A Harvard University geochemist who serves as a scientific adviser to President Obama is urging the administration to wage a "war on coal."

"The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants," Daniel P. Schrag, a member of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, told the New York Times. "Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”

The remarks come on the eve of a much-anticipated climate change speech from the president Tuesday at Georgetown University.

Conservatives on social media instantly seized on the quote, arguing that they believe that's  the administration's true motives when it comes to climate change.

Schrag, a longtime advocate of capping carbon emissions, is a respected academic who has researched the impact of global warming. While he sits on a group of scientific advisers that provides advice to the president through the Office of Science and Technology Policy, he is not closely involved in setting regulatory policy for the White House.

Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.