National Journal

President Obama took aim Saturday at the trend of Republicans citing their absence of scientific credentials as a reason to avoid questions about global warming.

Obama even compared them unfavorably to the many other Republicans who reject the overwhelming verdict of scientists that human-induced climate change is real.

"Today's Congress ... is full of folks who stubbornly and automatically reject the scientific evidence about climate change. They'll tell you it is a hoax, or a fad," Obama said at a commencement address at the University of California (Irvine).

"Now, their view may be wrong — and a fairly serious threat to everybody's future — but at least they have the brass to say what they actually think. There are some who also duck the question. They say — when they're asked about climate change, they say, 'Hey, look, I'm not a scientist.' 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 science is a liberal plot, so I'm not going to admit it,'" Obama said.

Obama didn't name-check any specific lawmakers. But his comments arrive two weeks after House Speaker John Boehner deflected a question about whether climate change is a problem by saying, "Listen, I'm not qualified to debate the science over climate change." Boehner then alleged that EPA rules to curb power plants' carbon emissions would hurt the economy.

Boehner's comment arrived a couple days after GOP Florida Gov. Rick Scott said, "I'm not a scientist" in deflecting a question about whether human-induced climate change is real.

The "not a scientist" line isn't entirely new, however. Sen. Marco Rubio, who has recently spoken a fair amount about his climate skepticism, used it as far back as 2009, before he was elected.

Obama, in his speech Saturday, also announced the National Disaster Resilience Competition.

Under the roughly $1 billion program, communities that have been hit with natural disasters can compete for money to "help them rebuild and increase their resilience to future disasters," according to a White House summary.

The money will be made available through the Housing and Urban Development Department using existing funds.

The White House said that $820 million will be available for states and local governments that were struck by a "presidentially declared major disaster" in 2011, 2012, or 2013. States specifically affected by Hurricane Sandy can compete for a separate pot of around $180 million to address "critical housing needs," the White House said.

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