Arctic nations joust but North Pole payoff may be decades away

29 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

How Obama Can Be the New Teddy Roosevelt.

Alaska is often just a fuel stop for US presidents headed for Asia, but Barack Obama will spend three days in The Last Frontier next week and become the first sitting US president to visit the Alaskan Arctic, the setting of the most spectacular impacts of climate change.The American President’s itinerary may include a hike across the Exit Glacier in the Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska, White House officials said Friday.

Just three months ahead of the United Nations climate conference in Paris, the US president wants to shore up public support to tackle what he calls “one of the greatest challenges we face this century.” After landing in Achorage on Monday, Obama’s visit to the largest and most sparsely populated US state will include a meeting with fishermen in the town of Dillingham, a tour of the Northwest Arctic city of Kotzebue, a visit to glaciers and the GLACIER international conference on the Arctic in Anchorage. Bill Walker ticks down the things he wants President Obama to see in visiting this vast northern state starting on Monday, and glorious glacial vistas are not at the top of the list. The National Park is a vital pillar of the Alaskan economy by way of tourism, and climate change threatens to derail the stream of visitors the Park sees every year. In advance of his trip, the President laid out a stark picture of collapsing glaciers, rapidly melting Arctic sea ice and indigenous communities inundated by rising seas. “What’s happening in Alaska isn’t just a preview of what will happen to us if we don’t take action,” Mr.

But he will meet a tough audience in Alaska, at a time when many of his Republican foes deny that the planet is warming or that human activity is influencing the phenomenon. “As if on command from the most extreme environmentalist elements, this president and his team of DC bureaucrats believe they alone know what’s best for Alaska,” echoed Congressman Don Young. The trip is the latest in a long line of recent Obama initiatives to battle climate change, including his endorsement of solar energy and a new Clean Power Plan that aims at a 32% cut in carbon emissions by 2030. He has been criticized for approving Shell Oil drilling operations in the Chukchi Sea while also making his latest push on site against climate change. As part of the three-day trip, Obama will deliver a keynote address at an international conference about climate change in the Arctics and interact with local fishermen in Dillingham, a major hub of the salmon industry. Walker points out that law enforcement, education and transportation — all crucial in a state with roadless areas larger than Texas — were all severely hit as a fifth of the state budget got redlined out earlier this year, and billions more in cuts loom for next year. “I’d show him the number of employees we’ve laid off, the troopers we’ve laid off, the trooper stations we’ve closed, the brand-new helicopters that we’re putting into storage — taking the blades off because we can’t afford to operate them on search and rescue,” said Mr.

Obama, who has already struck a major bilateral pact with China to cut carbon emissions and is expected to try to press for even greater global effort in Paris later this year, wants northern nations to act. Yet Obama has also received praise for decisions like his move in late December to halt drilling in the Bristol Bay and to protect millions of acres of coastland and wilderness. “I would rather us — with all the safeguards and standards that we have — be producing our oil and gas, rather than importing it,” Obama said in May. Walker, a former lawyer and businessman who was elected last year as a political independent. “It’s real, and it’s not a slight adjustment.” As Mr. The Alaska Climate Action Network, which includes groups such as Greenpeace, plans its own chilly welcome for Obama in Alaska, where it will stage protests against the president’s “deeply hypocritical” positions when he arrives in Anchorage. Obama comes north for what the White House has described as an examination of the effects of climate change, Alaska is battling over oil — its chief source of revenue — and the thorny implications of drilling.

Obama’s call for immediate action to cut emissions and protect the Arctic – will attend the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER). The changes are happening at an alarming rate, but even beyond the practical concerns of infrastructure at risk from the melt or water worries, Alaska’s climate carries real meaning for its people. Oil prices have fallen to multiyear lows, and production has declined from aging oil fields — with consequences rippling through a state that pays for just about everything with taxes from oil. Only two countries – Canada and Russia, where resource exploitation, not curbing carbon emissions, is the top Arctic priority – won’t send a minister to hear Mr.

As Gwich’in Athabascan women and mothers we carry with us the responsibility to maintain our vibrant culture for our children and our children’s children. The Obama administration’s official recommendation of a Wilderness designation for the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was a huge step in the right direction—the sort of strong action that we need to see more of from leaders across the globe. Alas, it is only a “recommendation” and stronger protections are needed immediately to counter the rush for resources that is taking place all over the Arctic. Walker said, he hoped to help the president understand Alaska’s dependence, because of climate and geography, on what can be extracted from the land or sea. We depend on the bounty of what lives here to stay alive, be it the porcupine caribou herds migrating across the plains or the schools of fish in the oceans.

And Republican Representative Don Young warned the President not “to pander to extreme interest groups using Alaska as a poster child for their reckless agenda.” Even some environmental activists have accused Mr. Recent tumult in global stock and energy markets has added further urgency, as doubts about economic growth in China and around the world have clouded Alaska’s future. Obama of hypocrisy in his new-found interest in Alaska. “Climate leaders don’t drill in the Arctic,” the group Credo said in a searing parody of Mr.

Building on that success is the People’s Climate Movement, which is doubling down on its efforts to make it clear that climate change is far more than just an environmental issue; it’s also a social-justice issue, as low-income communities bear a disproportionate burden of climate effects. An Alaska Native tribal group with investments in Arctic leases also began a statewide television advertising campaign this week to coincide with the president’s visit. The tribe asserts that, contrary to the idea that drilling threatens native life, energy development is crucial to paying for the services that tribes depend on in remote places. But it remains unclear how much change he can force, especially given widespread opposition in Congress, where some prominent Republicans remain unconvinced by the overwhelming evidence that carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels are the prime driver of global warming. “Climate change once seemed like a problem for future generations but for most Americans, it is already a reality, deeper droughts, and longer wildfire seasons, some of our cities even flood,” Mr. But that he is coming here specifically to look at climate change implications also suggests to many people an agenda that does not necessarily include Alaska’s economic interests.

We hope that Obama hears firsthand from our Alaska Native communities the impacts we are facing due to climate change and that he takes this visit as an opportunity to take further actions. His administration has set tough new rules that will curb coal use in power generation but has also infuriated environmentalists by giving big oil companies permission to drill offshore, including in the Arctic where Shell drill ships are currently deployed. The President seems all but certain to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s relentless lobbying and his insistence that approval is a “no brainer.” Environmentalists turned Keystone XL into a test of Mr. Obama’s credibility on climate change, saying the scheme to funnel carbon-heavy Alberta oil sands crude to U.S. ports and refineries would spur development of the world’s dirtiest oil.

The Obama administration has also encouraged wind and solar generation with billions worth of tax breaks and subsidies, sometimes funding companies that went bankrupt. As Chris Tuck, the minority leader in the State House of Representatives and a Democrat, put it: “I’m just hoping we don’t get blamed for the fact that the glaciers are melting.”

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