On the Cover of Rolling Stone – POTUS talks climate.

April 25, 2012

Whatever you do, don’t miss the clip above. (off topic but pretty damn funny, and then again maybe not so off topic)

I’m posting this as kind of a historical note. I think this is a remarkable example of the nexus between news, entertainment, opinion, and the way people perceive and process public issues in this multi media age. Some people will compare this to Bill Clinton’s Sax playing turn on the Arsenio show in ’92, but I think this is a step beyond.  It’s hard to imagine Newt Gingrich, or Rick Santorum pulling this off, much less Mitt Romney. Whether it works, we’ll see – but it sure is entertaining.


In a Rolling Stone interview published today, President Obama broke out of his self-imposed silence on climate change. He made some remarkable statements, including his belief that the millions of dollars pouring into the anti-science disinformation campaign will drive climate change into the presidential campaign.

Earlier this year the President omitted any discussion of climate change from his State of the Union address. And he (or the White House communications team) edited it out of his Earth Day proclamation.

But in this interview, Obama was actually the first to bring up climate change, noting it was one of many big issues he’s had to deal with and then slamming the GOP for moving so far to the right on the issue.

From the Rolling Stone Interview:

…..But what’s happened, I think, in the Republican caucus in Congress, and what clearly happened with respect to Republican candidates, was a shift to an agenda that is far out of the mainstream – and, in fact, is contrary to a lot of Republican precepts. I said recently that Ronald Reagan couldn’t get through a Republican primary today, and I genuinely think that’s true. You have every candidate onstage during one of the primary debates rejecting a deficit-reduction plan that involved $10 in cuts for every $1 of revenue increases. You have a Republican front-runner who rejects the Dream Act, which would help young people who, through no fault of their own, are undocumented, but who have, for all intents and purposes, been raised as Americans. You’ve got a Republican Congress whose centerpiece, when it comes to economic development, is getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Doesn’t all of that kind of talk and behavior during the primaries define the party and what they stand for?
I think it’s fair to say that this has become the way that the Republican political class and activists define themselves. Think about John McCain, who obviously I have profound differences with. Here’s a guy who not only believed in climate change, but co-sponsored a cap-and-trade bill that got 43 votes in the Senate just a few years ago, somebody who thought banning torture was the right thing to do, somebody who co-sponsored immigration reform with Ted Kennedy. That’s the most recent Republican candidate, and that gives you some sense of how profoundly that party has shifted.

James Hansen, NASA’s leading climate scientist, has said this about the Keystone pipeline: that if the pipeline goes through and we burn tar sands in Canada, it’s “game over” for the planet. What’s your reaction to that statement?
James Hansen is a scientist who has done an enormous amount not only to understand climate change, but also to help publicize the issue. I have the utmost respect for scientists. But it’s important to understand that Canada is going to be moving forward with tar sands, regardless of what we do. That’s their national policy, they’re pursuing it. With respect to Keystone, my goal has been to have an honest process, and I have adamantly objected to Congress trying to circumvent a process that was well-established not just under Democratic administrations, but also under Republican administrations.

The reason that Keystone got so much attention is not because that particular pipeline is a make-or-break issue for climate change, but because those who have looked at the science of climate change are scared and concerned about a general lack of sufficient movement to deal with the problem. Frankly, I’m deeply concerned that internationally, we have not made as much progress as we need to make. Within the constraints of this Congress, we’ve tried to do a whole range of things, administratively, that are making a difference – doubling fuel-efficiency standards on cars is going to take a whole lot of carbon out of our atmosphere. We’re going to continue to push on energy efficiency, and renewable energy standards, and the promotion of green energy. But there is no doubt that we have a lot more work to do.

Part of the challenge over these past three years has been that people’s number-one priority is finding a job and paying the mortgage and dealing with high gas prices. In that environment, it’s been easy for the other side to pour millions of dollars into a campaign to debunk climate-change science. I suspect that over the next six months, this is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way. That there’s a way to do it that is entirely compatible with strong economic growth and job creation – that taking steps, for example, to retrofit buildings all across America with existing technologies will reduce our power usage by 15 or 20 percent. That’s an achievable goal, and we should be getting started now.

11 Responses to “On the Cover of Rolling Stone – POTUS talks climate.”

  1. witsendnj Says:

    You’ve really exhibited the fundamentals of what is going on. Regarding the climate change remarks to Rolling Stone, I left this comment at Climate Progress:

    1. “That there’s a way to do it that is entirely compatible with strong economic growth and job creation…”
    Endless growth is not sustainable on a finite planet whether it’s human population, resource extraction, or the capacity for the biosphere to absorb pollution.
    Aside from that,
    2. “.. it’s important to understand that Canada is going to be moving forward with tar sands, regardless of what we do. That’s their national policy, they’re pursuing it.”
    coupled with this: “The reason that Keystone got so much attention is not because that particular pipeline is a make-or-break issue forclimate change, but because those who have looked at the science of climate change are scared and concerned about a general lack of sufficient movement to deal with the problem.”
    sounds to me like preparation for: “I may as well approve the pipeline, because the tar sands are going to be developed anyway and besides, it’s not that important in the big picture, what we really need is an international agreement.”
    I went to all the tar sands protests, and I got arrested and so forth. Color me cynical, but I’m not convinced that what Obama said in this interview constitutes a victory for climate activists, at least not as far as the Keystone XL goes.

    NOW, notice the difference between that dissembling and what he said about student loans in the video. THAT was unequivocal, and the reason is, that is a HUGE motivator for the Occupiers. Look at the livestream: http://www.ustream.tv/occupiedair

    Obama is hoping to appease the Occupy movement about other issues by throwing them the student loan forgiveness.

    • ahaveland Says:

      One way to derail Keystone would be to develop renewables so much that the price of energy drops and makes the cost of extracting tar sands much more unecomical than it is already.

      They won’t dig it if they can’t sell it.

      It’s high time to stop the turkeys voting for Christmas.

  2. Peter Mizla Says:

    Coming from Obama, at long last, the question is this too little too late? The Mainstream media is part of the misinformation operandi – by creating false balance on a subject in which none exists- in order to keep its huge revenue stream rolling in from prime advertisers. In the end, the longer we wait to do something the more social and economic pain there will be. There will be those the public will take their anger out on- the Deniers, yes- but also a very complicit media.

  3. Mike Says:

    I don’t mean to get off topic but how much does it cost for a degree over there? My Ecology degree including my honours year cost me about $27000 in Australia. If I didn’t secure a scholarship which covered tuition, my PhD would have cost me an additional $39000.

    • witsendnj Says:

      Aside from the obvious high cost, other factors have students riled up:

      1. the percentage increase year on year of tuition has been far, far higher than inflation for many years
      2. there is no way to be forgiven student debt, doesn’t matter if you get in an accident and go into a coma for the rest of your life
      3. there aren’t nearly enough jobs waiting for graduates that will pay them enough to keep up with loan payments + living expenses
      4. I can’t say how many, but certainly there is a contingent of occupiers who feel that student debt is a form of enslavement/oppression. People who are in debt are far less likely to risk losing a job by protesting on or off the workplace.

      These numbers are PER YEAR and don’t count for more expensive advanced degrees:

      From The College Board “Trends in College Pricing 2010” report, Average Estimated Undergraduate Budgets, 2010/2011*:
      *Note: Includes Tuition and Fees, Room and Board, Books and Supplies, Transportation and Other Expenses
      Public Four-Year In-State On-Campus: $20,339
      Public Four-Year Out-of-State On-Campus: $32,329
      Private Not-for-Profit Four-Year On-Campus: $40,476

      Total Average Published Charges (Tuition and Fees plus Room and Board):
      Public Four-Year, In-State: $16,140
      Public Four-Year Out-of-State: $28,130
      Private Four-Year: $36,993

      • Mike Says:

        Thanks for that. It would appear to be a little cheaper over there but I believe the average salary here is higher and many of our top scientific research institutions have excellent graduate programs. What annoys us the most here is most of the politicians who set the rules about university fees all received their tertiary education for free 30 years ago.

        • ahaveland Says:

          This is why a good education should be a right, as it is an investment in the structure, prosperity and wellbeing of society with the ability to look after those that helped to build it and retire.

          Extrapolating this trend, we could end up with a minority of wealthy educated people and scientists, against a majority of poor neanderthal luddites…


          Somehow this doesn’t sound good for traditional democracy based on simple majority vote.

  4. Here’s the world-wide and US reality: whether we like it or not, we’re going to run the experiment pretty much to the max and see what happens: burn fossil fuels as fast, furious and completely as humanly possible until either everyone agrees with the science and/or until alternative energies in the wanted amounts are available.

    The anti-science ideologues have the upper hands for awhile yet. Even longer if Romney wins and the Republicans gain in the Congress.

    You have to remember that 25% of Americans are birthers or find Sarah Palin, Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann to be substantive. More than that believe that God has provided enough and to spare and that Jesus is coming back to the rescue. More than that don’t believe in evolution. That’s a large enough quack minority to influence things well beyond their numbers.

    • Mike Says:

      If the current crop of republicans gain the upper hand and especially if Romney wins, the USA will become the political laughing stock of the developed world. I and all of my colleagues sit back here in Australia and cannot believe people actually take them seriously. Don’t get me wrong, some of our conservatives are certifiable but with the exception of one or two, they don’t even come close to the lunatics over there.
      Over here we have compulsory voting and that usually means we have a lot of swinging voters who aren’t loyal to either side of politics and these can cause swings of between 5 and 10% resulting in a a change of government. Both sides of politics know this so they tend to have “catch all” type policies that sit close to the middle, because if they go to far to the side they will alienate the swinging voters. In 2007, Kevin Rudd from Labor ran an election campaign that was essentially “me too”. His policies were almost identical to the conservatives who were in power and he won the election with the swinging voters who thought it was time for a fresh face.

  5. […] Obama’s recent reference to climate as a campaign issue mean he’s getting it […]

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