President Obama: “Climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now.”

President Obama is in Alaska for a three day visit. While there, he attended the GLACIER conference. GLACIER is “Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement, and Resilience” and is chaired by Secretary of State John Kerry.

President Obama:

… climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now. Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety — now. Today. And climate change is a trend that affects all trends — economic trends, security trends. Everything will be impacted. And it becomes more dramatic with each passing year.[…]

I’ve come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating this problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it. And I believe we can solve it. That’s the good news. Even if we cannot reverse the damage that we’ve already caused, we have the means — the scientific imagination and technological innovation — to avoid irreparable harm. […]

… the time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers is past. The time to plead ignorance is surely past. Those who want to ignore the science, they are increasingly alone. They’re on their own shrinking island.

FACT SHEET: President Obama to Announce New Steps to Enhance Administration Collaboration with Alaska Natives, the State of Alaska, and Local Communities

President Obama will meet with leaders from the Alaska Native community along with Governor Bill Walker, Lt. Governor Byron Mallott, and Senator Lisa Murkowski to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation between the Federal Government and Alaska Native tribes, including by furthering progress in developing cooperative management strategies for fish and wildlife. The President will also announce that the Federal Government has officially restored the Koyukon Athabascan name of Denali to the tallest mountain in North America, previously known as Mt. McKinley. This designation recognizes the sacred status of Denali to generations of Alaska Natives.

Transcript of the President’s Speech from Alaska Dispatch News (official White House transcript):

Thank you so much. Thank you. It is wonderful to be here in the great state of Alaska.

I want to thank Secretary Kerry and members of my administration for your work here today. Thank you to the many Alaskans, Alaska Natives and other indigenous peoples of the Arctic who’ve traveled a long way, in many cases, to share your insights and your experiences. And to all the foreign ministers and delegations who’ve come here from around the world — welcome to the United States, and thank you all for attending this GLACIER Conference.

The actual name of the conference is much longer. It’s a mouthful, but the acronym works because it underscores the incredible changes that are taking place here in the Arctic that impact not just the nations that surround the Arctic, but have an impact for the entire world, as well.

I want to thank the people of Alaska for hosting this conference. I look forward to visiting more of Alaska over the next couple of days. The United States is, of course, an Arctic nation. And even if this isn’t an official gathering of the Arctic Council, the United States is proud to chair the Arctic Council for the next two years. And to all the foreign dignitaries who are here, I want to be very clear — we are eager to work with your nations on the unique opportunities that the Arctic presents and the unique challenges that it faces. We are not going to — any of us — be able to solve these challenges by ourselves. We can only solve them together.

Of course, we’re here today to discuss a challenge that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other — and that’s the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.

Our understanding of climate change advances each day. Human activity is disrupting the climate, in many ways faster than we previously thought. The science is stark. It is sharpening. It proves that this once-distant threat is now very much in the present.

In fact, the Arctic is the leading edge of climate change — our leading indicator of what the entire planet faces. Arctic temperatures are rising about twice as fast as the global average. Over the past 60 years, Alaska has warmed about twice as fast as the rest of the United States. Last year was Alaska’s warmest year on record — just as it was for the rest of the world. And the impacts here are very real.

Thawing permafrost destabilizes the earth on which 100,000 Alaskans live, threatening homes, damaging transportation and energy infrastructure, which could cost billions of dollars to fix.

Warmer, more acidic oceans and rivers, and the migration of entire species, threatens the livelihoods of indigenous peoples, and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism. Reduced sea levels leaves villages unprotected from floods and storm surges. Some are in imminent danger; some will have to relocate entirely. In fact, Alaska has some of the swiftest shoreline erosion rates in the world.

I recall what one Alaska Native told me at the White House a few years ago. He said, “Many of our villages are ready to slide off into the waters of Alaska, and in some cases, there will be absolutely no hope -– we will need to move many villages.”

Alaska’s fire season is now more than a month longer than it was in 1950. At one point this summer, more than 300 wildfires were burning at once. Southeast of here, in our Pacific Northwest, even the rainforest is on fire. More than 5 million acres in Alaska have already been scorched by fire this year — that’s an area about the size of Massachusetts. If you add the fires across Canada and Siberia, we’re talking 300 [30] million acres -– an area about the size of New York.

This is a threat to many communities — but it’s also an immediate and ongoing threat to the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect ours. Less than two weeks ago, three highly trained firefighters lost their lives fighting a fire in Washington State. Another has been in critical condition. We are thankful to each and every firefighter for their heroism — including the Canadian firefighters who’ve helped fight the fires in this state.

But the point is that climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now. Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety — now. Today. And climate change is a trend that affects all trends — economic trends, security trends. Everything will be impacted. And it becomes more dramatic with each passing year.

Already it’s changing the way Alaskans live. And considering the Arctic’s unique role in influencing the global climate, it will accelerate changes to the way that we all live.

Since 1979, the summer sea ice in the Arctic has decreased by more than 40 percent — a decrease that has dramatically accelerated over the past two decades. One new study estimates that Alaska’s glaciers alone lose about 75 gigatons — that’s 75 billion tons — of ice each year.

To put that in perspective, one scientist described a gigaton of ice as a block the size of the National Mall in Washington — from Congress all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, four times as tall as the Washington Monument. Now imagine 75 of those ice blocks. That’s what Alaska’s glaciers alone lose each year. The pace of melting is only getting faster. It’s now twice what it was between 1950 and 2000 — twice as fast as it was just a little over a decade ago. And it’s one of the reasons why sea levels rose by about eight inches over the last century, and why they’re projected to rise another one to four feet this century.

Consider, as well, that many of the fires burning today are actually burning through the permafrost in the Arctic. So this permafrost stores massive amounts of carbon. When the permafrost is no longer permanent, when it thaws or burns, these gases are released into our atmosphere over time, and that could mean that the Arctic may become a new source of emissions that further accelerates global warming.

So if we do nothing, temperatures in Alaska are projected to rise between six and 12 degrees by the end of the century, triggering more melting, more fires, more thawing of the permafrost, a negative feedback loop, a cycle — warming leading to more warming — that we do not want to be a part of.

And the fact is that climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. That, ladies and gentlemen, must change. We’re not acting fast enough.

I’ve come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating this problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it. And I believe we can solve it. That’s the good news. Even if we cannot reverse the damage that we’ve already caused, we have the means — the scientific imagination and technological innovation — to avoid irreparable harm.

We know this because last year, for the first time in our history, the global economy grew and global carbon emissions stayed flat. So we’re making progress; we’re just not making it fast enough.

Here in the United States, we’re trying to do our part. Since I took office six and a half years ago, the United States has made ambitious investments in clean energy, and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. We now harness three times as much electricity from wind and 20 times as much from the sun. Alaskans now lead the world in the development of hybrid wind energy systems from remote grids, and it’s expanding its solar and biomass resources.

We’ve invested in energy efficiency in every imaginable way — in our buildings, our cars, our trucks, our homes, even the appliances inside them. We’re saving consumers billions of dollars along the way. Here in Alaska, more than 15,000 homeowners have cut their energy bills by 30 percent on average. That collectively saves Alaskans more than $50 million each year. We’ve helped communities build climate-resilient infrastructure to prepare for the impacts of climate change that we can no longer prevent.

Earlier this month, I announced the first set of nationwide standards to end the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants. It’s the single most important step America has ever taken on climate change. And over the course of the coming days, I intend to speak more about the particular challenges facing Alaska and the United States as an Arctic power, and I intend to announce new measures to address them.

So we are working hard to do our part to meet this challenge. And in doing so, we’re proving that there doesn’t have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth. But we’re not moving fast enough. None of the nations represented here are moving fast enough.

And let’s be honest — there’s always been an argument against taking action. The notion is somehow this will curb our economic growth. And at a time when people are anxious about the economy, that’s an argument oftentimes for inaction. We don’t want our lifestyles disrupted. In countries where there remains significant poverty, including here in the United States, the notion is, can we really afford to prioritize this issue. The irony, of course, is, is that few things will disrupt our lives as profoundly as climate change. Few things can have as negative an impact on our economy as climate change.

On the other hand, technology has now advanced to the point where any economic disruption from transitioning to a cleaner, more efficient economy is shrinking by the day. Clean energy and energy efficiency aren’t just proving cost-effective, but also cost-saving. The unit costs of things like solar are coming down rapidly. But we’re still underinvesting in it.

Many of America’s biggest businesses recognize the opportunities and are seizing them. They’re choosing a new route. And a growing number of American homeowners are choosing to go solar every day. It works. All told, America’s economy has grown more than 60 percent over the last 20 years, but our carbon emissions are roughly back to where they were 20 years ago. So we know how to use less dirty fuel and grow our economy at the same time. But we’re not moving fast enough.

More Americans every day are doing their part, though. Thanks to their efforts, America will reach the emission target that I set six years ago. We’re going to reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. And that’s why, last year, I set a new target: America is going to reduce our emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by10 years from now.

And that was part of a historic joint announcement we made last year in Beijing. The United States will double the pace at which we cut our emissions, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting its emissions. Because the world’s two largest economies and two largest emitters came together, we’re now seeing other nations stepping up aggressively as well. And I’m determined to make sure American leadership continues to drive international action — because we can’t do this alone. Even America and China together cannot do this alone. Even all the countries represented around here cannot do this alone. We have to do it together.

This year, in Paris, has to be the year that the world finally reaches an agreement to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.

So let me sum up. We know that human activity is changing the climate. That is beyond dispute. Everything else is politics if people are denying the facts of climate change. We can have a legitimate debate about how we are going to address this problem; we cannot deny the science. We also know the devastating consequences if the current trend lines continue. That is not deniable. And we are going to have to do some adaptation, and we are going to have to help communities be resilient, because of these trend lines we are not going to be able to stop on a dime. We’re not going to be able to stop tomorrow.

But if those trend lines continue the way they are, there’s not going to be a nation on this Earth that’s not impacted negatively. People will suffer. Economies will suffer. Entire nations will find themselves under severe, severe problems. More drought; more floods; rising sea levels; greater migration; more refugees; more scarcity; more conflict.

That’s one path we can take. The other path is to embrace the human ingenuity that can do something about it. This is within our power. This is a solvable problem if we start now.

And we’re starting to see that enough consensus is being built internationally and within each of our own body politics that we may have the political will — finally — to get moving.

So the time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers is past. The time to plead ignorance is surely past. Those who want to ignore the science, they are increasingly alone. They’re on their own shrinking island.

And let’s remember, even beyond the climate benefits of pursuing cleaner energy sources and more resilient, energy-efficient ways of living, the byproduct of it is, is that we also make our air cleaner and safer for our children to breathe. We’re also making our economies more resilient to energy shocks on global markets. We’re also making our countries less reliant on unstable parts of the world. We are gradually powering a planet on its way to 9 billion humans in a more sustainable way.

These are good things. This is not simply a danger to be avoided; this is an opportunity to be seized. But we have to keep going. We’re making a difference, but we have to keep going. We are not moving fast enough.

If we were to abandon our course of action, if we stop trying to build a clean-energy economy and reduce carbon pollution, if we do nothing to keep the glaciers from melting faster, and oceans from rising faster, and forests from burning faster, and storms from growing stronger, we will condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair: Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields no longer growing. Indigenous peoples who can’t carry out traditions that stretch back millennia. Entire industries of people who can’t practice their livelihoods. Desperate refugees seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own. Political disruptions that could trigger multiple conflicts around the globe.

That’s not a future of strong economic growth. That is not a future where freedom and human rights are on the move. Any leader willing to take a gamble on a future like that — any so-called leader who does not take this issue seriously or treats it like a joke — is not fit to lead.

On this issue, of all issues, there is such a thing as being too late. That moment is almost upon us. That’s why we’re here today. That’s what we have to convey to our people — tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. And that’s what we have to do when we meet in Paris later this year. It will not be easy. There are hard questions to answer. I am not trying to suggest that there are not going to be difficult transitions that we all have to make. But if we unite our highest aspirations, if we make our best efforts to protect this planet for future generations, we can solve this problem.

And when you leave this conference center, I hope you look around. I hope you have the chance to visit a glacier. Or just look out your airplane window as you depart, and take in the God-given majesty of this place. For those of you flying to other parts of the world, do it again when you’re flying over your home countries. Remind yourself that there will come a time when your grandkids — and mine, if I’m lucky enough to have some — they’ll want to see this. They’ll want to experience it, just as we’ve gotten to do in our own lives. They deserve to live lives free from fear, and want, and peril. And ask yourself, are you doing everything you can to protect it. Are we doing everything we can to make their lives safer, and more secure, and more prosperous?

Let’s prove that we care about them and their long-term futures, not just short-term political expediency.

I had a chance to meet with some Native peoples before I came in here, and they described for me villages that are slipping into the sea, and the changes that are taking place — changing migratory patterns; the changing fauna so that what used to feed the animals that they, in turn, would hunt or fish beginning to vanish. It’s urgent for them today. But that is the future for all of us if we don’t take care.

Your presence here today indicates your recognition of that. But it’s not enough just to have conferences. It’s not enough just to talk the talk. We’ve got to walk the walk. We’ve got work to do, and we’ve got to do it together.

So, thank you. And may God bless all of you, and your countries. And thank you, Alaska, for your wonderful hospitality. Thank you.

Bolding added.

  7 comments for “President Obama: “Climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now.”

  1. JanF
    September 1, 2015 at 3:46 am

    President Obama:

    … if those trend lines continue the way they are, there’s not going to be a nation on this Earth that’s not impacted negatively. People will suffer. Economies will suffer. Entire nations will find themselves under severe, severe problems. More drought; more floods; rising sea levels; greater migration; more refugees; more scarcity; more conflict.

    That’s one path we can take. The other path is to embrace the human ingenuity that can do something about it. This is within our power. This is a solvable problem if we start now.

  2. JanF
    September 1, 2015 at 3:51 am

    Also from the White House regarding the Alaska visit …

    Renaming the tallest mountain in North America to reflect the heritage of Alaska Natives.

    In 1896, a prospector emerged from exploring the mountains of central Alaska and received news that William McKinley had been nominated as a candidate for President of the United States. In a show of support, the prospector declared the tallest peak of the Alaska Range as “Mt. McKinley”—and the name stuck.

    McKinley became our 25th President, and was tragically assassinated just six months into his second term. But he never set foot in Alaska—and for centuries, the mountain that rises some 20,000 feet above sea level, the tallest on the North American continent, had been known by another name—Denali. Generally believed to be central to the Athabascan creation story, Denali is a site of significant cultural importance to many Alaska Natives. The name “Denali” has been used for many years and is widely used across the state today.

    Today, finalizing a process initiated by the State of Alaska in 1975, President Obama is announcing that the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell used her authority to rename the mountain as “Denali.”

    Barack Obama ‏@BarackObama
    It’s official: Mount McKinley is now Denali. http://ofa.bo/g9FF

  3. JanF
    September 1, 2015 at 4:10 am

    Big Bank Says It’s Going To Cost A Lot To Do Nothing On Global Warming

    A new report from Citibank found that acting on climate change by investing in low-carbon energy would save the world $1.8 trillion through 2040, as compared to a business-as-usual scenario. In addition, not acting will cost an additional $44 trillion by 2060 from the “negative effects” of climate change.

    The report, titled Energy Darwinism, looked at the predicted cost of energy over the coming decades, the costs of developing low carbon energy sources, and the implications of global energy choices.

    “What we’re trying to do is to take an objective view at the economics of this situation and actually look at what the costs of not acting are, if the scientists are right,” Jason Channell, Global Head of Alternative Energy and Cleantech Research at Citi, told CNBC. “There is a cost to not doing this, and although there is a cost to acting, what we’re trying to do is to actually weigh up the different costs here.”

    Time for Big Business to step up and join the president. Time for them to stop funding the candidacies of the deniers who are on their own shrinking islands, not fit to lead, as the president said.

  4. JanF
    September 1, 2015 at 4:14 am

    Argggghhhhhh!!!! What is wrong with the press? Even the normally not aholish Al Jazeera includes this in their coverage of the speech:

    In a bid to further his environmental legacy, …

    Did they even listen to the speech??? How about “in a bid to save our planet from freaking MELTING”???

  5. JanF
    September 1, 2015 at 10:02 am

    From ThinkProgress, quotes from Teddy Roosevelt, a member of the pre-Reagan Republican Party:

    1. Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us, and training them into a better race to inhabit the land and pass it on. Conservation is a great moral issue for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.

    2. There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done….

    It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced.

    3. The “greatest good for the greatest number” applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.

    4. If in a given community unchecked popular rule means unlimited waste and destruction of the natural resources — soil, fertility, waterpower, forests, game, wild-life generally — which by right belong as much to subsequent generations as to the present generation, then it is sure proof that the present generation is not yet really fit for self-control, that it is not yet really fit to exercise the high and responsible privilege of a rule which shall be both by the people and for the people. The term “for the people” must always include the people unborn as well as the people now alive, or the democratic ideal is not realized.

    5. The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.

    6. The United States at this moment occupies a lamentable position as being perhaps the chief offender among civilized nations in permitting the destruction and pollution of nature. Our whole modern civilization is at fault in the matter. But we in America are probably most at fault … Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals’not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements.

    7. To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them.

    “Conservatives” should start caring less about conserving more of their wealth so that they can afford car elevators … they should care about conserving the resources of our planet for future generations. Their money won’t protect them from rising seas and unbreathable air.

  6. JanF
    September 1, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Joint Statement from the GLACIER ministers:

    The rapid warming of the Arctic is profoundly affecting communities both in the Arctic region and beyond. As Foreign Ministers and other representatives from the Arctic States attending the GLACIER[1] conference in Anchorage, Alaska on August 31, 2015, and recognizing the leadership role of the Arctic States in providing sustainable development and cooperation in the Arctic, we reaffirm our commitment to take urgent action to slow the pace of warming in the Arctic, focusing on actions that impact the global atmosphere as well as the Arctic itself. The Foreign Ministers and other representatives from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, Spain, United Kingdom, and European Union join us in this commitment.

    We take seriously warnings by scientists: temperatures in the Arctic are increasing at more than twice the average global rate. Loss of Arctic snow and ice is accelerating the warming of the planet as a whole by exposing darker surfaces that absorb more sunlight and heat. Sea ice, the Greenland Ice Sheet, and nearly all glaciers in the Arctic have shrunk over the past 100 years; indeed, glaciers that have endured since the last Ice Age are shrinking, in most cases at a very rapid rate. Arctic sea ice decline has been faster during the past ten years than in the previous 20 years, with summer sea ice extent reduced by 40% since 1979. Loss of ice from Arctic glaciers and ice sheets contributes to rising sea levels worldwide, which put coastal communities everywhere at increased risk of coastal erosion and persistent flooding. And emerging science suggests that rapid warming of the Arctic may disrupt weather patterns across the globe.

    Moreover, as the Arctic continues to warm, significant feedback loops appear to be coming into play. Warmer, drier weather increases the occurrence, extent, and severity of wildfires that release carbon from vast tracts of burning forests, with about five million acres burned this year in Alaska alone. Warming also promotes thawing of permafrost, which could release substantial stores of greenhouse gas emissions. And the relentless loss of Arctic snow and ice exposes yet more land and water, which in turn absorb yet more heat.

    Arctic communities are experiencing first-hand the challenges of dealing with a rapidly changing climate. Thawing permafrost is triggering the collapse of roads, bridges and other infrastructure, and coastal erosion is requiring entire communities to consider relocation. Warming-induced changes can also reduce wildlife and fish populations that support subsistence hunting and fishing. These impacts highlight the need for adaptive management and infrastructure, and illustrate the emerging threat to traditional ways of life.

    As change continues at an unprecedented rate in the Arctic – increasing the stresses on communities and ecosystems in already harsh environments – we are committed more than ever to protecting both terrestrial and marine areas in this unique region, and our shared planet, for generations to come.

    In particular, we affirm our strong determination to work together and with others to achieve a successful, ambitious outcome at the international climate negotiations in December in Paris this year.[2]

    In addition, we acknowledge the importance of the Framework for Action on Black Carbon and Methane, adopted at the Arctic Council Ministerial in April 2015, which provides for enhanced opportunities to act together to reduce emissions of black carbon (soot) that impact the Arctic. Actions to reduce methane – a powerful short-lived greenhouse gas – can slow Arctic warming in the near to medium term. To address the largest industrial source of methane globally, we encourage all oil and gas firms headquartered or operating within our borders to join the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Oil and Gas Methane Partnership.

    We call for additional research to characterize the response of Arctic permafrost and other carbon reservoirs to warming, and resolve to cooperate on wildland fire management, especially in hotspots that have the potential to release particularly large stores of greenhouse gases. We further urge the scientific community, in cooperation with northern communities, to continue to provide the information and tools necessary to assist the Arctic’s most vulnerable communities build resilience to climate impacts and to prioritize further research on, and communication of, the links between a changing Arctic and impacts felt across the globe, including on how such changes may affect mid-latitude weather patterns. We also resolve to work with our Arctic communities to deploy low-carbon solutions that can improve livelihoods, enhance energy security, and promote sustainable economic growth such as renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures.

    Climate change poses a grave challenge in the Arctic and to the world. But these challenges also present an imperative for cooperation, innovation, and engagement as we work together to safeguard this vital region and to inform the world why the Arctic matters to us all.

    End Text

    • JanF
      September 1, 2015 at 11:01 am

      Secretary Kerry’s opening remarks:
      Remarks at the Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement, and Resilience (GLACIER) Conference Opening Plenary (Full Text and Video at the link)

      Secretary Kerry’s closing remarks and introduction of the president:
      Concluding Remarks at the Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement, and Resilience (GLACIER) Conference (Video at the Link, full text here)

      SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very, very much. Thank you all, Governor Walker, Lieutenant Governor Mallott, and Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan. We are so appreciative to all of you, to Alaska, for an absolutely spectacular welcome here. And I think it is fair to say on behalf of all of my colleagues who have been part of this daylong discussion that this has been a tremendous reception in Alaska but importantly a very constructive and substantive day. I think every delegation here would agree that we have covered an enormous amount of territory, and we reinforced here today that every nation that cares about the future of the Arctic has a responsibility to be a leader in taking action and in urging others to take bold action in order to deal with this challenge. It is immediate and it requires ambitious steps to curb the emission of greenhouse gasses and to deal with methane, coastal erosion, fisheries – a host of challenges that Alaska particularly faces.

      There is no mystery, as we saw reinforced in very dramatic presentations by a number of scientists – no mystery at all about what a failure to act would mean. We can already see it. We can already measure it. And Alaskans are living it every single day.

      We confirmed today that we cannot afford to wait until someone else moves to implement solutions to the challenges that confront us in the Arctic. I’m very pleased that through today’s GLACIER meeting we made progress in a host of areas – and our communique will summarize that – including addressing the issues of climate change, the impacts of it, enhancing resilience, strengthening emergency response, improving air quality, and promoting renewable energy and household innovations that will increase efficiency and community health at the same time.

      Everyone in this room, those here at the circular table and those in the audience, are connected to the Arctic in some way. And so are all of the citizens that we represent. The fate of the region is not just the responsibility of the Arctic, the Arctic states even themselves. We agreed today it is everyone’s responsibility.

      And it is with that purpose in mind that I turn now to the next speaker, who understands all of this, all of what is at stake. The threat posed by a changing Arctic has long been a top priority for President Barack Obama. He has repeatedly defined climate change as one of the great challenges that we face in this century. And the President has stated clearly that what’s happening in Alaska “isn’t just a preview of what will happen to the rest of us if we don’t take action. It’s our wake-up call. The alarm bells are ringing,” to quote the President.

      Since 2009 President Obama has demonstrated repeatedly that he is committed to meeting this challenge before it’s too late – not with words but with actions. That’s why he put forward a National Strategy for the Arctic Region that establishes a comprehensive and long-term vision for our Arctic engagement. That’s why he created the Arctic Executive Steering Committee to prepare for a changing Arctic and to enhance coordination of national efforts here.

      That’s why today, thanks the President’s Climate Action Plan, the United States is well on its way to meeting our international commitments to seriously cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and beyond while bolstering our nation’s resilience to ensure communities thrive and that economies flourish. And that’s why he has prioritized so many other things, including I might add not a small symbolic step of renaming a big, famous mountain, and I think we could say that Denali never looked better than it does today. (Cheers and applause.)

      That is why also the President has prioritized working with so many partners, because he knows that all of us together have to do so much more to beat this threat. We have to do it now, and it will not be done without our concerted global commitment.

      Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Barack Obama. (Cheers and applause.)

Comments are closed.