President Obama didn’t let a graduation commencement speech at the University of California, Irvine go to waste, using his spot at the podium to rail against skeptics of climate change, whom he called “a radical fringe.”
“Since this is a very educated group, you already know the science [on climate change],” Obama told the crowd of nearly 8,000 graduates, gathered at Angel Stadium on Saturday.
“The 18 warmest years on record have all happened since you graduates were born,” said Obama, who cited fires in Western states, smaller snow packs in mountainous tourist areas, and flooding streets in cities like Miami to make his case about the fallout from climate change.
Obama also used those examples to unveil a new $1 billion competitive fund to help communities that have been hit by natural disasters due to extreme weather.
He also took jabs — without mentioning political parties — at those who are considered to be skeptical of man-made climate change.
“Part of what’s unique about climate change is the nature of some of the opposition to action,” Obama said, claiming that “it’s pretty rare that you’ll encounter somebody who says the problem you’re trying to solve simply doesn’t exist.”
He mentioned President Kennedy’s ambitious plan to land on the moon, saying that while people were critical of whether such a mission could be successful, “nobody ignored the science.”
“I don’t remember anybody saying that the moon wasn’t there or that it was made of cheese,” said Obama.
He said that Congress “is full of folks who stubbornly and automatically reject the scientific evidence of climate change.”
He put skeptics in two groups — those who have developed theories against man-made climate change and those who silently agree that the climate is changing but publicly waffle on the issue.
He said that the latter group ducks questions on climate science by saying, “Hey look, I’m not a scientist.”
“I’ll translate that for you,” said Obama. “What that really means ‘I know that man-made climate change really is happening but if I admit it I’ll be run out of town by a radical fringe that thinks climate science is a liberal plot so I’m not going to admit it.'”
Obama also used the speech at UC-Irvine to speak out against cynicism about the country’s direction and tout some of his accomplishments while in office.
“Consider this: since the time most of you graduated from high school, fewer Americans are at war,” Obama said. “More have health insurance. More are graduating from college. Our businesses have added more than nine million new jobs. And the number of states where you’re free to marry who you love has more than doubled. That’s just some of the progress you’ve seen.”
During his trip to California, Obama stopped by a Democratic National Committee fundraiser held at the home of J. Paul Getty oil heiress Ann Earhart. Attendees paid $32,400 to take part in a round-table discussion with Obama.