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Leonardo DiCaprio: If You Do Not Believe in Climate Change You Should Not Hold Public Office

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During an hour-long sit down about climate change at the inaugural South by South Lawn (SXSL) with President Obama and leading climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe on Monday, Leonardo DiCaprio made a clear dig at climate change deniers.

"The scientific consensus is in, and the argument is now over," the Revenant actor and environmental activist said in his opening remarks. "If you do not believe in climate change you do not believe in facts or science or empirical truths, and therefore in my opinion, you should not be allowed to hold public office."

Even though DiCaprio did not name names, the comment has been interpreted as an attack on Donald Trump, who believes climate change is "a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese" (even though the Republican presidential candidate denied what he actually said at last week's presidential debate).

The Oscar winner was at the White House to promote his new Fisher Stevens-directed documentary Before the Flood, which highlights the perils of a warming planet.

As The Guardian observed, Stevens said he plans to screen the film at college campuses and swing states such as Florida, where Marco Rubio is running for his Senate seat again.

"Rubio is a climate change denier, and we want to get these deniers out of Congress, to make them understand the Paris [climate] accords are important and that we need to do more," Stevens said.

Back at the SXSL stage, DiCaprio pressed the president to grade the global response on climate change thus far. While Obama said he was hopeful about some progress such as the Paris Agreement, more fuel-efficient cars and investment in clean energy, Obama warned that "obstructionist politics" are an obstacle in combating rising emissions.

"Climate change is happening even faster than five years ago or 10 years ago," Obama said. "What we're seeing is the pessimistic end of what was possible, the ranges that had been discerned or anticipated by scientists, which means we're really in a race against time. We can't put up with climate denial or obstructionist politics for very long, if we want to leave for the next generation beautiful days like today."

Obama also said that "the likelihood of an immediate carbon tax" to force businesses to curb emissions "is a ways away."

"It's frustrating because the science tells us we don't have time to compromise, but if we want to get anything done we have to take people's current views into account," he said.

President Barack Obama, scientist Katharine Hayhoe and Leonardo DiCaprio on the South Lawn of the White HouseWhite House screen grab

DiCaprio asked Hayhoe to name the most urgent threats facing modern-day civilization.

"We think of poverty, hunger and disease and people dying today from preventable causes that nobody should be dying from in 2016," Hayhoe said. "We think to ourselves climate change, we can deal with that later. We can no longer afford to deal with climate change later."

"On average every year 200,000 people die from air pollution from burning fossil fuels," in the U.S. alone, Hayhoe said. "Air pollution alone gives us all the reason we need to shift toward clean energy, let alone climate change."

Hayhoe suggested that a way of reaching climate skeptics "is to connect this issue to what's already in our hearts."

While climate change is a highly politicized issue, Obama said that people across the political spectrum must agree that tackling global warming is important for our future.

"There are many entry points into this issue, and we have to use all of them to get people to care about this," Obama said. "But at the end of the day, everyone cares about their kids and grandkids and the kind of world we pass on to them."

Before the Flood will air on the National Geographic Channel globally in 171 countries and 45 languages on Oct. 30.

DiCaprio said at SXSL that he was purposely releasing the documentary before the November election to highlight the political importance of the issue.

Watch the entire SXSL here (starts at 38:20):

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