The White House - Press Office - Remarks by the President at Arnold, Missouri Town Hall
Now, there is a long-term problem that we've got to deal with, and that's is a tough one. And that is this issue of climate change. I want to tell you the truth here because this is going to be a debate that we're going to be having over the course of the next year. The average person probably thinks, yes, climate change, that's kind of a drag, but it's not one of my top priorities -- because you don't really see it or feel it, it doesn't hit your pocketbook, it doesn't have to do with your job directly. And so the tendency is just to kind of push it off. People think, well, this just has to do with polar bears, and I feel bad about polar bears but I've got other things to worry about.
I don't think people fully appreciate the potential damage
-- economic damage, as well as environmental damage -- that could be done if we are not serious in dealing with this problem. If the temperature goes up a couple of degrees, well, it will change weather patterns pretty significantly. It could create droughts in places where we haven't had drought; it could bring insect-born diseases up into places like Missouri that we haven't seen before. But we can probably manage. If the temperature of the planet goes up 5 degrees, you're now looking at coastlines underwater. You're now looking at huge, cataclysmic hurricanes, complete changes in weather patterns. Some places will get hotter, some places will get colder. Our economy would be disrupted by tens of trillions of dollars.
So this is no joke. And the science shows that the planet is getting warmer faster than people expected. Even the most dire warnings, it's gotten -- it's moved forward faster than anybody expected. They're talking about, just in a few years, during the summer, there won't be any ice in the Arctic, something we have never seen before. So we have to do something about it.
Now, if we do that in a smart, gradual way and in a way that protects consumers from the initial attempts of utilities, for example, to pass on those costs to consumers -- which is what they'll try to do, so we've got to rebate some of that money to make sure that people are held harmless -- then I actually think that we can get control of this problem, we can save the polar bears, but more importantly we can make sure that we are preserving our economy.
And here is the great opportunity. Everybody knows that we're going to have to do this. The country that gets there fastest, the country that's the first one to figure out really good battery technology for a plug-in hybrid car, the first country that perfects wind power and solar power and knows how to get it from one place to another in an efficient way, that country will dominate the economy of the 21st century the same way that America dominated the 20th century. I want that to be America. That's what we're fighting for. (Applause.)