Obama: Your kids ‘could not breathe’ in Beijing

President Obama defended his controversial environmental regulations on Wednesday, arguing that without efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. could be issuing smog warnings like China.

“I would just point to one simple example, and that is you would not want your kids growing up in Beijing right now, because they could not breathe,” Obama said.  

“And the fact of the matter is that used to be true in Los Angeles — as recently as 1970. And the reason it changed was because of the Clean Air Act,” he added.

Major Chinese cities Shanghai and Beijing have been the subject to smog warnings in the past year, alerting children and the elderly to remain indoors due to record pollution.

Obama’s comments were in response to a question on where he sees room for progress in removing regulatory burdens for businesses that could hinder competitiveness during a meeting at the Business Roundtable headquarters in Washington.

Obama also hinted at the benefits of an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to clarify the agency’s authority over certain bodies of water.

Obama said his hometown of Chicago used to be against the Clean Water Act, because “people said it would destroy our businesses and our competitiveness,” but now the commercial downtown part of Chicago is, “in large part, driven by a really big, radical piece of environmental legislation.”

“So there’s an example of something that — it’s inconvenient, it’s tough, but it’s the right thing to do. And, over time, I actually think it’s not only good for our quality of life, it’s actually good for our economy,” Obama said. “Because we’ve got some really innovative companies here and you guys figure out how to adapt to those regulations.”

The administration is beginning to play defense on the president’s landmark climate agenda, preparing for a battle with the incoming GOP majority in the Senate, which has vowed to fight Obama’s signature regulation on carbon pollution from existing power plants, and undermine his international negotiations to forge a climate treaty.