To see unsanitized Alaska, Pres. Obama needs a local tour guide. How about me?

29 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

America Still Making The Wrong Moves In Arctic Chess Game With Russia.

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. It will produce a photo-opportunity similar to David Cameron’s 2006 husky expedition when the then Tory opposition leader sought to underline his party’s green credentials and determination to deal with global warming.

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.Earlier this month, President Barack Obama said that he doesn’t want his grandkids “not to be able to climb a mountain and see a glacier because we didn’t do something about it.” The way things are unfolding, unless we do something fast, his grandkids might see something far more disturbing: a platoon of belligerent Russian troops, armed and ready, claiming that the Arctic is theirs and theirs alone.WASHINGTON — Even as melting Arctic glaciers threaten to swamp shorelines, nations from Russia to the United States are betting that warming temperatures also will unlock trillions of dollars in new wealth. “It is potentially the biggest strategic opportunity in America since the Louisiana Purchase in 1803,” said Scott Borgerson, a former Coast Guard officer and now an adviser at Catalyst Maritime. 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. Donald Trump, the front-runner in the race to win the nomination, has made his views clear on Twitter, railing against what he called the “Global Warming Hoax”. 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.

His visit comes as the Arctic’s potential for oil and gas production and shorter trade routes when the ice melts puts it at the crossroads of economics and geopolitics. 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. Texas senator, Ted Cruz, denies climate change is taking place and has accused scientists of cooking the books to make their case, while Jeb Bush has said the Obama administration’s proposed measures to tackle carbon emissions are unconstitutional and Marco Rubio said they will force up the cost of electricity for ordinary Americans.

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. Possible future rewards include an estimated 90 billion barrels of oil and 1.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that await discovery in the Arctic, with the vast majority located offshore, according to a 2008 U.S.

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. Mr Obama is to be a keynote speaker at an Arctic climate change conference in Anchorage, which will also be attended by a number of other governments, including Britain. 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. 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. Not only have the Russians placed a flag via submarine on the seabed of the North Pole and rehabilitated a Soviet-era military base, they’ve also launched a full-alert combat readiness exercise with 38,000 troops, 110 aircraft, 41 ships, and 15 submarines.

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’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. They’ve added a 6,000-soldier permanent military force in the Arctic’s northwest Murmansk region, equipped with new radar and guidance system capabilities and coastal defense missile systems. 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.

Russia currently has a fleet of six nuclear-powered icebreakers and at least a dozen diesel-powered icebreakers, and three more nuclear-powered icebreakers will be added by decade’s end. It’ll be many, many years before we see the development people have been talking about.” That hasn’t deterred Russia, which has been the most assertive, and theatrical, in advancing its claims. In 2007, a pair of Russian mini-subs descended more than two miles below the polar icecap to plant a titanium flagpole on the North Pole’s seabed, a purely symbolic gesture. Last year, Russian heavy bombers flew more out-of-area patrols than any year since the Cold War, in some instances skirting dangerously close to U.S. airspace.

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.

In this new Cold War-like environment, “we’re not even in the same league as Russia right now,” Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft recently said — and he’s right. On April 24, however, the U.S. assumed the rotating two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council, the eight-nation body responsible for environmental, maritime and emergency preparedness policies. The 1990s saw major drawdowns, including withdrawals from Forward Operating Bases at Galena and King Salmon, deactivation of the Army’s primary Arctic warfare division, and closure of the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare base on Adak Island. The council, which operates by consensus, has agreed on procedures for dealing with oil spills and conducting maritime search and rescue despite rising tensions between Russia and other members over Ukraine.

Obama planned out by the White House — including the first visit by a sitting president to some of Alaska’s most remote Arctic communities — the uncertainties and stakes are high, people on all sides of the energy fight say. “It’s a battle for humanity,” said Ryan Joe, 26, an Alaska Native college student who was helping plan an anti-Arctic-drilling rally for Monday in downtown Anchorage, led by Greenpeace and other groups. “How is drilling somewhere going to make it better for the world?” Mr. 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.

Army also plans to cut troop levels by 2,600 at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and by 75 at Fort Wainwright – all while Russia sends in troops by the thousands. 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.

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. Arctic, the federal government this year has also taken steps to block commercial access to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and millions of offshore acres in U.S. 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. Arctic waters, and projects on federal lands in Alaska continue to face uncertain and lengthy permitting and regulatory processes that discourage investment in the region. Oil prices below $50 per barrel– less than half the price a year ago — discourage exploration efforts that incur high costs in the harsh Arctic climate.

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. On August 18, the company won U.S. approval to drill in Arctic waters for the first time since 2012 after its efforts were derailed by the grounding of a drilling rig. “Shell is a bit of an outlier,” James Henderson, senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, said in an email. “Other companies have taken a much more cautious approach, for environmental and cost reasons, and this caution will only be further underlined in a low oil-price environment.” The increasingly ice-free Arctic seas have opened a shortcut between Europe and Asia for ships bearing cargoes such as diesel fuel and iron ore. 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.

The sailing distance from Rotterdam to Yokohama via a northern route that hugs the Russian coastline is almost 40 percent shorter than the one through the Suez Canal, the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. That includes the construction of new infrastructure such as icebreakers and deepwater ports and the enactment of sound policies that facilitate economic activities in the U.S.

Yet only 31 vessels transited that route last year, down from 71 the year before, according to the Northern Sea Route Information Office in Murmansk, Russia. 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.

It will also require a strategic focus on the region, and stepped-up training exercises to help counter Russia’s antics and show that the U.S. is not willing to cede its influence and security to foreign rivals. 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. While the route makes sense for trade between ports such as Japan’s Yokohama and Rotterdam in the Netherlands, many major export hubs in Vietnam and Indonesia are too far south, says Sverre Bjorn Svenning, research director at ship brokers Fearnleys in Oslo. Two of the Coast Guard’s three polar icebreakers already are beyond their 30-year operational lifespans, even as Russia plans a trio of new nuclear-powered vessels by 2020.

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.” In 2013, the island nation became the first European country to recognize China as a market economy, and the two nations signed a free trade agreement.

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