Barack Obama speaks to Calgarians about oil and gas, climate change

The 44th president of the United States is having a "conversation" in Calgary today at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

44th president of the United States has been on a speaking tour of Canadian cities

Barack Obama waves to the crowd at Calgary's Saddledome during his Tuesday afternoon event. The former U.S. president is speaking in Vancouver later in the day. (Greg Paupst/TINEPUBLIC)

The 44th president of the United States spoke to an almost sold-out crowd at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary today.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama, a Democrat, served two terms after being elected in 2008 — becoming the first African-American president of the United States.

Obama is on a speaking tour of Canadian cities. He was in Winnipeg on Monday. His only Alberta stop was in Calgary as he made his way out to Vancouver for another speaking event later on Tuesday.

Discussing a wide range of topics, including his family and what he's most proud of, talking about Alberta's beleaguered oil industry really struck a chord with the audience.

"All of us are going to have to recognize that there are tradeoffs involved with how we live, how our economy is structured and the world we are going to pass onto our kids and grandkids. And nobody is exempt from that conversation," he said.

"The fact of the matter is that oil and gas have powered the industrial revolution, they have powered Canada's economy, the U.S. economy, and powered the world. And it has been an extraordinary run and is still the cheapest means for us to power everything that we do."

But Obama says one way or another choices will have to made by the world to deal with climate change.

"Either we are going to do it intentionally or thoughtfully and seriously, or it will happen to us," he said. "And by the time it happens to us, it might be too late — and that's the way we have to think about it."

He says research in the energy field should focus on the future of the industry.

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Born in Hawaii, Obama worked as a law professor at the University of Chicago from 1992 until 2004 when he was elected to the U.S. Senate — the start of a long political career. 

Without mentioning his successor by name, Obama told a sold-out Winnipeg crowd on Monday he wasn't sure if his country had the leadership to avoid a period of intense trouble.

"If we had a crisis today, I'm concerned that we, at least in the United States, may not be in the habit of trying to figure things out in a common sense, practical way," Obama said in Manitoba.

His wife Michelle Obama — who appeared in Calgary last year to a sold-out audience — plans to come back to Alberta later this month.

Barack Obama speaks to Dave Kelly during the roughly hour long question and answer event. (Greg Paupst/TINEPUBLIC)