Saturday morning on MSNBC's "Up with Chris Hayes," host Chris Hayes introduced the topic of climate change to the panel. He discussed how the issue has been hijacked by the right wing and made into a culture war video, while Republican elected officials, such as those elected to the U.S. House of Representatives are demonstrating "the most depraved kind of denialism" of the issue.
Hayes opened the show by saying that he was surprised to hear such a clear commitment to tackling the problem of climate change in President Barack Obama's inaugural speech this week.
"We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations," Obama said. "Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it."
Hayes said that these were strong words given that the topic of climate change almost never came up during the campaign, and wasn't mentioned at all in any of the presidential and vice presidential debates. The main obstacles to action on climate change, however, are not in the president's inaction.
"If you were to start listing the obstacles to climate progress in order," he said, "You'd start with the major fossil fuel companies themselves, then you go to the conservative noise machine that has converted climate change into a culture war issue, another example of 'out-of-touch elites trying to tell you what to do. And then the House Republican caucus, which almost unanimously committed to the most depraved kind of denialism. Then, Senate Republicans, who managed to kill the last big climate bill, and then Democrats from coal country and other regions that depend on fossil fuel extraction, and then Democrats who say they care about climate change, bout wouldn't go along with the kind of filibuster reform that would the Senate Climate Bill a reality, and only after that, you would get to President Barack Obama."
Panelist Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council said that members of her organization were very excited to hear the president make such a "bold commitment" to the environment.
Ta-Nehisi Coates from the Atlantic was sanguine about the overall power of the so-called "bully pulpit," saying that the president's rhetoric, while not always resulting in new legislation, goes a long way toward combating the "cynicism" that some on the left feel when watching no one take any action on climate change.
"I think people underestimate how much presidential silence depresses the base," Coates said, making people depressed and disengaged from the political process.
"I think it really does motivate people," said Beinecke. "If he's going to lead, they're going to come behind."
Watch the video, embedded via MSNBC, below: