Former President Barack Obama critiqued what he said was a "temporary lack of U.S. leadership" on climate change and urged his audience to resist a global trend toward nationalism during remarks Tuesday to Montreal’s Chamber of Commerce.
Obama refrained from directly criticizing President Donald Trump, but he expressed confidence in the Paris deal to combat climate change, from which Trump recently announced the United States would withdraw.
“In Paris, we came around to the most ambitious agreement in history to combat climate change, an agreement that even with a temporary lack of U.S. leadership will still give our kids a fighting chance against climate change," Obama said.
The former president said he recognized that the "unrelenting pace" of globalization and technological change has not been beneficial for everyone. Hearkening back to the onset of industrialization in the Western world, Obama acknowledged "a great temptation to fall into the politics of nationalism and of tribe, of us vs. them.”
“It can seem that the international order we’ve created is constantly being tested and that the center may not hold," Obama said. "That can lead people to call for isolationism and nationalism, and the reduction in the rights of others. Or they can retreat, and argue that we have no obligations beyond our borders, beyond our tribe.“
The former president did not mention Trump by name in his prepared remarks, even though Quebecois dignitaries teed him up to take a swing at the current president in their introductions. Obama’s comments were optimistic, centering around an assertion that not all progress is linear.
"In times of disruption, we may go backward instead of forward," he said.