President Barack Obama told Vice in an interview released on Monday that it was “disturbing” that the chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works denied the existence of climate change.
Obama was referring to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who threw a snowball on the Senate floor earlier this month to make his case that climate change isn’t real. Even though Inhofe cited record-low temperatures across the country as evidence that climate change was overplayed, the country has actually been experiencing a warmer than average winter.
“That’s disturbing,” Obama said when Vice’s Shane Smith pointed out the stunt would have been funny if it weren’t for Inhofe’s chairmanship.
Inhofe, who wrote the book The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, has also cited scripture as part of his argument for why climate change isn’t real.
Obama said he couldn’t fault people who were concerned about gas prices and that climate change was a difficult political issue address because it had no immediate payoff. But he also attributed some of the challenge to the influence that the oil and gas industry holds with elected officials.
“In some cases, though, you have elected officials who are shills for the oil companies or the fossil fuel industry and there’s a lot of money involved,” he said. “Typically in Congress the committees of jurisdiction, like the energy committees, are populated by folks from places that pump a lot of oil and pump a lot of gas.”
As president, Obama said that he hoped to get the country to get the country to see climate change “as a serious, immediate threat, not some distant vague thing.”
Obama added that he recognized that even if he was able to secure international commitments on climate change and improve fuel and appliance efficiency standards, climate change would still be a big problem when he left office.
“If I’m able to do all those things now, when I’m done we’re still gonna have a heck of a problem, but we will have made enough progress that the next president and the next generation can start building on it and you start getting some momentum.”
The way that his daughters understood the science of climate change, Obama said, gave him hope that future generations would force politicians to take on the threat.
“I guarantee you that the Republican party will have to change its approach to climate change because voters will insist upon it,” he said.