, Thomas Jefferson. Virginians overwhelmingly believe in science. 70% of Virginians accept the scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change and that it is urgent that we do something about it. 70% of Virginians believe in that proposition.

But I’m here today because my friend from Rhode Island asked me to come and talk about the fact that there is an organized effort, not just a battle about the policy about climate science but to knowingly try to misrepresent the status of climate science and suggest that climate change is not occurring. They’re denying it exists. They’re denying that it’s a concern. They’re working against any reasonable solutions.

Now, of course, we’ve got to be open to points of view and reasonable differences of opinion and have a debate, but when the science is settled on some things and people are in an organized way who know better are trying to fight against it, we should be suspicious. So a group of senators are speaking today and tomorrow to discuss these organizations that constitute what my friend from Rhode Island has termed a web of denial, an organized effort to deny science.

And so let me just talk a little bit because a number of these deniers are companies that at least have P.O. boxes or nonprofit organizations that at least have P.O. boxes in Virginia. The same Virginia where Tangier Island is disappearing, the same Virginia where the navy is having to spend to shore up their infrastructure also has some shadowy organizations that are trying to deny the real science involved.

There’s an organization called the Science and Public Policy Institute. And it purports to summarize available academic literature. Here’s a quote. “They further note that availability in sea level is observed but to date there’s no detectable secular increase in sea level rise. They also report that no increase in the rate of sea level rise has been detected for the entire 20th century.” closed quote.

This is a group, they throw in a few sciencey words like “decadal variability.”

This is at odds with the conclusions of virtually every scientist who studied this issue, including scientists at Virginia universities, Old Dominion University, Institute of Marine Sciences, William & Mary. Those scientists says sea level rise — on the Virginia coast it’s anywhere from one and a half additional feet to 7 feet by the year 2100. Now, they will acknowledge some question about is it going to a foot and a half. Is it going to be 7 feet, but they don’t challenge the basic science surrounding sea level rise.

So which is it? One and a half to 7 feet or you don’t need to worry about it? Don’t worry, be happy.

Without getting a Ph.D. in atmospheric science and building your own quantitative models, how do you know who is right?

Here’s a clue. Look at who funds these organizations.

In the case of ODU, William & Mary, the Virginia institute of Marine Sciences which is one of the most preeminent marine sciences institutions in the nation along with Scripps in San Diego and Woods Hole, Massachusetts, it’s not hard. They are state universities. They’re funded by the general assembly of Virginia which is two Republican houses. And they are reaching a scientific conclusion that says climate change is serious.

But with the Science and Policy Institute, it’s a bit nebulous and it’s kind of hard to figure out. But there’s online sources that enable you to track how organizations are funded through foundations with ties frankly to the energy industry. According to one of these sources, it’s called DeSmogBlog, one of this institute’s, the Science and Public Policy Institute’s major funders is the Donors Capital Fund which has distributed $170 million to various conservative causes and describes itself as being, quote, “dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility and free enterprise,” close quote.

A New York Times article as far back as 2003 documents a connection between this foundation and an organization that also has a point of view, ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil is a funder or in the past has been a funder of this organization. Now, why don’t—why doesn’t an ExxonMobil or conservative organization just publish the material on their own websites under their own bylines? Well, my guess is that they have scientists who actually know the science and there’s been recent information about ExxonMobil. They understand the climate science. They couldn’t publish this under their own byline and meet their own standards of truthfulness but they are providing funding to an organization that’s denying climate change.

In other words, the organization is a delivery vehicle for information that is meant to be seen as impartial scientific information but is in fact not impartial at all. So when you see one group saying that there’s been no sea level rise and another saying there’s been a lot and we could be in for more and if you’re wondering who to believe, take a look at who’s funding the research.

Here’s another organization, the Virginia Institute for Public Policy. Quote — here’s a quote from them. “Regulations prescribing a reduction or complete cessation of Virginia’s CO2 emissions will have absolutely no effect on global climate. “

If there’s Virginia regulations that even eliminate Virginia CO2 “it will have no effect on global climate.” That’s an interesting quote because it’s not technically a lie because it’s literally true. Virginia’s share of world CO2 emissions is infinitesimally small. It wouldn’t affect the entire globe in a measurable way but that’s like saying one vote? Your vote is not going to make a difference or one cigarette won’t hurt you so go ahead and have one.

This argument is a kind of a classic hide the ball argument that makes a statement that’s technically true but it essentially is promoting a false point of view that oh, well, we shouldn’t do anything about it. So again it’s the use of a literal truth that’s basically designed to pitch a message that’s grossly misleading.

So let’s ask about this group, the Virginia Institute for Public Policy. Who funds a group that would say something like that? Again the Donors Capital Fund that funded the first organization I discussed as well as the Chase Foundation of Virginia and the Roe foundation which support a list of conservative causes. If you call an organization the Virginia Institute for Public Policy it sounds kind of neutral and probably trying to do a good thing.

But if you go back and look at who’s funding it and you find the funding sources are heavily linked to the energy industry, groups like ExxonMobil you understand they’re not quite as impartial as they suggest.

Another group called the CO2 coalition, quote, “Concerns about carbon dioxide being a pollutant are not valid. Climate change is proceeding very slowly and the likely increase of the temperature for the 21st century is 1 degree celsius or less,” closed quote.

Well, yes, is that technically true? The temperature of the earth is increased by 1 degree since industrialization and 197 countries just signed an agreement in Paris last year to try to limit any further increase to no more than 1 degree additional. This group make it is sound like who cares about 1 degree. 100 degree is 1.4 degrees more than normal, enough to make you sick. The number of .08 sounds tiny in the abstract but if that’s your blood alcohol content, that gives you a DUI in Virginia. The number sounds small. Gosh, why would that make a difference? That gets you a DUI because you’re impaired. So, yes, the group using the one temperature, one degree in temperature makes it sound like it’s not that big a deal but it is that big a deal.

Now, here’s the last one I want to say, Madam President, before I close. This is kind of a doozy because it’s from an open letter to Pope Francis on the topic of the pope’s environmental encyclical. The group is called the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. Not like going big if you’re going to pick a name for yourself.

Their quote starts with a quote from the 19th Psalm. “The heavens declare the glory of god and the firmament claims his handiwork.” Then the group goes on to declare in their own words, “By using fossil fuels to generate energy to lift billions of god’s children, precious children out of poverty, we liberate from the tomb of earth the carbon dioxide on which plants and therefore all the rest of life depend. In light of these considerations, we believe it is both unwise and unjust to adopt policies requiring reduced use of fossil fuels for energy.”

So somebody is really using scripture to argue that making our energy production cleaner, safer, cheaper violates the Christian tenet of caring for the poor? I’m a Christian and many of us in this body have a deep faith background in one faith or another but I’ll use a non-Christian phrase to describe that argument. It takes a lot of chutzpah to claim your religious faith and compassion, especially when the organization refuses to reveal how it is funded.

In closing, Madam President, we certainly don’t want to imply that all groups that, you know, have an agenda or have a point of view are motivated by funding sources. But the web of denial that the senator from Rhode Island is asking us to come out and talk about tonight is one that includes a number of organizations that are climate deniers. They are denying science, that they actually in my view know to be true. There comes a point when the truth becomes so hard to deny that those who deny it or simply not credible.

And you have to ask the question then why are you denying it? I assert that most of these organizations understand the science and they accept the science. And they realize it to be true. Why do they deny the science? The answer is greed. That’s the basic answer.

Many of the organizations that we’re discussing are funded primarily by fossil fuel interests, and if they can delay even by a year or two years or five years or even six months, the enactment of policies that would move us toward fewer fossil fuels, it will hurt their bottom line. And so rather than come up here and argue about what the right transition should be, they’re handing funds over to organizations that are trying to confuse the American public about science itself. So let me close and read from Pope Francis’ — the Cornwall Institute on Stewardship. I’ll read a quote. “Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention.”

Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently. Future generations. We look at things differently. We realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to you, we can no longer view relate any in a utilitarian way geared entirely to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional but a basic question of justice since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.

Science and faith have a number of things in common, but one of the most important things they have in common is their first duty has to be to the truth. I hope all actors in the political process, whatever their views, will remember that and have that same commitment. Thank you, Madam President. With that, I yield the floor.