Obama Is Optimistic On Paris Agreement Despite "Temporary Absence Of US Leadership"


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Hope, not hate. Evan El-Amin/Shutterstock

Former President Obama’s time out of office hasn’t dulled his ability to respond to an atrocious trashing of both his legacy and the planet with tact and eloquence. Whenever prompted to criticize the actions of the Trump administration, he never refers to the President directly; rather, he offers implicit criticism veiled in optimism.

The latest example of this comes out of Seoul, where Obama was giving a speech at a wide-ranging conference organized by South Korea's Chosun Ilbo media group. Before touching on the tricky subject of North Korea and its unyielding aggression, the former President made a reference to the groundbreaking climate agreement.


“The Paris agreement, even with the temporary absence of US leadership, will still be a critical factor in helping our children solve the enormous challenge in civilization,” he said.

Along with this not-so-subtle dig at the Trump administration and the infestation of climate denial that’s gripped the federal government, he also reportedly praised the actions of other nations still working towards meeting the Paris agreement’s goals.

The juxtaposition is so extreme that it's painful. Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

The Obama administration was one of the major influencers behind the Paris climate change agreement, and its conception in December 2015 caused an eruption of global celebration. When the accords were officially ratified by America and China last year, Obama declared it to be the “moment we decided to save our planet.”

Seeing his administration’s climate legacy being torn apart by President Trump and his surrogates must be both incredibly distressing and immeasurably painful, but as ever, Obama has reacted with hope, not fear or frustration. He posits that the work of the rest of the world, followed by a potential reversal of fortunes in the US, will win the day for climate change in the end.


This latest statement has echoes of his reaction back in June to the infamous White House Rose Garden announcement to pull the country out of the Paris accords.

“Even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got,” he said at the time.

The only difference this time is subtle, but notable. Obama refers to the absence of American leadership on the issue as “temporary,” signaling that there’s a chance this dark age of isolationism won’t last for long.

[H/T: CNN]


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