Protesters lined the streets outside the conference center on Monday, holding a yellow flag with Shell's logo that said "Hell, no!" along with a giant banner that said "Save the Arctic." In a state that is heavily dependent on oil revenue, the issue is divisive, with environmental activists opposing Arctic drilling but many residents and officials saying it is a matter of survival.
In his speech, Mr. Obama defended his record on climate change and laid out his case for the stringent carbon emissions rules he announced in August.
"We are working hard to do our part to meet this challenge, and in doing so, we're proving that there doesn't have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth," Mr. Obama said, taking on an argument often cited by industry leaders and opponents of pollution limits.
And he offered scathing criticism of those who question the need for such measures or deny the science behind them, making an implicit dig at Republican presidential candidates. "Those who want to ignore the science, they are increasingly alone," Mr. Obama said. "They're on their own shrinking island."
He also challenged what he suggested was complacency by ordinary citizens who fear they could be deprived of creature comforts. "Let's be honest; there's always been an argument against taking action," Mr. Obama said. "We don't want our lifestyles disrupted. The irony, of course, is that few things will disrupt our lives as profoundly as climate change."
From the New York Times:
In a particularly striking warning, Mr. Kerry said in a speech earlier on Monday that climate change — reflected by what he called "seismic changes" in temperatures and sea levels — could soon create waves of new refugees forced to abandon traditional homes or to fight for food and water.
"You think migration is a challenge to Europe today because of extremism, wait until you see what happens when there's an absence of water, an absence of food or one tribe fighting against another for mere survival," Mr. Kerry said.
He compared the scale of the challenge to World War II, when "all of Europe was overrun by evil and civilization itself seemed to be in peril," and said world leaders needed to rise to the occasion to address it.