"We're going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way," President Obama declared in a recent Rolling Stone interview, breaking his noticeable dry spell in addressing the issue.
He touched on the Keystone XL pipeline controversy, his administration's goals and his own personal concerns about climate change in the interview with editor and publisher Jann S. Wenner.
Asked about NASA scientist James Hansen's comments that "if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over," Obama praised Hansen for his strong work in understanding climate change and bringing it to the public eye. The president also argued that he has objected to efforts by Congress to bypass the normal pipeline application process. Although Obama did deny a permit for the Keystone XL proposal in January, he has since announced plans to fast-track the pipeline's southern segment.
Obama told Rolling Stone that no matter what the U.S. does, Canada will continue with burning the tar sands: "The reason that Keystone got so much attention is not because that particular pipeline is a make-or-break issue for climate change, but because those who have looked at the science of climate change are scared and concerned about a general lack of sufficient movement to deal with the problem. Frankly, I'm deeply concerned that internationally, we have not made as much progress as we need to make."
Obama touted his administration's efforts, from improving fuel-efficiency standards to pushing for renewable energy -- Last month, he slammed presidential candidates critical of new energy sources, saying, "They dismiss wind power. They dismiss solar power. They make jokes about biofuels. They were against raising fuel standards ... If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they probably must have been founding members of the flat earth society."
Regarding climate change, he told Rolling Stone, "I suspect that over the next six months, this is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we're going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way. That there's a way to do it that is entirely compatible with strong economic growth and job creation."
Despite his administration's efforts to address environmental issues, the president admitted in the interview, "there is no doubt that we have a lot more work to do."
Environmental groups and media organizations responded with mixed praise. Joe Romm wrote for ThinkProgress, "After too much silence and avoidance of climate science, we can hope that this interview is the first step of serious Presidential engagement with the public on the serious challenges and opportunities of climate chaos mitigation."
350.org's Bill McKibben tweeted in agreement with one of the President's quotes, "Obama--those who have looked closely at climate science are 'scared.' indeed!"
Environmentalists have had mixed reactions to Obama's actions during his presidency. He drew criticism for his offshore drilling plans and halting EPA regulations on smog standards, while receiving praise for addressing power plant pollution and recently garnering endorsements from major green groups.
When it comes to differing climate change stances, presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said, "We don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us."