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MILAN — Former President Barack Obama gave his first speech abroad since leaving office and addressed the dangers of climate change — and joked about the lighter side of his post-presidential life.
During a Q&A with former White House chef Sam Kass, Obama was asked what he doesn't miss about the White House.
Obama said the list was long, but at the top of it was the isolation of being president.
“You live in what’s called ‘the bubble,’” Obama said. "And it is a very nice prison. So you don’t have the freedom of movement to just take a walk or to sit at a café.”
"Now I am only captive to selfies, which is almost as bad," he said.
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“I can walk anywhere as long as I’m willing to take a selfie every two steps,” Obama joked.
Obama was in Milan on Tuesday, at the Seeds and Chips Global Food Innovation Summit to discuss the dangers of climate change, and warned that the issue would “define the contours of the century more than others.”
On the same day Obama spoke about the threat of climate change, conservative groups urged President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also delayed a meeting on the subject for a second time late Monday, according to the Associated Press.
Still, the former president urged the international community to take the issue seriously.
“Over my years in office we acted dramatically to curtail dirty energy. In Paris we helped to lead the world to the first significant global agreement for a low carbon future,” Obama said. “But even if every country puts a break on emissions that exists today, climate change will still have an impact on the world we live in today.”
Obama made the connection between climate change and changes with food production and consumption across the globe.
Seeds and Chips, the organization hosting the summit intended to highlight global food innovation, focuses on revolutionary ways to produce food. The organization seeks to change the ways in which food is produced, processed, distributed, communicated and consumed, according to its website.
“The good news is that because of the work of many of you, the innovations you are already investing in, we’re starting to see a better way to feed a growing planet, combat hunger and malnutrition, put healthy food on the table, save our environment, and none of this is impossible,” Obama told the crowd.
Although he never mentioned Trump by name, Obama acknowledged the current president is leading the country in a different direction when it comes to the planet warming.
Despite the differences between the two presidents, Obama was optimistic that he laid the groundwork to help the United States eventually reduce emissions.
“Obviously, the current administration has differences with my administration in terms of energy policy, and that’s part of what happens in democracy,” Obama said. “The good news is, in part because of what we did over the last eight years, the private sector has already made a determination that our future is in clean energy.”
Claudio Lavanga reported from Milan, Kalhan Rosenblatt from New York.