WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The president acknowledged that the United States remained the number two emitter of greenhouse, or carbon gases on the planet, contributing to global warming after being the number one emitter for so many years.
"We have the means to… avoid irreparable harm," Obama said in his more-than-20 minute opening speech to the three-day GLACIER (Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience) conference on late Monday afternoon, local Anchorage time. "We’re just not doing it fast enough."
If global leaders did not join to act decisively to reduce carbon emissions, Obama warned "entire nations will find themselves under severe, severe problems: more drought; more floods; rising sea levels; greater migration; more refugees; more scarcity; more conflict."
Obama argued that only major steps taken quickly and in concert by the international community could bring about the rapid changes that were essential to reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere and bring down the rate of global warming.
"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," he said. "It's not enough to just have conferences. It's not enough to just talk the talk. We've got to walk the walk."
Obama was speaking the same day he outraged conservative traditionalists by restoring the original name, Mount Denali, to North America’s tallest mountain, which had for more than century been known as Mount McKinley by in honor of President William McKinley who was assassinated in 1901.
On his three day visit to Alaska, Obama plans to visit melting glaciers and eroding coastlines, which he referred to in his speech.