Speaking at the climate conference in Glasgow, the former US president referred first to his location as the “Emerald Isles”, and then to William Shakespeare as “the Bard”.
“Since we’re in the Emerald Isles here, let me quote the Bard, William Shakespeare,” Mr Obama said.
“The Emerald Isle” is a romantic name for Ireland, not the UK, and Shakespeare is considered the “Bard” of England, not Scotland, where the poet Robert Burns holds that title.
Overall, the former president’s speech was well received, even if the gaffes set a few Scottish teeth on edge. Mr Obama, who helped bring about the Paris climate accord six years ago, was welcomed to the stage with prolonged applause.
His Shakespeare quote, however awkwardly introduced, illustrated a point about gradual progress against climate change.
“‘What wound,’ he writes, ‘did ever heal but by degrees?’” Mr Obama said. “Our planet has been wounded by our actions. Those wounds won’t be healed today, or tomorrow, or the next, but they can be healed by degrees.
“If we start with that spirit and each of us can fight through the occasional frustration and dread, if we pledge to do our part and then follow through on those commitments, I believe we can secure a better future. We have to.”
The 60-year-old Democrat also said he was glad “meaningful progress” had been made since the Paris talks, but that “time really is running out”.
“We have not done nearly enough to address this crisis,” Mr Obama said. “We are going to have to do more, and whether that happens or not to a large degree is going to depend on you – not just you in this room, but anybody who’s watching or reading a transcript of what I’m saying here today.”