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Climate Change a 'Critical Issue,' Obama Says
September 4, 2015

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Global climate change “is going to be one of the critical issues that you face,” President Obama told 500 Mandela Washington Fellows in early August.

Climate change “will affect everybody,” he told the Fellows, who were meeting in Washington for the second annual Fellowship Presidential Summit. Obama added that developing countries will likely be most affected “because they have less margin of error” to cope with extreme weather changes.

President Obama gesturing (© AP Images)
President Obama addressed the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows in Washington.

Credit: © AP Images

While some countries try to ignore the threat, he said, “you have to project where you will be 20 years from now. … Find new, sustainable ways of generating energy that don’t produce carbon.”

The president emphasized that the United States supports entrepreneurs working in the fields of clean energy and conservation. He noted that the Young African Leadership Initiative’s online courses provide entrepreneurs with basic information on how to create a business or nonprofit.

The United States is taking aggressive action to reduce carbon emissions that lead to climate change and will take part in the United Nations’ climate-change conference in Paris later this year, the president said. The Obama administration recently unveiled a major plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s coal-burning power plants.

Obama pointed out that when he was in Nairobi, he highlighted the U.S.-initiated Power Africa program. Launched in 2013, the program brings the private sector and governments together to increase the number of sub-Saharan Africans with access to electric power. Part of that, he said, is putting solar panels on the roofs of rural homes. The panels will cost the same as what residents now pay for kerosene.

Children in faint light (USAID)
With more clean-energy lighting, children have more time to study. Credit: USAID


“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It‘s the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs. And it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy,” Obama said when he announced Power Africa.

Earlier in the summer, the president called climate change a threat to national security and said that an increase in natural disasters will lead to more humanitarian crises that pose direct threats to stability. The White House has said that responding to extreme weather competes for scarce resources and will affect the global economy.

In June, Obama announced a $34 million international public-private partnership to help developing countries strengthen their climate resilience.