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Obama Counterpunches on Climate Change

By John M. Broder (New York Times) - September 7, 2012

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, took a not-too-subtle jab at President Obama in his convention speech last week, mocking Mr. Obama’s soaring 2008 campaign language about rolling back the rising seas and healing the planet. Mr. Romney’s gibe drew thunderous applause from the Republican delegates, many of whom express doubt about the existence of climate change.

Mr. Obama jabbed back on Thursday night in his acceptance speech while detailing his energy program, which includes increased investment in renewable energy and higher mileage standards for vehicles.

“And, yes,” the president said, “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.”

That brought cheers from the Democratic onlookers, many of whom had been waiting for Mr. Obama to address an issue that so far has been largely absent from this campaign and the party platforms.

Mr. Obama, who won broad support from environmentally minded voters in 2008 with his promise to tackle climate change with a nationwide cap and trade system, has disillusioned many of those supporters as president. He backed away from cap and trade after it became clear that the Senate would not support it and has largely been silent on the topic for the last two years even as extreme weather, increasingly associated with the warming of the planet, have devastated communities across the country.

Many advocates and donors have been pressing the campaign for a more full-throated statement on climate change from the president – and perhaps even some concrete plans to address it — and on Thursday night he delivered, at least on the rhetorical front.

Environmentalists were pleased.

“By reaffirming his commitment to tackling global warming,” said Nathan Willcox, global warming program director at the advocacy group Environment America, “the president demonstrated that he intends to build on the historic steps his administration has already taken to cut dangerous carbon emissions, for the sake of our environment, our health and our families’ future. While Mitt Romney used his convention acceptance speech to mock the problem and the urgency of tackling global warming, President Barack Obama laid out a plan to increase the nation’s reliance on clean renewable energy, reduce dangerous air pollution and tackle global warming.”

“President Obama has demonstrated real results in his first term,” Mr. Willcox added. “His speech tonight clearly shows that he is the right choice for our environment and our health going forward.”