President Obama set off on a trans-Pacific voyage on Wednesday, his 10th trip to Asia as president and most likely his last chance to showcase two of his most cherished projects: the focus on Asia and the campaign to curb climate change.
For Mr. Obama, it is a mixed record. He hopes to announce further progress with China on climate change, which has become a rare bright spot in an otherwise fraught relationship. But his drive to reassert the United States’ presence in Asia has been jeopardized by a political backlash against his ambitious trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
On Wednesday, the president began his travels by focusing on climate change on the American side of the Pacific Rim. On his way to Asia, he stopped at Lake Tahoe, on the Nevada-California border, and in Hawaii to speak at two conferences dedicated to conservation and environmental preservation.
“The challenges of conservation and combating climate change are connected. They are linked,” Mr. Obama told a large crowd at a casino amphitheater under the dry, fire-prone peaks of the Heavenly ski resort at Lake Tahoe. Several hours later, Mr. Obama arrived in Hawaii, where he addressed leaders of Pacific Island nations, several of whom face the prospect of rising seas swallowing their homes and native lands.
“Few people understand the stakes better than our Pacific Island leaders, because they’re already seeing the impact,” Mr. Obama said at the East-West Center, an education and research organization in Honolulu. He noted that rising seas had driven villagers from their homes in Fiji and led Kiribati to buy property elsewhere for the day when that country vanishes beneath the waves.
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