In his inaugural speech at the COP21 climate change summit in Paris, President Obama acknowledged the terrorist attacks that occurred in the city earlier this month, but warned his fellow leaders not to be distracted from focusing on the looming threat of global warming.
“What greater rejection of those who would tear down our world than marshaling our best efforts to save it,” he said proudly.
Obama warned of a dark future if world leaders ignored the growing threat of climate change that “could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other.”
As has become customary for the president, Obama predicted doom for the planet, citing his summer visit to Alaska to personally view the effects of climate change.
“It was a preview of one possible future – a glimpse of our children’s fate if the climate keeps changing faster than our efforts to address it,” he warned. “Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields that no longer grow. Political disruptions that trigger new conflict, and even more floods of desperate peoples seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own.”
Using the rhetoric of a community organizer, Obama urged world leaders to make the conference in Paris matter for the future of the planet.
“What should give us hope, that this is a turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined that we would save our planet, is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realization that it is within our power to do something about it,” he said.
Obama spoke beyond the time limit, repeatedly ignoring the warning bell to continue his dramatic speech about the future of the planet. He admitted that the United States was guilty of being the second greatest carbon emitter but said he was committed to lowering carbon emissions.
“One of the enemies that we will be fighting during this conference is cynicism that notion that we can’t do anything about climate change,” he said, denouncing skeptics.
He cited Martin Luther King Jr. to lend moral authority and urgency to his campaign.
“I believe in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that there is such a thing as being too late and when it comes to climate change. That hour is almost upon us,” he said.
“The United States not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it,” Mr. Obama said.
“Let’s get to work,” he concluded.