“We can’t treat these things as something that we deal with later,” the president said, standing in front of the Yosemite Falls. “Make no mistake, climate change is no longer just a threat – it’s already a reality.”
“Here in Yosemite meadows are drying up. Bird ranges are shifting farther northward. Alpine mammals like pikas are being forced further up slope. Yosemite’s longest glacier, at once a mile wide, is now almost gone,” the president explained.
For his part, the president announced the United States has protected more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters as well as achieved more victories under the Endangered Species Act – the most of any administration in history.
But he warned that “rising temperatures could mean no more glaciers at Glacier National Park” or “no more Joshua Trees at Joshua Tree National Park.”
“That’s not the America I want to pass on to the next generation,” the president, 54, said. “The idea that these places could be married or lost to history? That’s to be taken seriously. ”
To rise to the challenge, Obama says the country needs to stick on the path it has been on, doing things like monitoring the levels of carbon emissions.
“We’ve jump-started a clean energy revolution,” he said. “We can’t give lip service to that notion but then oppose the things that are required to protect it.”
The trip comes after more than two dozen foundations, companies and nonprofit organizations signed on to the President s Every Kid in a Park initiative, which commits to funding trips for nearly half a million 4th grade children to America’s national parks and other public lands and waters.
“It’s a park that captures the wonder of the world. That changes you by being here,” he said of the park. “There’s something sacred about this place.”
Related Video: Beyoncé and Michelle Obama Hug It Out in Central Park!
“You’ve got to come here to breathe it in yourself,” the president added on Twitter.
“These parks belong to all of us. This planet belongs to all of us. It’s the only one we’ve got,” he continued.
Prior to visiting Yosemite, the Obama family visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park in Roswell, New Mexico.
The president said his Yosemite trip brought up memories of the first time he visited the national park.
“I remember being an 11-year-old kid the first time I saw a moose in a lake,” Obama recalled. “The first time we drove over a hill and there was a field full of deer. The first time I saw a bear and his cub. That changes you. You’re not the same after that.”
“It makes your whole body feel better. It makes your spirit feel better and cleaner,” he added, stressing that those who had never seen it “change that.”