U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the final session of the Democratic National Convention. Photo by Reuters / Eric Thayer.

Obama: Climate change is not a hoax and not a joke. (Photo by Reuters / Eric Thayer.)

President Obama surprised and delighted climate activists by making a defense of climate action in his big convention speech on Thursday night.

… my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet — because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They are a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.

Take that, Mitt Romney!

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Obama also made a strong case for clean energy and efficiency:

You can choose the path where we control more of our own energy. After thirty years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. We’ve doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries. …

We’re offering a better path — a future where we keep investing in wind and solar …; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks; where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy.

He still stuck to the “all-of-the-above” approach, lauding domestic fossil-fuel production:

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by one million barrels a day — more than any administration in recent history.  And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly two decades. … We’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last three years, and we’ll open more.  …

we [should] develop a hundred-year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet. If you choose this path, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.

He got in a mention of “clean coal” too.

But he distinguished his approach from Romney’s corporation-coddling strategy:

But unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan, or endanger our coastlines, or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers.

And in an eloquent section that led up to a call for a renewed emphasis on citizenship, he bashed corporate polluters:

Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s just the price of progress. If you can’t afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent’s advice and “borrow money from your parents.”

You know what?  That’s not who we are.  That’s not what this country’s about. …

[We] believe in something called citizenship — a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations.

Obama’s speech, with its embrace of oil drilling and increased natural gas production (read: fracking), wasn’t perfectly green, by any means. But it was a lot greener than environmentalists and climate hawks expected.

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