The former president addresses the greatest challenges facing the world, and what we can do about them
by Barack Obama
Friday 26 May 2017 06.00 BST
During the course of my presidency, I made climate change a top priority, because I believe that, for all the challenges that we face, this is the one that will define the contours of this century more dramatically perhaps than the others. No nation, whether it’s large or small, rich or poor, will be immune from the impacts of climate change. We are already experiencing it in America, where some cities are seeing floods on sunny days, where wildfire seasons are longer and more dangerous, where in our arctic state, Alaska, we’re seeing rapidly eroding shorelines, and glaciers receding at a pace unseen in modern times.
Over my eight years in office, we dramatically increased our generation of clean energy, we acted to curtail our use of dirty energy, and we invested in energy efficiency across the board. At the 2015 climate change summit in Paris, we helped lead the world to the first significant global agreement for a low-carbon future.
But here’s the thing: even if every country somehow puts the brakes on emissions, climate change would still have an impact on our world for years to come. Our changing climate is already making it more difficult to produce food, and we’ve already seen shrinking yields and spiking food prices that, in some cases, are leading to political instability. And when most of the world’s poor work in agriculture, the stark imbalances that we’ve worked so hard to close between developed and developing countries will be even tougher to close. The cost will be borne by people in poor nations that are least equipped to handle it. In fact, some of the refugee flows into Europe originate not only from conflict, but also from places where there are food shortages, which will get far worse as climate change continues. So if we don’t take the action necessary to slow and ultimately stop these trends, the migration that has put such a burden on Europe already will just continue to get worse.