Obama urges climate change action
Alaskan beauty serves as backdrop for rally cry to “protect the one planet we’ve got.”
seward, alaska» For six years, some Republicans in Washington have urged President Barack Obama to take a hike. On Tuesday he obliged them.
The president began his second day in Alaska with a trek through the Kenai Fjords National Park and the Exit Glacier, a 4-mile wide ice sheet that has retreated about 1.25 miles in the past 200 years because of warming temperatures, according to the National Park Service.
Climate change, Obama said in a video posted on Facebook late Monday, challenges Alaskans to determine: “How do we preserve the incredible natural beauty of this entire state for future generations?”
The White House is trying to rally support for Obama’s climatechange policies before a December United Nations summit on the issue in Paris. During a meeting with more than a dozen foreign ministers Monday in Anchorage, the president urged world leaders to reach agreement “to protect the one planet we’ve got while we still can.”
The Obama administration and other world powers say they want an accord at the UN summit that will prevent average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.
Some of Obama’s natural allies on climate change have criticized his Alaska trip because it comes after his administration granted Royal Dutch Shell a final permit to drill in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea for the first time in more than two decades.
“The approval of that very project undermines every other bold move the President has made on climate change,” Greenpeace activist Mary Nicol said in a statement.
As Obama played tourist on Tuesday, the White House announced a new measures to open access to the Arctic for U.S. tourists and businesses.
The administration asked Congress to speed the acquisition of a new heavy-duty Coast Guard icebreaker from 2022 to 2020 and begin planning for the acquisition of additional ships that could help maintain year-long access to polar regions. The U.S. fleet is down to the equivalent of two functional icebreakers, which are crucial to open icy seas to commercial and research vessels.
Arctic rival Russia, by comparison, has 40 icebreakers and an additional 11 planned or under construction, the White House said.
The federal government also will chart newly opened waters in regions that could be used by cruise ships operating in the Aleutian Islands and Bering Strait. Many cruise lines are reluctant to enter the region without updated maps or other infrastructure.
The White House will urge lawmakers to pass legislation marking the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service by upgrading park facilities. And Tuesday the administration formally announced a program offering free park admission to all U.S. fourthgraders and their families.
“We want to make sure that every American has the opportunity to develop a lifelong connection to our nation’s land, water and wildlife,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said.
President Barack Obama speaks at the Exit Glacier in Seward, Alaska, on Tuesday. The glacier, according to research, has retreated about 1.25 miles in the past 200 years. Andrew Harnik, AP