According to American-Israeli journalist Jeffrey Goldberg – a staff writer for The Atlantic – President Barack Obama jokingly admitted early in his first term, “I have the world’s largest carbon footprint.”
Goldberg accompanied the President on Air Force One amid some of his international travels. They had landed in Malaysia as they happened to be talking about terrorism, specifically the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, where ISIS had murdered about 130 people. Goldberg recounted:
With that, Obama stood up and said, “Okay, gotta go.” He headed out of his office and down the stairs, to the red carpet and the honor guard and the cluster of Malaysian officials waiting to greet him, and then to his armored limousine, flown to Kuala Lumpur ahead of him. (Early in his first term, still unaccustomed to the massive military operation it takes to move a president from one place to another, he noted ruefully to aides, “I have the world’s largest carbon footprint.”)
As of January last year, the president was approaching 450,000 miles of international travel during his administration, according to numbers compiled by TIME. This being his last year in office, he has a full travel schedule in 2016, including a short jaunt to Cuba this month.
Obama helped kick off his foreign policy agenda this year with an Asia summit in Rancho Mirage, Calif. last month. According to a preview of the trip prepared by U.S. News & World Report, “Obama’s goals will be to emphasize what he considers his foreign policy achievements, such as a climate change agreement.”
The New York Times once referred to air travel as Americans’ “biggest carbon sin” and stated that the average American is responsible for about 19 tons of carbon emissions per year. When you compare that to the hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon emitted on a regular basis by the President, his comment about his carbon footprint sounds more like a solemn confession.