By September 1, 2015 Read More →

Obama Alaska visit: President paints doomsday scene of climate change

Obama Alaska visit – first president to visit the Alaska Arctic

obama alaska

Obama Alaska tour included a discussion at the Glacier conference in Anchorage, Alaska.  Facebook photo by Agatha Erickson.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska¬†–¬†President Barack Obama planned to hike a melting glacier in the state of Alaska and paint a doomsday scenario if climate change isn’t dealt with fast: entire nations submerged underwater, cities abandoned and refugees fleeing in droves as conflict breaks out across the globe.

It’s a harrowing image of a future that Obama insists is inevitable unless the world follows his and America’s lead by making sweeping cuts to greenhouse gases.

As he traverses the biggest U.S. state this week, Obama will become the first sitting president to visit the Alaska Arctic. Obama is counting on Alaska’s exquisite but deteriorating landscape to elicit a sense of urgency that his previous calls to action on climate change have not. He opened his three-day trip on Monday with a speech to an Arctic climate summit, calling global warming an escalating crisis already disturbing Alaskans’ way of life.

“We will condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair,” Obama said. Alluding ironically to the threat of rising seas, he castigated leaders who deny climate change as “increasingly alone, on their own shrinking island.”

Amid concerns that the U.S. has ceded influence to Russia in strategic Arctic waters, the White House announced Tuesday that it would ask Congress to speed up construction of new icebreakers. The U.S. has two working icebreakers, compared to Russia’s 40.

On his first day in Alaska, Obama offered no new policy prescriptions or federal efforts to slow global warming, but said the U.S. is doing its part by working to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases by up to 28 per cent over the next decade. Obama set that target as the U.S. commitment to a major global climate treaty to be finalized in December, and has urged fellow leaders to make similarly ambitious pledges as he works to secure a cornerstone of his environmental legacy.

Despite his steps to reduce emissions, the U.S. isn’t quite the shining example that Obama portrayed. Each American emits more than twice as much carbon dioxide as a Chinese resident and ten times that of someone from India, Energy Department figures show. China, the U.S. and India are the top three polluters.

The U.S. has cut its carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels by about 8 per cent since 2000, and around 7 per cent since Obama took office. But some industrialized, European nations have made even steeper cuts, including Britain, Spain and Denmark.

Yet even Obama, who has elevated global warming as a rallying point in his second term, has a complicated record on energy that has muddied his clarion call on climate.

The president has struggled to explain how his dire warnings square with steps he’s taken to expand energy production, even at the risk of higher emissions. Environmental groups took particular offence at the administration’s recent move to allow expanded drilling by Royal Dutch Shell off Alaska’s northwest coast _ just a few weeks before Obama came to Alaska to preach on climate change.

On a presidential trip more about powerful visuals than words, the high point was to come Tuesday when Obama flies by helicopter to Seward to hike the famed Exit Glacier, a sprawling expanse of ice in Kenai Fjords National Park that’s liquefying under warmer temperatures.

Some 700 square miles (1,800 sq. kilometres) in the Kenai Mountains are blanketed by glacier ice, remnants of the Ice Age, when roughly a third of the Earth was covered with sheets of ice. One of nearly 40 glaciers springing out from Harding Icefield, Exit Glacier has been receding for decades at an alarming rate of 43 feet (13 metres) a year, according to the National Park Service.

The Canadian Press

Posted in: News

Comments are closed.