Barack Obama speaking at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Mar. 5, 2019. (Greater Vancouver Board of Trade)

Obama urges B.C. crowd to take action on climate change

Former president Barack Obama spoke to 3,000 British Columbians in his third stop on a cross-Canada tour

Former U.S. president Barack Obama urged a B.C. crowd Tuesday to work in partnership with our neighbours to the south to curb climate change in the transition to cleaner energy.

Hosted by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade at the Vancouver Convention Centre, the event was the 44th president’s third stop in Canada on a tour through the country. Earlier this week, he spoke to a crowd of 13,000 in Winnipeg, and a sold-out Saddledome in Calgary mid-day Tuesday.

During the hour Q-and-A with board president Iain Black, Obama reflected to roughly 3,000 people on his time in office and spoke on the future of international policy, all while bringing a sense of humour.

“Listen, Canada, we’re cousins,” he said. “I could walk around this place and I immediately feel at home.

“We share not just a border, we share culture, we share values, we share assumptions about how the world should work. It’s colder here, and generally your hockey is a little bit better.”

Obama carried much of the same tone in Vancouver as he did in Calgary, specifically when discussing pipelines and the future of transitioning to cleaner energy sources.

“The facts are the planet is getting warmer and you can’t attribute any single climate episode to rising temperatures but what you do know is that over time you get more wildfires, and then you get more floods, and you get more hurricanes, and tsunamis of greater force,” he said.

“You get more insect-borne diseases, and the jet streams start to change, and the sea levels begin to rise; permafrost melts and methane is released.”

He urged the audience to think about their grandchildren and the irreversible effects that will be the consequences of inaction. But he also said he recognizes the jobs and exports at stake in Canada’s oil industry.

While in office, Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline in 2015 after years in regulatory limbo. The proposed project, which would allow more oilsands crude to flow to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, has the support of his successor, President Donald Trump, but the pipeline remains mired in state-level legal wrangling.

Obama called Canada a leader in curbing climate change when comparing to the U.S., but urged leaders to “make real progress on this now,” estimating a 20-year window until the world starts seeing catastrophic impacts on the environment.

“Unfortunately, there is a tendency – more pronounced in the United States but in Canada as well – to pretend this isn’t going to happen,” he said.

The former president also spoke of his transition from his time in office, including having to figure out how to use the coffee maker, Michelle Obama’s new book and the Obama Foundation.

His last message was one of imploring leadership and empowering sensical decision-making.

“So much of what is touted out as leadership is old-style beating your chest, being louder, being noisier, being more self-centred, being greedier and being more aggressive,” he said.

“That can work for a short period of time, but it tends not to get the job done – not the complex modern society problems seen today.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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