Climate Change Doubters Will Be 'Pretty Lonely,' Obama Says

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama encouraged Americans to transition away from dirty energy sources during the 2016 State of the Union speech. (Image credit: The White House | <a href=" "> YouTube Screen Shot </a>)

Curbing climate change will protect the planet and help the green economy prosper, President Barack Obama said in the State of the Union last night (Jan. 12) in Washington, D.C.

In the speech, his seventh and last as president, Obama definitively said that climate change is real, and that the majority of Americans understand the need to address it.

"Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it," Obama said in the speech. "You will be pretty lonely because you'll be debating our military, most of America's business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community and 200 nations around the world who agree it's a problem and intend to solve it." [8 Ways Global Warming Is Already Changing the World]

This is hardly the first time Obama has discussed climate change during the State of the Union. Last year, he reported that "2014 was the planet's warmest year on record," and that "14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century."

In 2014, he reminded Americans, "Climate change is a fact."

Last night, he emphasized that stemming climate change would help the U.S. economy. 

"But even if — even if the planet wasn't at stake, even if 2014 wasn't the warmest year on record until 2015 turned out even hotter — why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?" Obama said, referring to global temperatures.

For instance, wind power is now less expensive than "dirtier, conventional power," he said, and solar energy now "employs more Americans than coal — in jobs that pay better than average."

He added, "We've cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly 60 percent and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth," in terms of total tonnage.

The president "nailed it with his comments on climate change," said Michael Mann, a distinguished professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University.

"He rightly ridiculed those who still deny the overwhelming evidence that climate change is real and human-caused," Mann told Live Science in an email. "Drawing an apt analogy with Sputnik and the space race, President Obama underscored how the U.S. stands to fall behind in terms of our international competitiveness if we fail to embrace the readily available solutions, namely wind, solar and renewable energy."

The president also mentioned other science themes — including the need to provide every student with "the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one," he said.

France Córdova, the National Science Foundation director, lauded Obama's message.

"We look forward to continuing to fulfill the agency's mission to promote the progress of science and engineering, which is crucial to our economy, global competitiveness and quality of life," Córdova said in a statement.

Follow Laura Geggel on Twitter @LauraGeggel. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Laura Geggel

Laura is the archaeology and Life's Little Mysteries editor at Live Science. She also reports on general science, including paleontology. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in science writing from NYU.