Obama at State of the Union

Obama didn’t mention climate change in his State of the Union address, but on college campuses, it’s a different story. (Photo by White House.)

Recently, climate change has been the Voldemort of the Obama administration: the “threat-that-must-not-be-named.”

In January, the president omitted any discussion of climate change from his State of the Union address, since what really does the gravest threat to Americans — and indeed, all homo sapiens — have to do with the state of the union? Then the White House edited climate change from Obama’s Earth Day 2012 proclamation.

But in an April Rolling Stone interview, Obama pulled a Harry Potter, saying outright that he thought “climate change” would be a campaign issue. Nervous campaign aides looked around to see if invoking the threat that must not be named would somehow cause it to mysteriously appear. And it did, as the nation went through brutal heat waves and wildfires and a record-smashing drought.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Having learned his lesson, the president was back to being silent on climate change in his big Iowa energy speech by the end of May. Then, earlier this month, the president recounted the story of climate change record-breaking heat and ever-worsening drought, but wisely decided not to tempt fate by naming names, or causes, or what’s going to happen in the future if we keep doing bloody little, or any of that scary science-y stuff.

But it turns out that the president was just being coy. He will talk about climate change to select audiences — you know, the kind that are going to suffer the most from climate change, thanks to their parents’ greed and myopia: college students, Generation CO2.

Here is Obama at Iowa State University Tuesday afternoon:

Hello, Cyclones! Thank you …

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The decisions we make as a country on big issues like the economy and jobs and taxes and education and energy and war and climate change — all these decisions will directly affect your life in very personal ways. And I’ve got to say, this is something I’m acutely aware of when I make these decisions, because they’re decisions that are going to affect Malia and Sasha, my daughters, as well. It’s the way it’s always been — one generation makes decisions on behalf of the next.

But here’s the thing, Cyclones — your generation chooses which path we take as a country …

Will this be a country that keeps moving away from foreign oil and towards renewable sources of energy like wind and solar and biofuels — [applause] — energy that makes our economy more secure, but also makes our planet more secure? [Applause] …

You believed four years ago that we could use less foreign oil and reduce the carbon pollution that threatens our planet. And in just four years, we’ve doubled — doubled — the generation of clean, renewable energy like wind and solar. [Applause.]

We developed new fuel standards so that your car will get nearly 55 miles per gallon by the middle of the next decade. [Applause.] That’s going to save you money at the pump. That will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a level roughly equivalent to a year’s worth of emissions from all the cars in the world.  [Applause.]

Today, America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly 20 years. We’re on track to emit fewer greenhouse gases this year than we have in nearly 20 years. You can keep those trends going. You believed in America, and that’s what’s brought about change.

Governor Romney wants to pass a new $5 trillion tax cut targeted towards the wealthiest Americans. That’s not going to cut our debt. Ignoring inequality doesn’t make it go away. Denying climate change won’t make it stop. These things won’t make for a brighter future. They won’t make your future stronger.

Go, team! Of course, Obama was only kidding when he told the students their generation chooses which path we take as a country. He wasn’t was addressing Hogwarts students, after all.

In the real world, the students’ parents and grandparents have already set the world on a path towards catastrophic warming, and only their parents and grandparents can reverse course fast enough to prevent bringing unimaginable peril to all the world’s children.

Note to team Obama: Not talking about climate change doesn’t make it stop, either.

Since the Iowa State team is the Cyclones, Obama was being very gutsy here, taking the risk that by mentioning climate change he would be blamed if an actual cyclone made landfall that day.

The fact that one did, however, should merely be taken as coincidence, because a few hours later, at Colorado State University, Obama said:

 Hello, Colorado State! [Applause.] How’s it going, Rams? …

The decisions that we make as a country on the economy, and jobs, and taxes, and education, and energy, and war, and climate change, and the Supreme Court — these are all decisions that will affect you directly in very personal ways. And I feel that same sense of urgency because the decisions I make are ones that are going to affect Malia and Sasha, my daughters, for generations to come …

And the thing is, Colorado State, your generation can choose the path we take this country on.

Will this country be one that keeps moving away from foreign oil and towards renewable sources like wind and solar and biofuels that make our economy and planet more secure? [Applause.] …

Denying climate change doesn’t make it stop …

Well, you get the picture. It’s pretty much the same exact speech — not that repetition is a bad thing; far from it — except the team is the Rams, and I have seen no news accounts of climate change harming any rams this week.

The next day, at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, the president said:

Hello, Virginia! [Applause.] Go, Hoos! [Applause.] Wahoowah! [Applause.)] I still don’t know what a Wahoo is. [Laughter.] But I know we’ve got some here today. [Applause.] …

Denying climate change doesn’t make it stop. [Applause.] Looking backwards doesn’t make our future brighter. It doesn’t make your future stronger.

In the next two months, you get to choose. And we’ve got a plan that will actually lead to a better future. And you can prove the cynics wrong one more time.

First off, “Wahoos, or Hoos for short, is an unofficial nickname for sports teams of the University of Virginia, officially referred to as the Cavaliers. The terms are both also used in a more general context by students and alumni to refer to themselves as fans and alumni of The University.”

Now Hoo is harmed by climate change? Sorry about that, but don’t blame me, it’s the president who has the cavalier attitude about climate change.

Indeed, some might say it is cynical to talk at length about climate change only when you are speaking to college students — a group who cares a great deal about the issue but can’t do bloody much about it. Where is Dumbledore when you need him?

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.