Obama uses precedent-setting Arctic tour to talk climate change

U.S. president to visit Inupiat community of Kotzebue, Yup’ik community of Dillingham


U.S. President Barack Obama was to have arrived in Anchorage, Alaska late in the afternoon of Aug. 31 to start a three-day visit that will be dominated by his administration's climate change agenda. (WHITE HOUSE SCREEN GRAB)

U.S. President Barack Obama was to have arrived in Anchorage, Alaska late in the afternoon of Aug. 31 to start a three-day visit that will be dominated by his administration’s climate change agenda. (WHITE HOUSE SCREEN GRAB)

United States President Barack Obama will use his three-day visit to Alaska, which starts on the afternoon of Aug. 31, to observe the effects of climate change first-hand and meet with leaders from 19 countries to talk about ways of responding to climate change

In doing so, he’ll become the first sitting U.S. president to travel north of the Arctic Circle.

He’s due to arrive in Anchorage Aug. 31, the Seward area Sept. 1, and the Yup’ik community of Dillingham and the Inupiat community of Kotzebue Sept. 2.

It’s already clear that the purpose of this trip is to push the Obama administration’s climate change mitigation agenda.

In his weekly address from the White House Aug. 29, Obama said at least four villages in Alaska are threatened by rising sea levels and that climate change poses a security threat to Americans.

“This is all real. This is happening to our fellow Americans right now,” Obama said.

In Anchorage, Obama will join Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been attending a major international gathering on climate change and the Arctic entitled Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience Conference, or “GLACIER” for short.

That conference is seen as a preparatory event in advance of the United Nations’ COP21 international climate change conference in Paris this December, when nation states will attempt to craft a global agreement on reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Canada will be represented at the Anchorage gathering by Daniel Jean, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, the White House said.

But no elected leaders from Canada appear on a list of participants that the White House distributed Aug. 28.

The foreign ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Korea will attend, along with ambassadors and foreign affairs officials from countries like China, Singapore, the United Kingdom, China, India, Japan, Poland, Italy and Spain, as well as the European Union.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss how climate change is “reshaping the Arctic,” increase awareness of how that affects the rest of the world and to look at individual and collective actions in response to climate change.

In advance of Obama’s Arctic trip, various U.S. federal officials have made numerous funding and other announcements aimed at Alaska and its communities.

That includes an announcement from the U.S. Department of the Interior to change the name of the highest peak in North America from Mt. McKinley to Denali.

“The name Denali has been official for use by the State of Alaska since 1975, but even more importantly, the mountain has been known as Denali for generations. With our own sense of reverence for this place, we are officially renaming the mountain Denali in recognition of the traditions of Alaska Natives and the strong support of the people of Alaska,” said Sally Jewell, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

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