While actor Leonardo DiCaprio will generate plenty of buzz when he speaks with President Obama and atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe on the South Lawn on Monday night, it’s worth noting that this is not the first time the Oscar winner has interviewed an American president about the state of the climate.
It’s just that this time, the climate is in much, much worse shape.
DiCaprio sat down with Bill Clinton in the White House in March 2000, when he was in town to host a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Earth Day. During that event, DiCaprio asked Clinton why the issue of global warming was “so constantly overlooked,” and whether he would rank it as important as health care and education.
“Oh yes, over the long run, it’s one of the two or three major issues facing the world over the next 30 years,” Clinton replied. “I think it’s because it takes a long time for the climate to change in a way that people feel it, and because it seems sort of abstract now.”
While Clinton took pains to detail some of the evidence, noting at the time that nine of the 11 “warmest years on record have occurred in the last decade,” most of the impacts he described would occur in the future.
“So, the climate is changing, and the globe is warming at an unsustainable rate,” the president said. “And if it is not slowed and ultimately reversed, what will happen is, the polar ice caps will melt more rapidly; sea levels will rise; you will have the danger of flooding in places like the precious Florida Everglades or the sugar cane fields of Louisiana; island nations could literally be buried.”
DiCaprio, who stars in and produced the new National Geographic film on climate change, “Before the Flood,” will talk with Obama as part of the White House’s South by South Lawn festival.