President Barack Obama challenged fellow world leaders in unusually blunt language Monday to act boldly on climate change or “condemn our children to a world they will no longer have the capacity to repair.”
In a forceful address, Obama opened the “GLACIER” conference in Anchorage, Alaska, by declaring: “We are not moving fast enough. None of the nations represented here are moving fast enough.”
That includes the U.S., which Obama said “recognizes our role in creating this problem and embraces our role in solving it.”

Obama is using the three-day GLACIER conference — it stands for Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience — as a way both to highlight the perils of global warming and to cement his environmental legacy. He directly attacked politicians who argue that climate change isn’t real, saying they “are on their own shrinking island.”
“The time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers is past,” the president said.
Unless the world acts more aggressively and more quickly, he said, “entire nations will find themselves under severe, severe problems: More drought. More floods. Rising sea levels. Greater migration. More refugees. More scarcity. More conflict.”
Related: Breaking the Ice: Obama Seeks to Cement Climate Change Legacy
In language unusual for a diplomatic setting, Obama contended, “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.”

“It’s not enough to just have conferences,” he said. “It’s not enough to just talk the talk. We’ve got to walk the walk.”

A general view of the west face of Mount Denali, formerly Mount McKinley, in Denali National Park in Alaska. Mike Powell / Getty Images — file
The setting was carefully chosen — opening the first visit by a sitting president to the Alaska Arctic on the day North America’s tallest peak, Mount McKinley, was officially renamed to its original name, Mount Denali.
The high-profile three-day journey will include viewing melting glaciers and eroding coastlines and chats with salmon fishermen whose livelihoods are being affected — as well as an appearance on an episode of NBC’s “Running Wild With Bear Grylls.” The episode is set to air later this year.
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