The agenda of the President’s 3-day Alaska tour is to focus on warming earth temperatures, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and the havoc all this is causing to the biodiversity of sea and land. Armed with first-hand information, Barack Obama could extend strong support to the climate deal during the global climate negotiations in Paris.
The rising temperature this year has caused summer sea ice to melt rapidly resulting in thousands of Walruses taking shelter on coastal beaches. The walruses found in the seas north of Alaska and Chukotka, Russia; usually rest on floating sea ice over shallow waters where they find food in abundance. But with the melting away of ice, they are forced to rest on shores with no food readily available to them.
At this time, in Ryrkaypiy in Chukotka, Russia, about 5,000 walruses are gathered on shores near the village of Point Lay. The President’s visit to the Arctic would help raise awareness and concerns regarding these animals being pushed out of their natural habitat. Not only are walruses a concern, but also the health of the entire Arctic marine system is at stake.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is hopeful of the President’s positive intervention to protect the environment and also to help put an end to relentless gas drilling activities that leave a huge carbon footprint via extraction of fossil fuel and related activities in the Arctic waters.
NRDC President Rhea Suh is quoted to have said, “One of the most rapidly warming places on the planet, Alaska is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the nation. The first seven months of this year were the second-hottest ever recorded for the period in the state, which averaged 4.9 degrees Fahrenheit above its 20th-century norm.”
According to Rhea Suh, fast melting glaciers, are one of the major contributors to global sea level rise. Also, rising sea levels pose to threaten the very livelihood of indigenous people who live in coastal areas. The president will have an opportunity to interact with tribes who occupy coasts in the northern port of Kotzebue, 26 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
NRDC President Rhea Suh went on to say, “President Obama’s answer to the climate threat has been clear and unstinting,” says Sah. “No leader anywhere has done more to cut the dangerous carbon pollution that’s driving climate chaos. He’s cut it from our cars, our trucks and our power plants, and he’s laid out an expansive vision for a clean energy future centered around efficiency gains and more wind and solar power.”
“He’s opposed efforts to allow oil and gas development on Alaska’s vast Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, nearly 12 million acres of which he’s proposed to designate as protected wilderness, which would put it off-limits to the fossil-fuel industry in perpetuity.”
Of note is the fact that President Obama has granted permission for exploratory drilling in the Arctic waters, which Shell Oil company has begun doing this month.
Sah feels that we will be forsaking our obligation and responsibility toward the future generations if we continue this relentless pursuit of oil. She added “President Obama has never been one to bet on failure. He’s worked, instead, to ensure success. The Alaska trip offers him a historic chance to build on hope and progress. It’s time to protect the Arctic waters once and for all, for the sake of all they support, for the sake of our climate, for the sake of our children’s future”.