Despite stern climate change warning, Obama approves new oil & coal production

by Gregory Tomlin, |
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during remarks on climate change at Everglades National Park, Florida April 22, 2015. Obama made an airboat tour of the park's subtropical swamps on Wednesday, part of a push to get Americans thinking and talking about the damage climate change is causing close to home. | REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/FILE PHOTO

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (Christian Examiner) -- President Barack Obama told graduating cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy May 20 that America faces a global threat in climate change caused by the use of fossil fuels.

However, the address -- his first on the subject since his 2014 speech at the United Nations Climate Summit -- comes on the heels of his administration's decision to pursue new oil and coal resources in the Arctic, along the Atlantic coast and in the American Northwest.

All are moves environmentalists regard as disastrous and a betrayal of his pledge to rein in fossil fuel production.

Obama told cadets that while the U.S. must meet threats like disease, drugs and terrorism, it must not "ignore a peril that can affect generations."

The threat comes in the form of drought, famine and severe storms caused by a warming planet, the president said, but one of the greatest threats the world faces is rising sea levels.

"And this is not just a problem for countries on the coasts, or for certain regions of the world," Obama said. "Climate change will impact every country on the planet. No nation is immune."

That universal impact of climate change is a fact many politicians in Washington cannot accept, Obama said. Others, he added, only equivocate.

"The best scientists in the world know that climate change is happening. Our analysts in the intelligence community know climate change is happening. Our military leaders -- generals and admirals, active duty and retired -- know it's happening. Our homeland security professionals know it is happening. And our Coast Guard knows it's happening."

Obama said the science of climate change -- that carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels causes warming -- is backed by "indisputable" evidence. He claimed 14 of the 15 hottest years on record were in the past 15 years. That much is true, according to the National Climatic Data Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA, however, has only kept records since 1880 and ice core samples from previous periods in history indicate greater levels of CO2 in the atmosphere than today. Still, scientists today say the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is important because of how rapidly it has risen since the Industrial Revolution.

Obama said sea levels had risen by eight inches over the past century and could rise another one to four feet by the end of the 21st century. Since so many people live along coastlines, sea-level rise is particularly dangerous to lives and property, he said.

"Already, today, in Miami and Charleston, streets now flood at high tide," Obama said.

That much is true. The streets of Miami and Charleston do flood at high tide -- as they always have on a single day of the year during what is known as the Perigean Tide. The effect, known as the "king tide," occurs when the earth is closest to the sun and the moon is between the two, resulting in heavier than usual gravitational forces.

The phenomenon is not new for low-lying cities like Charleston and Miami, built only slightly above sea level. The tide is also experienced in places like Australia and New Zealand. It was documented in the 1600s, long before the effects of industrialization caused sea levels to rise.

For some, facts spun in evidence raise serious doubts about many of the president's claims. Whether or not human activity causes global warming is still a legitimate question, according to presumptive Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush.

Bush told a crowd in Bedford, N.H., after the president's remarks, that the president was partly correct -- that climate change is real and a reality to which humans must adapt -- but he said people laying the blame for climate change at humanity's feet are "really arrogant."

"I don't think the science is clear of what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural," Bush said. "It's convoluted."

"It's this intellectual arrogance that now you can't have a conversation about it, even. The climate is changing. We need to adapt to that reality," he added.

Bush said Obama's approach to fighting climate change is to kill businesses in the name of reducing the carbon footprint of the United States. "That's not what he says, of course, but that's the result of his policies."

President Obama did not address the impact climate change policies could have on businesses, but he said the only way to avert the effects of climate change is to slow the warming of the planet. That is why, he said, he has committed the United States to leading in the reduction of carbon emissions.

"I've committed to doubling the pace at which we cut carbon pollution. And that means we all have to step up. And it will not be easy. It will require sacrifice, and the politics will be tough. But there is no other way. We have to make our homes and buildings more efficient.

"We have to invest in more energy research and renewable technologies. We have to move ahead with standards to cut the amount of carbon pollution in our power plants," the president continued. "And working with other nations, we have to achieve a strong global agreement this year to start reducing the total global emission -- because every nation must do its part. Every nation."

Obama said the United States would focus more on clean and renewable energies, like bio-fuels, wind and solar power.

The president, however, appears to be sending mixed signals.

Just a week before calling for less reliance on oil consumption, the president  a new Royal Dutch Shell Oil drilling plan in the Artic. He also approved the issuance of new leases on oil production along the Atlantic Coast and allowed further coal mining in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming.

Coal mining in Montana and Wyoming on federally-owned land is expected to produce 10.8 billion tons of coals for sale and distribution around the world. That amount is 11 times what the U.S. burns in a single year.