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Obama on Climate Change: The Trends Are ‘Terrifying’

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MIDWAY ATOLL — Seventy-four years ago, a naval battle off this remote spit of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean changed the course of World War II. Last week, President Obama flew here to swim with Hawaiian monk seals and draw attention to a quieter war — one he has waged against rising seas, freakish storms, deadly droughts and other symptoms of a planet choking on its own fumes.

Bombs may not be falling. The sound of gunfire does not concentrate the mind. What Mr. Obama has seen instead are the charts and graphs of a warming planet. “And they’re terrifying,” he said in a recent interview in Honolulu.

“What makes climate change difficult is that it is not an instantaneous catastrophic event,” he said. “It’s a slow-moving issue that, on a day-to-day basis, people don’t experience and don’t see.”

Climate change, Mr. Obama often says, is the greatest long-term threat facing the world, as well as a danger already manifesting itself as droughts, storms, heat waves and flooding. More than health care, more than righting a sinking economic ship, more than the historic first of an African-American president, he believes that his efforts to slow the warming of the planet will be the most consequential legacy of his presidency.

During his seven and a half years in office, Mr. Obama said, a majority of Americans have come to believe “that climate change is real, that it’s important and we should do something about it.” He enacted rules to cut planet-heating emissions across much of the United States economy, from cars to coal plants. He was a central broker of the Paris climate agreement, the first accord committing nearly every country to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

To read the full article and watch the video interview from the NY Times, please click here.

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