In an interview with Vox released Monday, Obama said he "absolutely" believes that the media "sometimes overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism" as opposed to "climate change."
Asked to confirm Tuesday if this means Obama believes "the threat of climate change is greater than the threat of terrorism," Earnest responded, "The point the president is making is that there are many more people on an annual basis who have to confront the impact, the direct impact on their lives, of climate change, or on the spread of a disease, than on terrorism."
Asked again, "So the answer is yes, the president thinks that climate change is a greater threat than terrorism," Earnest responded, "The point that the president is making is that when you are talking about the direct daily impact of these kinds of challenges on the daily lives of Americans, particularly Americans living in this country, that that direct impact, that more people are affected by those things than by terrorism."
Asked one more time if "climate change is more of a clear and present danger to the United States than terrorism," Earnest shifted gears, "Well I think even the Department of Defense has spoken to the significant the threat that climate change poses to our national security interests, principally because of the impact it can have on countries with less well developed infrastructure than we have."
At the beginning of the briefing, Earnest read a moving tribute to Kaya Mueller, an American woman who was killed recently while in the custody of the Islamic State. Earnest did not say how many Americans climate change has killed this year.