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Obama To Put A Human Face On Dangers Of Climate Change


In Paris today, President Obama will try to put a human face on the dangers of climate change. He's meeting with the leaders of island nations who are among the first to feel the effects of rising sea levels. NPR's Scott Horsley is traveling with the president. He joins us now from Paris. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: President Obama obviously knows something about islands. He grew up in Hawaii, and he spends his Christmases there. But why is he focusing on island nations in Paris?

HORSLEY: In urging his fellow leaders to get serious about climate change, Obama says no nation is immune to the threat of rising temperatures and all the things that go along with that. But of course, island nations are particularly vulnerable. You know, they're just above sea level. They have the least margin for error as sea levels rise. So this is an opportunity for the president to signal some urgency to his fellow leaders here.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We know the truth that many nations have contributed little to climate change, but we'll be the first to feel its most destructive effects.

HORSLEY: Obama says for island countries, whose leaders he's meeting with, climate change is a threat to their very existence.

WERTHEIMER: Now the idea that countries bear different responsibilities for climate change also comes up when we talk about developing countries like India. President Obama met this week with India's prime minister. How'd that go?

HORSLEY: Well, India still has hundreds of millions of citizens who are living without electricity, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi says any fix for climate change has to account for his country's economic development. The way the prime minister put it was advanced countries must leave enough room for developing countries to grow.


PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI: Access to energy and a better life is a universal aspiration and so are clean environment and healthy habitats.

HORSLEY: Obama agrees. He says the fix for climate change can't be just telling poor countries, you know, lump it. We can't afford any more carbon pollution that would come with your citizens getting electricity. Instead, he's relying, in part at least, on technological advances to make cleaner forms of electricity cheaper and more widely available. Yesterday, Obama and Modi both appeared at an event with Microsoft founder Bill Gates. He's heading up an initiative of private investors seeking out that kind of technological breakthrough.

WERTHEIMER: Now a lot gets done at these kinds of meetings that doesn't necessarily have to do with the subject of the meeting, and I suspect that's what's happening when the president meets today with the president of Turkey. Yesterday, he met with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. These two are on opposite sides of the Syrian civil war, and I assume that's what they talked about.

HORSLEY: And that opposition came to a head last week when Turkey downed that Russian jet flying in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces. You know, this just illustrates all the conflicting agendas in Syria. The Turks are nervous about the Kurds, who are fighting alongside the Americans. The Russians are mad at the Turks. Everyone's mad at ISIS, but that's not necessarily at the top of anyone's to-do list, except for President Obama and maybe French President Francois Hollande.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley, he is traveling with the president. They are in Paris. Scott, thank you very much.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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