Obama: I “absolutely” want to go off on Congressional climate deniers

In a long interview with Thomas Friedman, the president says climate activists still need to move public opinion

Topics: Barack Obama, Thomas Friedman, The New York Times, Climate Change, climate crisis, Global Warming, Climate deniers, Abraham Lincoln, , , ,

Obama: I “absolutely” want to go off on Congressional climate deniers (Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

In his latest piece for the New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman shares some of the best parts of a recent, lengthy interview he conducted with President Obama about climate change (more of which can be seen on the final episode of Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously” series).

One of the juiciest revelations: Obama finds GOP climate deniers in Congress just as annoying as you do.

Asked by Friedman if he ever wants to “just go off on the climate deniers in Congress,” Obama said, “Yeah, absolutely,” and laughed.

“Look, it’s frustrating when the science is in front of us,” Obama continued. “We can argue about how. But let’s not argue about what’s going on. … The baseline fact of climate change is not something we can afford to deny.”

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“And if you profess leadership in this country at this moment in our history,” Obama added, “then you’ve got to recognize this is going to be one of the most significant long-term challenges, if not the most significant long-term challenge, that this country faces and that the planet faces.”

“The good news,” Obama  went on to say, “is that the public may get out ahead of some of their politicians.” He expressed confidence that as the costs of the climate crisis grow more apparent to Americans, they’ll begin to demand more seriousness about the issue from their elected representatives.

In Obama’s view, that kind of broad-based popular sentiment is key to enacting policies significant enough to stave off a climate crisis. Obama cited Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote on public opinion to argue that one of the most important things he and climate activists can do is shift the public’s views.

“[P]art of my job over these next two and a half years and beyond,” Obama said, “is trying to shift public opinion. And the way to shift public opinion is to really focus in on the fact that if we do nothing our kids are going to be worse off.”

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith.

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