In an interview released this week, President Obama told Vice News that it was “disturbing” that the chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works denied the existence of climate change.
Obama was referring to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who earlier this month threw a snowball on the Senate floor in an attempt to demonstrate that climate change isn’t real. Even though Inhofe cited record low temperatures across the country as evidence that climate change is overplayed, scientific data show that the country has actually been experiencing a warmer than average winter.
“That’s disturbing,” Obama said when Vice‘s Shane Smith pointed out that the stunt would have been funny if it weren’t for Inhofe’s chairmanship.
Inhofe, who wrote the book The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, has also cited Scripture as part of his argument for why climate change isn’t real.
Obama said he couldn’t fault people who were concerned about gas prices, pointing out that climate change can be a tough political issue because it has limited immediate payoffs. But he also attributed some of the challenge to the influence that the oil and gas industry holds with elected officials.
“In some cases, though, you have elected officials who are shills for the oil companies or the fossil fuel industry and there’s a lot of money involved,” he said. “Typically in Congress the committees of jurisdiction, like the energy committees, are populated by folks from places that pump a lot of oil and pump a lot of gas.”
Records reveal that the fossil fuel industry spent an unprecedented $40,833,823 on campaign contributions for the 113th Congress (2013/2014), plus an additional $140 million each year on lobbying expenses. In total, oil and gas companies spent more than $326 million to secure their influence over the 113th Congress. Sen. Inhofe himself is hugely funded by the oil industry.
Obama told Vice that, as President, he hoped to get the country to get the country to see climate change “as a serious, immediate threat, not some distant vague thing.”
Obama added that he recognized that even if he was able to secure international commitments on climate change and improve fuel and appliance efficiency standards, climate change would still be a big problem when he left office.
“If I’m able to do all those things now, when I’m done we’re still gonna have a heck of a problem,” he said, “but we will have made enough progress that the next president and the next generation can start building on it and you start getting some momentum.”
The way that his daughters understood the science of climate change, Obama said, gave him hope that future generations would force politicians to take on the threat.
“I guarantee you that the Republican party will have to change its approach to climate change because voters will insist upon it,” he said.
This isn’t the first time the President has called out conservative lawmakers for their denial of climate science. While speaking at a college graduation ceremony in June, Obama criticized those who ducked the issue by claiming they weren’t qualified enough to speak on the matter, like House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R).
“Let me translate,” Obama said. “What that means is, ‘I accept that manmade climate change is real, but if I admit it, I’ll be run out of town by a radical fringe that thinks climate science is a liberal plot.’”
“I’m not a scientist either, but we’ve got some good ones at NASA,” he quipped.