Part of Barack Obama’s vision of his post-presidency leans on a paradox: convincing his harshest political foes to come around on climate change, an issue on which they vigorously disagree.
In an interview conducted Thursday on the Midway Atoll island with the New York Times, Obama revealed he wants his career to include work on climate change issues after leaving the Oval Office on Jan, 20. The comment comes after he spent several days in Nevada and Hawaii touting his own record as a conservationist.
“I think that this is something that I will continue to be concerned about. I think anybody who has the megaphone that even an ex-president has needs to be working on this and raising awareness,” Obama told the newspaper, according to a partial transcript released by the White House.
“One of the things that I probably can do best is, in addition to shining a spotlight, helping citizens who are concerned about this to mobilize and shape political strategies so that on a bipartisan basis, we can be more effective in dealing with these challenges,” he said.
Obama and congressional Republicans have never seen eye-to-eye, and they made clear before he even took office that they would attempt to thwart his agenda. On the flip side, lawmakers of both parties have criticized Obama for doing too little Capitol Hill outreach and arm-twisting.
But seven years of bad blood and legislative dysfunction hasn’t completely led the outgoing president to conclude Republicans simply will never abide by his whims.
“My hope is maybe as ex-president, I can have a little more influence on some of my Republican friends who, I think up until now, have been resistant to the science,” Obama said.
He hopes, once back in civilian life, that his political opponents will come around to his views that “insurers are pricing how they think about flooding and hurricanes and drought and wildfires based on projections that we’re seeing of climate change.” Once they do, Obama says, there will be “no reason why this is something that should be a partisan issue.”
Obama, who has endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton while being very critical of GOP nominee Donald Trump, also had a little advice for how his successor should tackle climate change and make it less of a matter on which there is so much distance between the two parties.
“I think you stay with it and I think you make sure that you tell a story of previous success,” he said. “Part of what I constantly want to emphasize is we’ve seen our ability to preserve the environment while still growing the economy.”
“We have to have confidence in our ability to solve these problems,” Obama said. “We’ve done it before. There’s no reason why we can’t do it this time.”
To be sure, there would be ample distance on climate change between Clinton and Republican members. During a December town hall event, she suggested they are in “denial” about the planet’s changing climate, urging Republicans to “go talk to” scientists.