Obama pits CEOs against 'climate deniers'

President Obama sought to pressure "climate change deniers" in a recent interview, pitting them against CEOs of major corporations on the controversial issue. 

Obama said that most CEOs in the United States are paying attention to climate change and that they are more concerned with certainty surrounding the administration's climate policies than debating the science.

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"There aren’t any corporate CEOs that you talk to at least outside of maybe — no, I will include CEOs of the fossil-fuel industries — who are still denying that climate change is a factor. What they want is some certainty around the regulations so that they can start planning," Obama said in an interview with The Economist published on Saturday. 

"Given the capital investments that they have to make, they’re looking at 20-, 30-year investments. They’ve got to know now, are we pricing carbon? Are we serious about this?" Obama added.

The president drew a stark contrast between the questions CEOs are asking about his carbon pollution limits on existing power plants and the attacks from Republicans in Congress who say the standards will devastate the economy and businesses.

"But none of them are engaging in some of the nonsense that you’re hearing out of the climate-change [deniers]," Obama said. 

Companies like General Mills, Microsoft, IBM and Coca-Cola have joined efforts to mitigate climate change. Some oil companies like Shell have also joined others in supporting strong cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.

As for CEOs attitudes toward regulation, Obama said, "they always complain about regulation."

"Let's look at the track record. Let’s look at the facts," he said. "Our policies have produced a record stock market, record corporate profits, 52 months of consecutive job growth, 10 million new jobs, the deficit being cut by more than half, an energy sector that’s booming, a clean-energy sector that’s booming, a reduction of carbon pollution greater than the Europeans or any other country.

“I think you’d have to say that we’ve managed the economy pretty well and business has done OK,” he added.

The main reason for the disconnect between CEOs' views on climate change and those pushed by skeptical members of Congress may be their lobbyists, Obama said.

"There’s a huge gap between the professed values and visions of corporate CEOs and how their lobbyists operate in Washington. And I’ve said this to various CEOs," said Obama.

He added that he challenges the executives, and asks: "Is your lobbyist working as hard on those issues as he or she is on preserving that tax break that you’ve got? And if the answer is ‘no,’ then you don’t care about it as much as you say."

Still, a number of national business groups, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers to the American Petroleum Institute, are against the administration's regulations on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Those industry groups have vowed to fight the proposed standards, which they argue will impact every part of the energy sector, and multiple businesses.