US president takes on climate sceptic lawmakers and expresses hope for a climate deal in Vice interview
By Megan Darby
Barack Obama has accused some lawmakers of being “shills” for the fossil fuel sector, in a wide-ranging interview with Vice News.
Explaining fierce opposition to climate action from certain sectors of Congress, the US president hinted they were swayed by undisclosed financial interests.
“In some cases… you have elected officials who are shills for the oil companies or the fossil fuel industry and there’s a lot of money involved,” said Obama.
“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.”
He branded “ridiculous” a recent stunt by Senator Jim Inhofe, in which he brandished a snowball in the debating chamber as evidence climate change was a hoax.
The fact that Senator Inhofe – who rejects the scientific consensus that human activities cause global warming – chairs the Senate’s environment committee is “disturbing”, Obama said.
The head of state acknowledged that some people are concerned about the economic costs of climate regulations.
“You can’t fault somebody for being concerned about paying the bills and being able to fill up your tank to get to your job,” he said.
“Climate change is an example of the hardest problems to solve. The hardest thing to do in politics and in government is make sacrifices now for a long term benefit.”
But citing his daughters Sasha, 13, and Malia, 16, he expressed hope that the next generation would be more open to change.
“The sophistication and awareness that they have about environmental issues compared to my generation and yours – they are ahead of the game.”
Even the Republican Party, which has been reluctant to push a climate agenda, cannot avoid the subject, Obama said.
“I guarantee you that the Republican Party will have to change its approach to climate change, because voters will insist on it.”
Obama has made climate change a priority of his last years in power, as countries work towards a global climate deal in Paris this December.
He said: “If I can change how the country thinks about this as a serious, immediate threat, not some distant vague thing.
“If I can encourage and gain commitments from the Chinese to put forward a serious plan to start curbing their greenhouse gases and that then allows us to leverage the entire world for the conference that is taking place this year in Paris.
“And if I am able to double fuel efficiency standards and if I am amble to make appliances more efficient and to double the production of clean energy.
“If I am able to do all those things, when I am done, we are still going to have a heck of a problem. But we will have made enough progress that the next generations can start building on it.”