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Say What? Obama on Sandy: 'We Can't Attribute Any Particular Weather Event to Climate Change


"...for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices."

U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference in the East Room of the White House. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In his first post-election news conference, President Barack Obama took the opportunity to address a variety of timely issues, including that of Hurricane Sandy and climate change.

A reporter asked Obama -- given his presidential endorsement from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his stance on climate change and the connections that were made between Sandy and global warming -- what his plans were regarding climate change in his next term.

Obama in his first words said, "we can't attribute any particular weather event to climate change."

Most scientists would be on board with Obama's statement as well, but in the days that followed Hurricane Sandy many were saying that although warmer weather might not have caused the storm, it could have fueled its intensity. Although, with hurricanes specifically, scientists are still unsure about how a warming climate impacts frequency and storm intensity. NPR's Adam Frank also wrote that more scientists are looking into the role man-made climate change could play in individual weather events as well.

Even with his comment regarding the weather, though, Obama said he is a "firm believer" in anthropogenic climate change.

"What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago. We do know that the Artic icecap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago. We do know that ... there have been an extraordinary large number of severe weather events here in North America but also around the globe," he said.

For this reason, Obama goes on to say, he thinks there is an obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change for future generations. He details how his current administration has already made strides in that -- doubling fuel-efficiency standards, increasing clean energy production and investing in technologies -- and what he's going to do next, starting with a conversation.

Obama said that the issue of man-made global warming is not only a partisan one but regional as well.

"I don't know what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point," he said.

"There's no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices. Understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that if the message is somehow 'we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change,' I don't think anybody is going to go for that. I won't go for that."

Obama called an agreement on this issue a hard one but important.

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While Obama prepares to have conversations with scientists, engineers and elected officials, as he said, some groups on both side of the political spectrum have recently met to discuss mitigation techniques, specifically a carbon tax.

On Tuesday, the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute held an all-day discussion of it. The more liberal Brookings Institution released a "modest carbon tax" proposal that would raise $150 billion a year, with $30 billion annually earmarked for clean energy investments.

A carbon tax makes people pay more for using fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas that produce the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

The idea was considered controversial enough in 2009, when President Barack Obama tried to pass a bill on global warming, that he instead wentfor the more moderate approach of a cap and trade system for power plant emissions. This idea passed in the House, stalled in the Senate in 2010 and didn't go any further.

On the state level, California moved forward with its cap and trade system on Wednesday. California Air Resources Board says it began selling pollution "allowances" for the first time as planned, in a closed, online auction.

The auction occurred despite a last-minute lawsuit from the California Chamber of Commerce, which has argued the program should be invalidated as an illegal tax.

How many companies purchased credits and how much they went for will be made public next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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