Former President Barack Obama on Monday urged world leaders to ramp up efforts to combat climate change, lamenting what he referred to as “active hostility toward climate science” from Republicans and the Trump administration.
In his speech before the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Obama criticized former President Donald Trump and other Republicans for reversing policies implemented under the Obama administration and obstructing comprehensive action in Congress.
“When it comes to climate, time really is running out. We have not done nearly enough to address this crisis,” Obama said during the conference, with John Kerry, his former secretary of state and now President Joe Biden’s climate envoy, in the audience.
Obama said that “progress stalled” on climate change when his “successor decided to unilaterally pull out of the Paris Agreement in his first year in office,” referring to Trump. “I wasn’t real happy about that,” he added.
Despite “four years of active hostility toward climate science coming from the very top of our federal government,” Obama said, the U.S. wound up meeting its original commitment under the Paris Agreement.
Obama, however, emphasized that the U.S. and other countries must step up their response to the changing climate, cautioning, “It’s not just that we can’t afford to go backward — we can’t afford to stay where we are.”
Obama said that he would have done more to address the issue during his eight years in office if he had “a stable congressional majority that was willing and eager to take action.” He said that he didn’t have that majority for the bulk of his presidency.
“Gaining such majorities require an engaged citizenry willing to do what it takes to reward politicians who take this problem seriously and send out of office those who don’t,” said Obama, who said that Biden’s $1.75 trillion social safety net package, if passed, would be “historic and a huge plus for U.S. action on climate change.”
The legislation would allocate more than $550 billion to tackle the climate crisis by expanding clean energy tax credits and lowering carbon emissions, among other things.
Obama said that both he and Biden have been “constrained by the absence of a robust majority.” He added that they’ve been hamstrung “in large part by the fact that one of our two major parties has decided not only to sit on the sidelines, but express active hostility toward climate science and make climate change a partisan issue.”
The former president concluded his speech by encouraging people to pressure companies to “do the right thing” when it comes to climate change and to persuade people to change their minds on the issue. He said that people who are eligible to vote should “vote like your life depends on it, because it does.”