Obama to rename tallest US peak in historic Alaska visit

31 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘This is all real': Obama, in Alaska, to press fight against climate change.

The crucial, coast-hugging sea ice that protects villages from storms and makes hunting easier is dwindling in summer and is now absent each year a month longer than it was in the 1970s, other studies find.President Barack Obama’s trip to Alaska’s Arctic on Monday will likely reverberate much farther south, on the 2016 presidential campaign trail, where global warming is expected to emerge as a key issue.Over the next few days, President Barack Obama will tread gingerly on a receding glacier in the Alaskan Arctic, talk to coastal villagers whose homes are threatened by eroding shorelines and salmon fishermen whose livelihoods are endangered — all in an aggressive and high profile effort to highlight the impact of global climate change.WASHINGTON — President Obama will travel to Alaska on Monday to call for urgent and aggressive action to tackle climate change, capitalizing on a poignant tableau of melting glaciers, crumbling permafrost and rising sea levels to illustrate the immediacy of an issue he hopes to make a central element of his legacy.

Obama leaves Monday for a three-day visit to the 49th state in which he will speak at a State Department climate change conference and become the first president to visit the Alaska Arctic. Permafrost is thawing more often as the ground warms, so as the ground oozes, roads, pipelines and houses’ foundations tilt and shift — sometimes enough to cause homes to be abandoned. The White House has honed in on climate change as a core policy priority with a domestic and international approach that has met with mixed response among both liberals and conservatives.

Obama’s message on global warming, he will pay little heed to the oil and gas drilling offshore that he allowed to go forward just this month, a move that activists say is an unsavory blot on an otherwise sterling climate record. More than 3.5 trillion tons of water have melted off of Alaska’s glaciers since 1959, when Alaska first became a state, studies show — enough to fill more than 1 billion Olympic-sized pools. This week alone he invoked the perils of climate change during visits to the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas and New Orleans’ storm ravaged Lower Ninth Ward to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

The unambiguous goal of the president’s trip is to use dramatic and alarming changes to Alaska’s climate to instill fresh urgency into his global warming agenda. That agreement could help secure his legacy as the first sitting president to address global climate change in a substantive way, environmental policy experts said. “The president has from the beginning recognized that climate change is an existential challenge to the country and the world. Both the state government and its residents rely deeply on oil revenues to stay afloat, and falling oil prices have already created a serious budget deficit. Brian Deese, Obama’s senior adviser, sought to strike a balance between Alaska’s economic needs and the president’s goal to eventually phase out fossil fuels. “That’s a transition that is not going to happen overnight,” Deese said. And scientists say those things are happening — at least partly and probably mostly — because of another thing they can measure: Alaska’s temperature.

He pointed to perhaps the most significant action the president’s taken yet, the first-ever national standards to cut carbon emissions from power plants. Alaska’s yearly average temperature has jumped 3.3 degrees since 1959 and the winter average has spiked 5 degrees since statehood, according to federal records. Obama has been investing time on an unfinished global climate treaty that nations hope to finalize in December, as he works to secure his environmental legacy before his presidency ends.

He choked up at the end of his remarks announcing the clean power plan. “I don’t want my grandkids not to be able to swim in Hawaii, or not to be able to climb a mountain and see a glacier because we didn’t do something about it,” he told the audience. “I don’t want millions of people’s lives disrupted and this world more dangerous because we didn’t do something about it. Kotzebue and many of its neighbors — Inuit villages that are being overtaken by the sea because of soil erosion, brought on by melting permafrost and stronger storms that come with higher temperatures — are potent real-time examples of what Mr. After arriving in Anchorage on Monday afternoon, Obama plans to meet with Alaska Natives before addressing the Arctic climate resilience summit, dubbed GLACIER, which involves Arctic and non-Arctic leaders, scientists, environmental advocates and the energy industry.

From 1959 to 1993, Alaska’s glaciers lost 57 billion tons of ice a year, but that jumped to almost 83 billion tons a year since 1994, according to Anthony Arendt, who co-authored a study on the subject this July. And while there may be many factors involved in glacier melt, all but about five of Alaska’s 25,000 glaciers are shrinking, said University of Alaska Fairbanks glacier expert Regine Hock.

Former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton broke with the administration on the decision, Tweeting, “The Arctic is a unique treasure. She’s adamant: “That’s related to climate change.” On the ocean, sea ice in the Arctic in the summer has shrunk by about one-third over three decades, leading to a loss of habitat for walrus and a threatened species listing for polar bears and their main prey, ringed seals.

Then he plans to hopscotch the state bearing witness to the effects of warming temperatures, hiking Exit Glacier in Seward on Tuesday and meeting Wednesday with salmon fishermen in Dillingham, on pristine Bristol Bay, before journeying to Kotzebue. “This is an issue that is very here and now,” said Brian Deese, Mr. Bush declaring “Mission Accomplished” six weeks into his decade-long invasion of Iraq. “I don’t think the president is going to stand anywhere and say drill baby drill, but the message that he is sending is that we can have it both ways,” said Elijah Zarlin, CREDO’s climate campaigns director.

It is affecting people in their lives and livelihoods in real ways.” Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian and the author of “The Quiet World,” which documents conservation efforts in Alaska, said Mr. His visit continues Wednesday in Dillingham, in southwest Alaska, where Obama will meet with fishermen locked in an ongoing conflict with miners over plans to build a massive gold and copper mine in Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest salmon fishery. And while Republican candidates like former Florida governor Jeb Bush have voiced their support for drilling, they’ve taken issue with the way the Obama administration has advanced its environmental agenda, without legislation. Obama had spoken privately of how difficult it was to get the climate change story across to the news media, particularly given that Americans “don’t want to feel that they’re doing something wrong driving the S.U.V. to pick up their kids at school.” “Going up to glacier country is the most visceral way to do that, and it’s really a culmination of President Obama going from being the climate change educator of America to trying to be seen now as a climate activist,” Mr. While in Alaska, Obama is likely to face calls from Democrats and environmentalists to restrict Arctic drilling and to renew his request to Congress to make more of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, off-limits as well.

Still, in traveling to the Arctic — a region that has warmed twice as quickly as the rest of the world over the past six decades, with its northernmost reaches losing more than a football field a day of land because of coastal erosion and rising seas — Mr. By 2006, aerial surveys had found spruce bark beetles had killed mature white spruce trees on 4.4 million acres following mild winters and hot summers. But, it’s not clear just how many countries will commit to significant cuts in carbon this December and the administration is trying to keep expectations in check. “I think that we are well positioned as a result of the progress we’ve made to get a global agreement this year, there’s a lot of work yet to be done,” Deese told NBC News, “but we have a lot of tools in place and we’re going to keep using those tools aggressively between now and then.” It’s a problem because sometimes the plants and animals don’t quite match up — caribou, for example, born before the plants they eat, according to the USGS.

The Portage Glacier, which is a major Alaska tourist destination near Anchorage has retreated so far it no longer can be seen from a multimillion-dollar visitors center built in 1986. Advisers have argued that the president had no legal option but to process the permit based on leases sold to Shell for $2.1 billion by President George W.

There and even in the sub-Arctic part of the state, he will see the damage caused by warming, damage that has been evident to scientists for years. (Evan R. The record warmth this spring has “turned the state into a melting pot, almost literally,” said Jake Weltzin, who runs the USGS program tracking changes in plant and animal timing. “It’s an enormous experiment.”

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