Obama says leaders not taking climate change seriously “not fit to lead”

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US President says world leaders must act now on climate change, and those willing to gamble on business as usual are “not fit to lead.”

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US President Barack Obama has attacked political leaders who do not take climate change seriously, saying that they are “not fit to lead” and make up “their own shrinking island.”

In a speech in Alaska at the end of an 11-day tour of the US which has promoted renewable energy, championed solar and called for action on climate change, Obama’s comments appeared pitched at domestic politics, as well as the lead-in to the Paris climate talks less than 100 days away.

He painted something of a doomsday scenario if swift action was not taken. Entire nations will find themselves facing severe, severe problems: “More drought. More floods. Rising sea levels. Greater migration. More refugees. More scarcity. More conflict,” Obama said.


“Any leader willing to take a gamble on a future like that, any leader who refuses to take this issue seriously or treats it like a joke, is not fit to lead.

“The time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers is past. On this issue — of all issues —there is such a thing as being too late. And that moment is almost upon us.”

His comments came as negotiations resumed in Bonn overnight, attempting to hone an 89-page text into something that could be chiselled into shape for the Paris climate conference, which if it doesn’t lock in a binding treaty with firm 2°C targets, is at least expected to define the mechanisms to reach that target.

Obama hailed his own country’s target of a 26 per cent cut in emissions level from 2005 by 2025, which is being accompanied by strict emissions targets designed to force dirty coal-fired generation out of the market.

The Republicans have vowed to fight and overturn these laws. Only one out of the 17 Republican presidential candidates says he accepts the science and the need to act on emissions.

The Conservative push-back against climate action is spreading to other English-speaking countries, too. In the UK, the re-elected Tory government is scrapping subsidies for renewable energy – or “that green crap” as prime minister David Cameron is reported to have described it.

Canada’s Stephen Harper has been a laggard on climate action too, preferring to fast track the vast tar oil sands industry, and winding back environmental protections and efforts to install a carbon price.

Australian leader, Tony Abbott, who borrowed his “axe the tax” slogan from a preceding campaign in Canada, has done exactly that; scrapping the carbon price, cutting the renewable energy target, and winding back research and other climate action, as well as seeking to dismantle key climate and clean energy institutions.

Canadian author Naomi Klein told ABC TV’s Q&A program on Monday that the infamous Koch Bros, key backers of climate denier groups, were likely to spend up to $1 billion in the upcoming presidential campaigns.

In Australia, it is thought that more than half of the governing Coalition MPs and Senators reject climate science. Leading conservative commentator Tom Switzer insisted that conservatives broadly accepted the science, but then cited contrarian scientists such as Richard Lindzen and Judith Currie who downplay the impacts and the urgency.

Modelling produced by the Coalition suggests than even a 45 per cent emission reduction target by 2030 would have little impact on GDP, over and above its own 26-28 per cent target, despite the environment minister Greg Hunt insisting that labor’s mooted 50 per cent reduction target would cost $660 billion.

Abbott and his Cabinet say that he will not sacrifice the economy to save the environment, and insists that coal is “good for humanity” and Australia should exploit vast coal reserves such as the Galilee Basin. It is considering funding the rail link and port upgrade needed to export that coal.

Obama is facing his own critics in the US over approvals granted to Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic, but has spent this trip underlining his efforts to bring in a transition to renewable energy fuels.

“We’re proving that there doesn’t have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic goals,” he said.

But Obama warned that climate change, left unchecked, would soon trigger global conflict and “condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair,” Associated Press reported.

Obama said the Arctic was warming faster than any other corner of the globe, and melting permafrost and disintegrating sea ice risked floods, fires and “unimaginable economic damage.”

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  1. suthnsun 4 years ago

    Obama is correct on this, if only he had not granted drilling approvals in the arctic! All exploration should be banned as part of global agreements.

  2. Rob G 4 years ago

    Switzer was still trotting out all the old tired lines: “Lifting the third world out of poverty. China and India pressing further forward on coal and doing nothing much in renewables….” Even Tony Jones was apparently ignorant on the true progress of renewables – he ought to know better given his numerous interviews with knowledgable renewable people.

    • Peter 4 years ago

      Indeed, Switzer’s argument was ‘business as usual’.
      On May 21 this year, Switzer the host of ‘Between the Lines’ on ABC Radio National discussed climate change but the only guest he had on was Nigel Lawson a leading climate denier.

      That I think reflects Switzer’s thoughts on climate change.

  3. onesecond 4 years ago

    People still don’t get the urgency and severity part. This must change before it is too late, time is running out. Once hundred of millions of climate refugees overrun Europe, Australia and North America, these societies will collapse in war and turmoil. Once that happens I guess four or five billion people will die in a worsening environment due too food and water scarcity. We are talking about the acidification and collapse of the entire marine ecosystem, severe droughts, natural disasters and collapsing societies all at once.

  4. john 4 years ago

    The problem as I see it no government that lives by a short 3 to 4 year electoral cycle is going to put in place policies that future elected governments will reap the benefit from.
    The very effective FUD campaigns have worked for over 50 years to delay change to vested industries interest, and one could argue they are free to do that.
    While this is a moral situation I am afraid lip service is paid to the morality of any case when the short term future of an elected government is being judged.
    The present business model is to say ” Climate change is happening, it has happened before, it is natural, it is beneficial. The conclusion being that humans are only responsible for a tiny proportion of it.”
    FUD is than used to guide the story down cherry picked areas with spurious data and argument to further confuse.
    I do not see much effort other than by responsible society’s that have a strong moral purpose as in northern Europe as to the English speaking countries their moral compass is sadly pointing in the wrong direction.
    I hope I am wrong.

  5. Geoff 4 years ago

    The problem here is governments and how they are structured. electoral cycles as short as they are do not allow policies enough time to sink in and make real impact. the only way that this can happen is say the US democrats get re-elected over and over and over again. then something may happen, but what are the chances of that happening? Fossil fuel companies in bed with political conservative parties must end. bipartisanship is needed desperately if we are going to succeed. as Jarrod Diamond wrote in the book called collapse “either the human race will come up with solutions or governments will need to force a new order so that humanity, to some smaller degree can be saved.” I know what option i prefer…

  6. Michael Hannon 4 years ago

    Obama, like many of the world leaders are being influenced by the forces that keep them in office – The All Powerful – Military Industrial Energy Complex. He has preached “All of the Above” energy supplies his entire presidency, including what he used to say a lot – “Clean Coal”, an actual oxymoron.
    He’s working on his legacy with his famous rhetoric now and is not doing enough to make the “Change” that he promised. Instead of pushing back on the forces that are trying to kill the renewable energy momentum, he is engaged in meaningless photo ops. Real action would be to support a carbon cap and trade, or Solar Credit program nationwide, with a ban on Arctic drilling and things like the Keystone pipeline.

    • Glennson 4 years ago

      It’s too little too late. The arctic is rapidly and irreversibly melting down thereby exposing the methane monster. Everything visible unto the naked eye will be dead before the century is out. There will of course be no eyes to see it.

  7. Les Johnston 4 years ago

    Switzer was also claiming that air temperature rises from global warming were not taking place based upon a few anecdotes. This ignores the ocean warming issue which is the massive sink for heat energy relative to surface air temperatures.

  8. Phil 4 years ago

    I’ve got a 10kwh per day 24/7/365 6 x 9’s uptime (far better than grid ) off grid electricity model that works anywhere north of Sydney with an unshaded location.It costs $8k upfront for all up for those happy to check the traction battery water levels every 4 weeks. The C.O.O is $2.20 per day incl investment interest and consumables as long as you D.I.Y install. Offset your other carbon with tree planting and a carbon neutral world in Australia is quite easy to achieve without any government assistance whatsover. So why do we need 3 levels of governments when all the public assetts ( just about ) have been sold off , privatised , have become monopoly cartels and making huge profits and STILL get subsidised. ?. Make them redundant by NOT using them is my mantra.

  9. Miles Harding 4 years ago

    “Abbott and his Cabinet say that he will not sacrifice the economy to save the environment”

    We have morons at the controls!

    These guys believe their own garbage. Looking in from the resource and environment side, it is obvious that the economy is totally dependent on the environment and failing to appreciate this is the one of the worst forms of delusion.

    The natural environment that supports economic society is under tremendous stress on all fronts. We see the results of this stress in areas including depletion of fisheries, aquifer failure, fresh water scarcity, death of species, cropland failures, fertiliser availability, declining metal ore grades, strange weather patterns and heat stress. We haven’t even got to the ultimate calamity caused by global warming, destabilised weather systems and greatly rising sea levels.

    If we allow the Tony government to get it’s way, our descendants will be living with such environmental changes that it is doubtful that industrial society will have any chance at all of survival and those that remain will be back to hunting and gathering on a planet, more like that of the dinosaurs. At least obesity won’t be a problem.

    If we have a failure in any of the environmental inputs, we don’t have an economy. no amount of wishful thinking or chanting of mantras is going to change this.

    Contrary to Joe Hockey’s assertion, ‘Growth’ (I doubt he even knows what it means) is not a cause, it’s an effect and an unsustainable one at that.

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