President Obama Urges Action on Climate at Graduation Address

President Obama UC Irvine Commencement
President Barack Obama speaks at the University of California, Irvine commencement ceremony at Angels Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, California on June 14, 2014. (Image credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama spoke out about climate change over the weekend, during a commencement speech he delivered to new graduates at the University of California, Irvine.

More than 30,000 people gathered at the graduation ceremony at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, California, Saturday (June 14).

In addition to talking about student loan debt and the country's "still-healing job market," Obama urged the graduates to take action against climate change, which he called "one of the most significant long-term challenges that our country and our planet faces." [5 Ways Climate Change Will Affect Your Health]

Obama once again declared that climate change is a fact, and railed against naysayers who ignore the scientific evidence that human activities are causing global warming.

"It's pretty rare that you'll encounter somebody who says the problem you're trying to solve simply doesn't exist," Obama said in his speech. "When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, there were a number of people who made a serious case that it wouldn’t be worth it; it was going to be too expensive, it was going to be too hard, it would take too long. But nobody ignored the science. I don't remember anybody saying that the moon wasn't there, or that it was made of cheese."

The president criticized certain members of Congress who claim that global warming is a hoax, and those who maintain that climate change isn't happening.

"[W]hen they're asked about climate change, they say, 'Hey, look, I'm not a scientist,'" Obama said. "And I'll translate that for you. What that really means is, 'I know that man-made climate change really is happening, but if I admit it, I'll be run out of town by a radical fringe that thinks climate change is a liberal plot, so I'm not going to admit it."

Obama encouraged the new graduates to take action, saying the next generation cannot afford to ignore the effects of climate change.

"This is a fight that America must lead," Obama said. "So I'm going to keep doing my part for as long as I hold this office and as long as I'm a citizen once out of office. But we're going to need you, the next generation, to finish the job."

Last year, Obama unveiled an ambitious climate change strategy that focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preparing communities for the effects of a warming planet and driving global efforts to address climate change.

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a draft proposal to cut harmful emissions from power plants. If approved, the rules would curb carbon emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels over the next 25 years, the agency said.

Still, Obama told the graduating class that despite the challenges they may face as they begin a new phase of their lives, it is imperative to remain hopeful about the future.

"Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or started a business, or fed a young mind, or sent men into space," Obama said. "Cynicism is a choice. Hope is a better choice."

Follow Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Denise Chow
Live Science Contributor

Denise Chow was the assistant managing editor at Live Science before moving to NBC News as a science reporter, where she focuses on general science and climate change. Before joining the Live Science team in 2013, she spent two years as a staff writer for, writing about rocket launches and covering NASA's final three space shuttle missions. A Canadian transplant, Denise has a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto, and a master's degree in journalism from New York University.