Speaking to graduating cadets at the US Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday, President Obama once again outlined his administration’s case for ambitious climate action. At the heart of today’s speech: the president’s contention that global warming constitutes an immediate threat to America’s national security and will cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars if left unchecked.
Watch the highlights from the speech above.
Obama took direct aim at climate change deniers in Congress. “Denying it—or refusing to deal with it—endangers our national security and undermines the readiness of our forces,” he said. “Politicians who care about military readiness ought to care about this too.”
“Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security,” Obama added. Refusing to act, he said, is “a dereliction of duty.”
Casting climate change as major threat at home and abroad, Obama detailed how warming could accelerate political instability and civil strife, prompt expensive and complex rescue missions in the wake of natural disasters, and hit US military assets along the coast. In the Arctic, he said, “we’re witnessing the birth of a new ocean.”
Obama also focused on the economic costs of rising seas: “A further increase in sea level of 1 foot…by the end of this century could cost our nation $200 billion,” he said.
“We need the Coast Guard more than ever,” Obama said. “Cadets, the threat of a changing climate cuts to the very core of your service.”
Today’s remarks are the latest in a string of climate-focused speeches by Obama in the run-up to global climate talks in Paris later this year. The commencement address contained very similar language to the president’s State of the Union speech in January. “The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe,” he said then. “The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”
In the Florida Everglades last month, Obama also took a shot at Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) for bringing a snowball onto the Senate floor in a bizarre effort to dispute climate science. “If you have a coming storm, you don’t stick your head in the sand,” he said. “You prepare for the storm.”