Just how urgent is climate change, Mr. President?

In his opening remarks at the U.N., Obama said “there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”

But at the end of the speech, he concluded that “you and I may not live to see all the fruits of our labor …”

Well, is it urgent or not?

The AP for once did a bit of fact checking on the Obama screed that warned of dire consequences if the world doesn’t act right now to curb carbon emissions.

Obama addresses the Climate Summit, at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

“Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth,” Obama boasted, neglecting to note that about half of the U.S. emission reduction is due to the lingering recession and not bothering to mention that while we don’t burn as much coal as we did, we still dig it out of the ground and ship it overseas, where it is burned.

Nor is the science settled as Obama would have us believe when he says “our understanding of climate change has advanced — both in the deepening science that says this once-distant threat has moved ‘firmly into the present’ …”

In fact, Dr. Steven Koonin, undersecretary for science in the Energy Department during President Barack Obama’s first term, writing in The Wall Street Journal recently, points out:

“Even though human influences could have serious consequences for the climate, they are physically small in relation to the climate system as a whole. For example, human additions to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by the middle of the 21st century are expected to directly shift the atmosphere’s natural greenhouse effect by only 1% to 2%. Since the climate system is highly variable on its own, that smallness sets a very high bar for confidently projecting the consequences of human influences.”

Koonin then relates the problem with the models used to forecast dire consequences:

“Although the Earth’s average surface temperature rose sharply by 0.9 degree Fahrenheit during the last quarter of the 20th century, it has increased much more slowly for the past 16 years, even as the human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen by some 25%. This surprising fact demonstrates directly that natural influences and variability are powerful enough to counteract the present warming influence exerted by human activity.

“Yet the models famously fail to capture this slowing in the temperature rise. Several dozen different explanations for this failure have been offered, with ocean variability most likely playing a major role. But the whole episode continues to highlight the limits of our modeling.”

Yet Obama insists, “We have to cut carbon pollution in our own countries to prevent the worst effects of climate change. We have to adapt to the impacts that, unfortunately, we can no longer avoid. And we have to work together as a global community to tackle this global threat before it is too late. ”

Even though we will not live to see the fruits of our labor in our lifetimes, though we will get the bill for higher costs in the mail.