Obama at SXSL: US has to lead on climate change


The political systems that run countries around the world aren’t designed to tackle threats like climate change immediately, President Obama said Monday, but incremental changes can leave the planet a better place for future generations. 

{mosads}Speaking from South By South Lawn, an innovation festival held at the White House modeled after the South By Southwest festival, Obama called for the development of new technologies to address climate change but stressed changes in policy and attitudes wouldn’t happen overnight. 

“Climate change is almost perversely designed to be really hard to solve politically. It is a problem that creeps up on you,” Obama said. 

“The political system in every country is not well designed to do something tough now to solve a problem that people will really feel the impact of in the future. The natural inclinations of political systems is to push that stuff off as long as possible.” 

But incremental changes the U.S. and other leading countries make every year can lead to an eventual solution. 

“What I always tell my staff is … better is good. Better is not always enough. Better is not always ideal, and in the case of climate change, better is not going to save the planet. But if we get enough better each year, we’re doing something that’s making more progress and moving us forward, increasing clean energy, then that’s ultimately how we end up solving this problem,” Obama said. 

He added: “We’re going to have to straddle between the world as it as and the world we want it to be.” 

The U.S. and other world leaders will need to come up with sources of energy that are both “clean and cheap.” 

“It takes time to ramp up these new energy sources, and we’re in a battle against time,” Obama said. 

“The best way we can spur that kind of innovation is either create regulation that say, ‘Figure it out, and if you don’t figure it out, you’re going to pay a penalty,’ or to create something like a carbon tax that gives an economic incentive for businesses to do this.” 

Though, he added, the current environment in Congress isn’t one that’s friendly toward a carbon tax and is probably “a ways away.” 

“I think having an understanding that we’re not going to complete this transition overnight — that there are going to be some compromises along the way — that’s frustrating because science tells us we don’t have time to compromise. On the other hand, if we want to get something done, we have to take people’s current views into account,” Obama said.

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