President Barack Obama reiterated the need to address climate change on Wednesday in his first press conference since winning reelection, but suggested that any legislative action to curb global warming was likely a long way off.
"I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions," Obama said. "And as a consequence, I think we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it."
Responding to a question from The New York Times' Mark Landler about calls to combat climate change in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Obama cautioned, as others have, that no single weather event can be linked directly to climate change. But he said that the overwhelming scientific evidence suggests that the changing climate is contributing to extreme weather more generally.
"What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago," Obama stated. "We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago. We do know that there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe."
Obama emphasized measures taken during his first term to improve vehicle fuel efficiency standards and increase renewable energy production, and acknowledged that "we haven't done as much as we need to."
Despite near silence during the campaign season on climate change, Obama said that the American people will hear more on the issue in the near future as he works to make "short-term progress in reducing carbons."
"You can expect that you'll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps move this agenda forward," Obama said.
At the same time, however, the president acknowledged that the political will necessary to make the "tough political choices" necessary to address climate change doesn't currently exist, given the pressing economic concerns.
"Understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody's going to go for that. I won't go for that," Obama said.
Asked by Landler whether his comments meant that there was no consensus in Washington about how to combat climate change, Obama replied, "that I'm pretty certain of."
"Look, we're still trying to debate whether we can just make sure that middle-class families don't get a tax hike. Let's see if we can resolve that. That should be easy. This one's hard," the president said.
Some environmentalists reacted strongly to Obama's remarks at the press conference, which saw more attention given to topics like economic recovery and the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
350.org Executive Director May Boeve said in a statement, "The climate silence is broken, and now the president can show us he's serious with a decision already on his desk: rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would unlock so much carbon that climate scientists say, if it were built, it would be ‘game over’ for the climate."
Yet Time senior editor Bryan Walsh tweeted that "Obama answer did not make it sound like climate action was a priority of the first order."
Obama's remarks on climate change come after environmentalists -- many of whom criticized the president for failing to discuss climate change during the campaign and advocating an "all of the above" energy strategy -- reacted with guarded optimism upon his reelection. Andrew Steer, the president of the World Resources Institute, told HuffPost's Tom Zeller Jr. in an emailed statement, "At the top of the list should be climate change -- which is already taking a serious toll on people, property, resources and the economy."