White House video previews Obama’s Alaska visit

U.S. President Barack Obama will use his trip to Alaska later this month as the backdrop of a message to the world about climate change, he announced in a video message today.

Obama plans to take his trip beyond the streets of Anchorage and will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit Alaska’s Arctic, a White House official said today.

“In Alaska, glaciers are melting. The hunting and fishing upon which generations have depended — for their way of life, and for their jobs — are threatened. Storm surges once held at bay now endanger entire villages. As Alaskan permafrost melts, some homes are even sinking into the ground. The state’s God-given natural treasures are at risk,” Obama said in the video address.

“When I’m there, I’ll meet with Americans who are dealing with climate change every day, and I’ll talk with other nations about how we can tackle this challenge together,” he said.

Details to be confirmed

The president’s trip will include an address to a high-profile State Department conference that will bring world leaders — including foreign ministers, scientists and policy advisors from 20 countries — to Anchorage to discuss climate change in the Arctic. Secretary of State John Kerry took the helm of the Arctic Council earlier this year, as the U.S. assumed the rotating two-year-chairmanship of the organization.

Obama will also travel throughout the state and “engage directly with Alaskans,” according to a White House official.

The White House has not yet confirmed the exact details of Obama’s trip to Alaska, but he does plan to travel outside of Anchorage, likely to places experiencing coastal impacts of climate change.

“Because 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. And as long as I’m President, America will lead the world to meet this threat — before it’s too late,” Obama said in the video released Thursday.

Further details will be added to a White House website dedicated to the trip, where people can also sign up for email updates.

Legacy project?

The trip is part of Obama’s ongoing effort to craft a legacy on climate change issues. In December, Obama hopes to reach an international agreement on climate change with other United Nations countries.

Last month, the State Department said the upcoming Arctic conference in Anchorage would “highlight how a region vulnerable to climate change is experiencing and responding to these impacts, helping to drive political will for ambitious action” at United Nations climate change negotiations scheduled to take place in Paris this December.

Though Obama has said the state is on the front lines of climate change, Alaska is not at the front lines of the administration’s regulatory efforts.

The administration has angered many environmental activists by supporting oil drilling in the Arctic. And when the Environmental Protection Agency last week finalized new regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s existing fleet of power plants, Alaska’s power plants were excused from the requirements.

The week before he heads to Alaska, the president will address the National Clean Energy Summit in Nevada, a White House official said.

Related stories from around the North:

Asia:  Asia ahead on preparing for polar climate change, says U.S. Arctic rep, Eye on the Arctic

Canada: The Arctic Council – What was accomplished and where we go from here, Eye on the Arctic

China: China’s silk road plans could challenge Northern Sea Route, Blog by Mia Bennett

Denmark:  The return of the Arctic Five, Blog by Heather Exner-Pirot

Finland: US seeks Finnish support for Arctic goals, Yle News

Norway:  China eyes Arctic Norway infrastructure projects, Barents Observer

Russia:  The Arctic Council’s Immunity to Crimean Flu, Blog by Heather Exner-Pirot

Sweden:   Arctic Council – From looking out to looking in, Blog by Mia Bennett, Cryopolitics

United States:  Obama’s upcoming Alaska visit: Climate & the Arctic, Alaska Dispatch News


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