“What we know is that — as human beings are placed under strain, then bad things happen,” the president told co-host Norah O’Donnell, in a conversation taped Wednesday. “And, you know, if you look at world history, whenever people are desperate, when people start lacking food, when people — are not able to make a living or take care of their families — that’s when ideologies arise that are dangerous.”
While one of Obama’s climate activist allies, Bill Nye the Science Guy, has made a similar argument recently, and the president has warned of political conflicts stemming from climate impacts, Obama has not generally made an implicit connection between terrorism and climate change.
Obama described Trump and other prominent Republican politicians as out of step with both current scientific findings and world opinion more broadly.
“Well — you know, Mr. Trump should run back a tape or quote on some of the stuff he’s said,” he said. “Ninety-nine-point-five percent of scientists in the world say this is a really urgent problem. Political parties around the world. The only people who are still disputing it are either some Republicans in Congress or — folks on the campaign trail.”
The president said current security threats, such as the Islamic State, can be resolved more easily than a long-term challenge, such as global warming.
“They will be defeated. There will be ongoing efforts to — disrupt the world order from terrorists, from rogue states, from cyberattacks. There’s always some bad people out there tryin’ to do bad things. And we have to be vigilant in going after them,” he said. “But, if you start seeing the oceans rise by five, six, seven feet — if — you see major shifts in weather patterns so that what have been previously— bread baskets to the world suddenly can no longer grow food, then you’re seeing the kind of crisis that we can’t deal with through the deployment of the Marines.”
Obama said he did not think he would accomplish all his climate goals before leaving office: “I don’t think any president ends the presidency saying, ‘I got everything done.’” But he said if he can spend time with a future grandchild in an environment that is not too degraded, he will be satisfied with his work.
“And when I’m holdin’ that little hand and — or pushin’ that kid on a swing — he or she — are able to enjoy that sunny day — and feel good about it and breathe clean air and go swimming in an ocean and… I can watch ’em play — that’ll be a pretty good legacy,” he said. “I’ll feel pretty good about that.”