Obama hits GOP on climate change

President Obama said congressional Republicans were "embarrassed" they had to feign ignorance on the science of climate change or risk being "run out of town by some fringe elements" during a speech to environmental activists on Wednesday.

"In Congress, folks will tell you climate change is a hoax or a fad or a plot - it's a liberal plot," Obama said during a speech to the League of Conservation Voters. "And then, more recently, because many of them know better and they're just embarrassed, they duck the question. They say, 'Hey, I'm not a scientist.'"

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Obama said that concerns lawmakers might be "run out of town by some fringe elements" lead them to "pretend, I don't know, 'I can't read.'"

"I'm not a doctor either, but i know if a bunch of doctors tell me that tobacco can cause lung cancer then I'll say, ok," Obama quipped. "Right? It's not that hard."

The president's comments seemed directed squarely at House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who late last month told reporters he was "not qualified to debate the science over climate change."

"But I am astute enough to understand that every proposal that has come out of this administration to deal with climate change involves hurting our economy and killing American jobs," Boehner continued. 

Republicans have voiced outrage over proposed EPA regulations that would restrict the amount of carbon pollution that can be emitted by existing power plants. The rules, they argue, will spike energy prices and lead to the loss of jobs in industries like coal mining.

Obama insisted Wednesday, though, that "we can act in ways that protect our environment and promote economic growth at the same time." 

He said he had secured $300 million in private sector commitments to accelerate clean energy technology during a meeting earlier in the day with business leaders at the White House, and noted the costs of extreme weather events on the economy.

Top Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, fellow Californian Henry Waxman and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) were in attendance at the event.

The president closed his remarks by encouraging climate change activists to stay persistent even though Congress remained opposed to taking more dramatic action. 

He said he had recently spoken to San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who rallied his championship team with an allegory about a stonecutter who hammered at a rock repeatedly with seemingly little to show for it. 

"One day the rock splits open," Obama said. "Not because one person comes up or one president comes up and strikes a mighty blow, but because all of the work that comes before."