"Climate change is not a hoax," President Obama declared to a cheering crowd on Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention.
Obama's declaration was a drastic departure from Mitt Romney's statements at the Republican National Convention. The GOP presidential nominee evoked laughter from his audience last week when he announced, "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise ... is to help you and your family."
At the time, critics voiced their outrage, with climate scientist Michael Mann tweeting, "Romney's cynical denial of climate change is the real threat to our families, to our children & grandchildren's future."
Romney's stance on climate change has ranged over the years, as he's shifted from a seemingly clear understanding of the consequences of anthropogenic climate change, to a declaration that “we don’t know what’s causing climate change,” to a recent statement that humans contribute to our warming world, but the extent is unclear and "there remains a lack of scientific consensus" (despite evidence to the contrary).
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) tackled Romney's RNC remarks head-on Thursday night, arguing, "Despite what you heard in Tampa, an exceptional country does care about the rise of the oceans and the future of the planet. That is a responsibility from the Scriptures. And that too is a responsibility of the leader of the free world."
Later Thursday evening, Obama declared: "Yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet because climate change is not a hoax." Over cheers, he continued, "More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it," he added, bringing the audience to its feet.
Obama also offered examples of his green achievements in the speech, touting regulations requiring automakers to double gas mileage on cars and trucks by 2025, adding, "We have doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines, and long-lasting batteries. In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by one million barrels a day, more than any administration in recent history. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly two decades."
The Daily Beast notes though that a good portion of the increase in domestic energy occurred on private land, and part of the drop in imports could be because of Americans struggling to make ends meet.
Not all of Obama's speech appealed to environmentalists, as he promoted oil and gas exploration, and an increase in natural gas production, even as the fracking debate heats up across the country, with residents voicing both health and environmental concerns.
Yet, Obama insisted, "I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan, or endanger our coastlines, or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers."
Many environmental groups praised Obama's statements, including 350 Action Fund Executive Director May Boeve, who said in a statement, "Hopefully, those who think climate change is a joke were watching tonight and will learn to stop denying the obvious -- the world is warming, we are causing it, and we have a responsibility to do something about it.”