President Barack Obama is back in the islands from his day trip to Midway Atoll.
He landed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam at around 8:45 p.m. Thursday.
Police stopped traffic on the H-1 Freeway viaduct to allow his motorcade to pass.
On Midway Atoll, the president talked about remembering the past and protecting the future.
During WWII, the atoll was the site of a deadly and hard fought battle against the Japanese.
Today, it’s part of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which Obama recently expanded, and serves as a home to many endangered and protected species.
Obama says Midway Atoll is the perfect place to study climate change, and it’s imperative to protect and manage the ecosystem there.
“I look forward to knowing that 20 years from now, 40 years from now, 100 years from now, this is a place where people can still come to and see what a place like this looks like when it’s not overcrowded or destroyed by human populations,” he said.
The president flew to Midway Atoll from Oahu Thursday morning.
He will spend the night on Oahu, then leave again Friday morning, this time for China to attend the G20 Summit.View his full remarks below:
Well, let me start by saying that this is hallowed ground. As I said before, the Battle of Midway was a turning point in the battle for the Pacific and World War II. An incredible number of young men lost their lives here protecting our freedom. And for us to be able to visit this monument and remind ourselves of the sailors and airmen and everyone involved who were able to rebuff a Japanese force that vastly outnumbered them is a testament to their courage and their perseverance.
It is also spectacular as an ecosystem. And our ability to not just designate, but build on, this incredible natural beauty, which is home to 7,000 marine species that sees millions of birds, many of them endangered, sea turtles, the Hawaiian monk seal, black coral — all sorts of species that in many other places we no longer see — for us to be able to extend that 550,000 miles in the way that we’ve done ensures not only that the Midway Atoll is protected, but that the entire ecosystem will continue to generate the kind of biodiversity. It allows us to study and research and understand our oceans better than we ever have before.
It’s also critically important for us to examine the effects that climate change are taking here in the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest body of water. And as I said yesterday, there are countries that now are at risk and may have to move as a consequence of climate change. There are enormous effects on the human presence in the ocean that creatures are having to adapt to and, in some cases, cannot adapt to.
And so for us to be able to protect and preserve this national monument, to extend it, and, most importantly, to interact with native Hawaiians and other stakeholders so that the way we protect and manage this facility is consistent with ancient traditions and the best science available — this is going to be a precious resource for generations to come. And it’s an example of the kind of visionary conservation measures that, although I’m the one who ultimately signs it, reflects the work of a lot of people and a lot of organizations and a lot of participation.
So we’ve very, very proud of what they’ve done. And I look forward to knowing that 20 years from now, 40 years from now, 100 years from now, this is a place where people can still come to and see what a place like this looks like when it’s not overcrowded or destroyed by human populations.
Thank you, guys.
Interview excerptsOn mobilizing the nation against the unseen threats of climate change:
Part of what we’ve been trying to do is provide some visual aid to understanding what’s happening, so when I visited Alaska, showing villages that are already being overwhelmed and having to move because of rising sea levels and changes in ocean patterns. When we come here, being able to highlight the incredible beauty of a place like this but also recognizing that if oceans continue to get warmer, that a lot of the marine species here could be affected and ultimately that’s going to have an impact on human populations, so it’s tough. The good news is that we’ve seen greater and greater awareness of the problem and what we now have is five, six, eight years of evidence that we can grow the economy faster than anybody else, we can create more jobs than anybody else, and curb our carbon emission more than anybody else, and so I think the average American wants to see us tackle these problems. It’s not at the very top of their list, but if they feel as if through smart policy, they can continue to see a rising standard of living and their economic concerns addressed while still helping address climate change, that’s going to be the direction that they want us to go in, and it’s my job and other leaders’ jobs to help present the kinds of ideas and strategies that can help us prosper and preserve.On whether he wants to make climate change a big part of his life and work after the White House and play a role in the debate:
I do. 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. 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. 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 and argue to them that if the private sector and the business community is embracing an agenda of clean energy and dealing with climate change effectively and insurers are pricing how they think about flooding and hurricanes and drought and wildfires based on projections that we’re seeing of climate change then there’s no reason why this is something that should be a partisan issue. This is something that all of us are going to have to tackle and maybe I get a little more of a hearing if I’m not occupying a political office.On advice to his successor on making progress and keeping the issue from becoming so partisan:
I think you stay with it and I think you make sure that you tell a story of previous success. Part of what I constantly want to emphasize is we’ve seen our ability to preserve the environment while still growing the economy. The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act transformed parts of the United States, urban and rural, that a lot of people had written off, whether it’s the Cuyahoga or LA smog or acid rain in the Northeast, or more spectacularly a hole in the ozone way above our heads that’s now actually healing itself in part because of steps that we took back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. So we have to have confidence in our ability to solve these problems. We’ve done it before; there’s no reason why we can’t do it this time.