Obama Insists Climate Deal Will Outlast GOP 'Climate Denial' With a Paris climate agreement just over a week old, President Obama is singling out the GOP on climate change in an interview with NPR.
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Obama Insists Climate Deal Will Outlast GOP 'Climate Denial'

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Obama Insists Climate Deal Will Outlast GOP 'Climate Denial'

Obama Insists Climate Deal Will Outlast GOP 'Climate Denial'

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's follow up on this claim President Obama made to reporters on Friday.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As I look back on this year, one thing I see is that so much of our steady, persistent work over the years is paying off for the American people in big tangible ways.

MONTAGNE: This was a year when Obama finally reached a nuclear deal with Iran and a climate deal with most of the world. Those agreements took years. Obama's supporters argue he's playing the long game. An even longer game begins soon. The president discussed it with Steve Inskeep during a year-end interview.

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: That longer game comes after the president is gone. We discussed this on the red carpet of the White House Cabinet room where a new president will preside in just over a year.

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INSKEEP: Whoever takes over this office after you might be a Democrat, might be a Republican. There may be a Republican Congress again. There likely will be a majority of Republican governors across the country, Republican state legislatures because Democrats have lost so very many elections in the last several years. How much risk is there that they will undo large parts of your legacy as many Republicans actually have promised to do?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I'm confident that a Democrat will win the White House. And I think when you look at the quality of our Democratic candidates and what the Republican Party seems to be offering up, I think we'll do well. Second of all, I think we've got a good chance of winning back the Senate.

INSKEEP: Democrats are given a chance of gaining ground in 2016, but they have suffered profound election defeats during Obama's tenure. The president blames this in part on redistricting. Democrats had a terrible year in 2010, allowing Republicans more power in drawing up election district maps soon after. The president dismisses the idea that his policies are to blame. He's hoping Democrats will run on his record.

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OBAMA: And I think we've got a great track record of real progress on a whole range of fronts. And if we make those arguments clearly and forthrightly and aren't defensive, then I'm actually confident we'll do just fine.

INSKEEP: Have you insulated the climate deal, for example, which is so important to your legacy, from being undone by a future president, given that many of the commitments you made in Paris are not legally binding?

OBAMA: Well, keep in mind that the Republican Party in the United States is perhaps literally the only major party in the developed world that is still engaging in climate denial. Even far-right parties in other places acknowledge that the science shows that temperatures are going up, and that that is a really dangerous thing, and we've got to do something about it. And the deal that we struck in Paris was an example of American leadership at its best. We were able to mobilize 200 countries to make serious commitments that are transparent, where every country is going to be held accountable, where everybody chips in. And it doesn't solve the entire problem, but it puts the world on track to deal with a problem that could be monumental in its effect if we don't do something about it. Now the Republican Party right now is still resistant to it, but I'm confident that given the progress we can make with the clean power plant rule that reduces carbon emissions through our power plants...

INSKEEP: Which dozens of Republican governors are suing.

OBAMA: Well, they opposed, but it's under the Clean Air Act, and we're confident that it's within our power. I think that the signal that we're sending to the private sector, that will in turn invest heavily in solar and wind and battery technologies, the doubling of fuel efficiency standards on cars, all these things start taking on a momentum of their own.

INSKEEP: The president contends the use of clean energy is soaring. Solar power, for example, still provides only a tiny percentage of U.S. energy, though Obama says it is 20 times greater than it was when he took office.

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OBAMA: And the reason is is because people started adapting, and it turns out, hey, Americans know how to innovate. And what we decide...

INSKEEP: So they can't stop you?

OBAMA: What it means is that by the time that even a Republican president came into office, what you would have seen would be a growing realization that not only should we do something about climate change, but it's not only a challenge, it's also an opportunity, that it's creating jobs, that it's making a difference in people's lives, that consumers are saving money.

INSKEEP: In other words, the president contends his programs will survive any election results. The political reality may be more complex. Democrats believe they have an advantage on this issue. Hillary Clinton, for example, is planning to make climate change a major theme if nominated. That could give her a mandate to move beyond Obama's record if she wins. Of course, if Democrats lose, that would create a different political landscape on climate. In the end, Obama is counting on his achievements to sell themselves.

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OBAMA: When I doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars, that puts money in people's pockets. When you retrofit a building so that it's got better temperature control and you cut your light bill by 20 percent, 30 percent, you know what? Even consumers or even Republican consumers end up saying, that's not a bad deal. In fact, when it comes to solar power, you've got this weird coalition between environmentalists and tea partiers in some Western states because the traditional dirty fuel industry is trying to prevent a greater utilization of solar power. And so a lot of these things get institutionalized not just through government policy but through the impact that it has on the marketplace and the private sector.

INSKEEP: President Obama in a year-end interview, reflecting on how much of his legacy will outlast him.

MONTAGNE: And there is more of Steve's conversation to come. Next Monday, the president poses a question to his successor. At npr.org, you can find video of the president's remarks on ISIS, race and Donald Trump.

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