President Barack Obama delivered an impassioned plea for urgency on the issue of climate change during his first public appearance of a three-day Alaska trip.
Speaking before an audience that included representatives of 18 foreign nations and the European Union, Obama declared the United States’ commitment to vigorously address its greenhouse gas emissions.
“I’ve come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating this problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it,” Obama said.
The President also repeatedly emphasized that time is running out for the nations of the world to head off the most significant impacts of climate change.
“On this issue, of all issues, there is such a thing as being too late,” he said. “That moment is almost upon us.”
Obama’s speech at the gathering known as Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience also delved deeply into the impacts Alaska and the rest of the American West are already facing as human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases alter the planet’s atmosphere.
During his visit to Alaska this week Obama is observing some of those impacts on the landscape of the nation’s geographically largest state.
He visited Kenai Fjords National Park to see a receding glacier on Tuesday and became the first American chief executive to travel north of the Arctic Circle on Wednesday.
Obama’s visit to the village of Kotzebue will include a meeting to discuss the impact of climate change on the region’s native communities.
He will also announce more than $20 million in increased funding for energy efficiency programs that benefit those villages.
Earlier in the week the President said that his administration would work with Alaskan native governments to improve management of Pacific salmon runs in the state.
President Barack Obama aboard a U.S. Coast Guard vessel in Kenai Fjords National Park, Sept. 1, 2015. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.