Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 368

368 Arctic Yearbook 2015 The group affirmed their strong determination to work together on addressing the challenges of a warming Arctic and planet. President Obama’s speech came at the end of the GLACIER Conference and after he had met early in the afternoon with a group of Alaska Natives. After thanking all Alaskans for hosting the conference, he told the assembled international delegations that America was ready to work with their nations on the many challenges the Arctic presents. Select key passages from his remarks taken from The White House Press Release on 1 September 2015 include:  We’re here today to discuss a challenge that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other … and that’s the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.  The Arctic is the leading edge of climate change – our leading indicator of what the entire planet faces.  Climate Change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now … And climate change is a trend that affects all trends – economic trends, security trends. Everything will be impacted.  I’ve come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating this problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it.  We can have a legitimate debate about how we are going to address this problem; we cannot deny the science. We also know the devastating consequences if the current trend lines continue. That is not deniable.  If we were to abandon our course of action, if we stop trying to build a clean-energy economy and reduce carbon pollution, if we do nothing to keep the glaciers from melting faster, and oceans from rising faster, and forests from burning faster, and storms from growing stronger, we will condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair.  On this issue, of all issues, there is such a thing as being too late. That moment is almost upon us. That’s why we’re here today. That’s what we have to convey to our people – tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. And that’s what we have to do when we meet in Paris later this year. All who were present would confirm that it was an eloquent speech filled with candor about a hugely complex Arctic and global challenge. Sprinkled with examples of profound Arctic change – sea ice melting, permafrost thawing, glaciers retreating, increasingly acidic oceans, changing migration patterns, and eroding coastal communities – the speech indicated the President is well-prepared to argue all of these issues and more in some detail at COP21 in Paris. As with most Presidential visits to a U.S. region or state, the administration in power announces a number of initiatives prior to and during such a visit to build political capital and create a legacy of action. One of the unanticipated and immediate decisions for the Alaska visit was made by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell who has authority over U.S. place names. With the President’s support, the name of the highest peak in North America was returned to Denali, the Athabascan name for ‘the high one.’ Re-establishing Denali in place of Mount McKinley has been argued for nearly four decades and this decision set a very positive tone for most Alaskans. It was a nnounced that the Denali Commission (a federal body) would take the lead in coordinating new federal funds and competitive grants devoted to assisting villages that are heavily impacted by climate change. President Obama also announced The GLACIER Conference