Will President Obama's Climate Change Focused Alaska Trip Finally Get The Issue The Attention It Deserves?
Climate change is real, and it's an existential threat. It'd be nice to add "needless to say" to that statement, but with widespread climate change denialism very much alive and kicking within the United States, in the face of all the best available science, it always bears mentioning. But with any luck, some more attention will be paid in the near future — President Obama's climate change focused trip to Alaska is happening next week.
His first day out there will be Monday, and it could be a somewhat athletic affair. According to the AP, Obama's trip will include a trek across the Exit Glacier, the famed Alaskan ice mass in the Kenai Fjords National Park. The glacier has been receding badly in recent years, due to the effects of climate change, and it's likely to serve as a glaring backdrop to whatever remarks Obama will make. It's not as though the trip will be free from discord on the environmentalist left, however — the administration's decision to approve Arctic oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea by Shell is sure to make for some awkward questions.
The trip was announced by the President in his weekly address on Friday, and he showed no hesitation in making climate change its primary theme.
This Monday, I'm heading to Alaska for a three-day tour of the state. I've been looking forward to this for a long time, not only because Alaska's one of the most beautiful places in a country that's full of beautiful places, but because I'll have several opportunities to meet with everyday Alaskans about what's going on in their lives.
... One thing I've learned so far, is that a lot of these conversations begin with climate change, and that's because Alaskans are already living with its effects. More frequent, and extensive wildfires, bigger storm surges as sea ice melts faster. Some of the swiftest shoreline erosion in the world, in some places more than three feet a year. Alaska's glaciers are melting faster too, hurting tourism, and adding to rising seas. And if we do nothing, Alaskan temperatures are expect to rise by six to twelve degrees by the end of the century.
As Obama alluded to, Alaska stands to lose a lot from climate change, by virtue of its unique mixture of core industries. Namely, tourism and fishing. Both are immensely important to the state, by virtue of annual revenues totaling more than $1 billion, and both industries could be badly harmed by climate change. The state's reputation for gorgeous, snow-blanketed mountains and icy vistas is obviously in peril as the planet warms, and increased oceanic temperatures can disrupt the marine ecosystem.