ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- After arriving in Alaska Monday afternoon, President Barack Obama spoke bluntly on what his administration believes is one of the most pressing matters in the world -- particularly in places like the union's 49th state: Climate change.
Obama arrived in Anchorage at about 1:40 p.m. local time (5:40 p.m. EDT) and immediately met with Alaskan natives in a roundtable discussion. He then attended the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER), where his address emphasized an urgency to act.
"We know that human activity is changing the climate. That is beyond dispute. Everything else is politics," he said.
"Any so-called leader who does not take this issue seriously, or treats it like a joke, is not fit to lead," he continued. "It will not be easy. There are hard questions to answer ... but if we unite our highest aspirations, if we make our best efforts to protect this planet for future generations, we can solve this problem."
Obama said the issue of global warming is one that affects everyone on Earth -- particularly those in northern and Arctic areas, such as Alaska. Those who downplay or deny the effects of climate change, Obama said, would soon find themselves on a "shrinking island" of their own.
The State Department hosted the two-day event Sunday and Monday. Obama departed the White House earlier Monday to join the second day of the event, which he said would discuss domestic and international policy regarding policy the Arctic.
Secretary of State John Kerry was also in attendance at the conference.
"We are not moving fast enough. None of the nations represented here are moving fast enough," Obama said. "And let's be honest. There's always been an argument against taking action. The notion is that this will curb our economic growth."
Obama did not outline specific new programs or policies, saying only that he will introduce climate change-related measures in the coming days, Anchorage's KTUU-TV reported.
The White House said Obama's trip to Anchorage would "shine a spotlight on what Alaskans in particular have come to know: Climate change is one of the biggest threats we face."
"I'm going because Alaskans are on the front lines of one of the greatest challenges we face this century: climate change," Obama says in a preview video produced by the White House. "In Alaska, glaciers are melting ... storm surges once held at bay now endanger entire villages."
Administration officials said the trip allowed the president "to see firsthand the impacts of climate change on the region."
Earlier Monday, Obama announced the Department of the Interior's changing the name of Mount McKinley to Denali -- which in the Alaska Native Koyukon Athabascan language means "Great One."