The departing chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa P. Jackson, says she cringes whenever she is asked if President Barack Obama is truly serious about confronting climate change.

Of course he is, she tells them. "I don't think you need clues. The president has been really clear ... I'm not sure how much clearer he could be."

And yet even Jackson herself was caught off guard last month, when sitting just steps from Obama during his second-term swearing-in, the president cited the threats posed by climate change so prominently in his inaugural address.

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