President Barack Obama drew a strong age distinction at a youth town hall in Myanmar, blaming the "old" for leaving the next generation with the "mess" of climate change.
He also warned that island nations are most endangered from rising sea levels, which could “swallow up entire countries.”
“The issue of climate change is a perfect example of why young people have to lead,” Obama said at a town hall for the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative.
“Because old people, they've created a mess, and then they'll be gone, and then you, you're the ones who have to deal with it,” Obama said to applause. “And also what happens is old people get set in their ways. So the older you get, the more likely you are to say, that's how it's always been so that's how I'm going to keep on doing it even if there's a better way to do things.”
He continued, “Young people, they're asking, well, why do I have to do it that way? Let's try it this way. And that kind of willingness to accept challenges and try things in a new way, to not be stuck in the past.”
Obama is expected to announce a U.S. pledge of $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund at this weekend's meeting of G-20 industrial nations in Australia. The fund is to help poor countries deal with climate change.
Obama talked about the agreement with China announced earlier this week for both countries to reduce their carbon emissions by 2020 and beyond. He said that the United States is encouraging all countries to find ways to have a greener economy using alternative energy such as wind and solar in time for the Paris climate change conference in 2015. He also gave dire warnings.
“We're on a trajectory in which the temperatures could rise so high that it would have catastrophic impacts around the world because temperatures start changing, weather patterns shift,” Obama said. “Traditional monsoon seasons might completely reverse themselves, areas that once used to have arable land suddenly now have long droughts, and areas that used to be temperate suddenly get floods. We're seeing the impacts in developed countries. We see it in my own country and we're seeing impacts in poor countries and we're seeing impacts, obviously, in island nations where if the temperatures continue to rise, we'll end up with oceans that are 2 feet or 3 feet higher, and it could swallow up entire countries.”