Obama Says Climate Change Is a ‘Threat That May Define’ the Century

Former President Barack Obama said Wednesday climate change is a “threat that may define the contours of this century more than any other.”

President Barack Obama speaks at Goalkeepers 2017, at Jazz at Lincoln Center on September 20, 2017 in New York City. (Credit: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)

Without a direct rebuke of President Donald Trump, Obama said that individuals and organizations must continue working on solutions to climate change, even if the US government has disengaged on the issue.

Speaking an event sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he quipped the Paris agreement was a “small agreement to save the planet.”

“Even if the federal government is not as engaged on these efforts as I would like,” the world is still making progress, Obama said.

Obama has reemerged in public infrequently since leaving the White House in January, focused instead on writing a memoir and traveling. He has spoken at a smattering of events for his own foundation, and appeared in Europe in May with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

This fall, Obama is due to appear more, holding events for Democrats running in an off-election year, including gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia.

When he’s spoken in public, Obama has avoided criticizing his successor Donald Trump, though he has released statements on Facebook decrying decisions Trump has made over the course of his presidency.

He was sharply critical of Trump’s plan to end a program shielding certain young immigrants from deportation, and he has been critical of attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the signature legislative accomplishment of his presidency.

In other areas, however, Obama has expressed more veiled displeasure. He didn’t respond directly to Trump’s equivocal comments about white supremacist violence in Virginia, instead tweeting a quote from Nelson Mandela (the tweet became the most liked of all time).

The two men have not spoken since the handoff of power on Inauguration Day, and their relationship is marked more by animosity than a shared respect at having both held the same office.

On Wednesday, Obama is expected to address the importance of supporting global development initiatives, including those highlighted by the Gates Foundation in their report.

The “Goalkeepers” report assesses a set of indicators pegged to the Global Goals, targets set by the United Nations in 2015 focused on reducing poverty and improving health. The report tracks statistics on child mortality, HIV rates and other areas to identify areas of need and single out successful methods for success.

Other speakers at Tuesday’s event include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, with whom Obama enjoyed a friendship while in office, and Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani female education activist.