Obama urges cli­mate change ac­tion

Alaskan beauty serves as back­drop for rally cry to “pro­tect the one planet we’ve got.”

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Justin Sink

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

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