Foreign Ministers Hear Obama’s Urgent Call for Strong Response to Climate Change

Sep 4, 2015

Alaska hosts an historic conference on climate change ...


President Obama’s visit to Alaska dominated news coverage this week. It began with what many observers say was Obama’s most passionate speech yet about climate change at conference of foreign ministers meeting in Anchorage.

“The science is stark,” he said. “It is sharpening.  It proves that this once-distant threat is now very much in the present.” 

Administration officials scheduled the trip to Alaska to draw attention to the impact of climate change on the Arctic. And to muster support from those nations in the run-up to December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Where Obama and other world leaders hope to craft the strongest measures yet to reduce atmospheric carbon.

The president talks to foreign ministers at the GLACIER conference in Anchorage as Secretary of State John Kerry looks on.
Credit Alaska Dispatch News

“In fact,” he said, “the Arctic is the leading edge of climate change – our leading indicator of what the entire planet faces.”

That’s well-known to diplomats from the six Arctic nations seated around the large circular table next to where the president was speaking. They were among 20 nations represented at the GLACIER conference of foreign ministers, presided over by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who spoke before Obama.

“Everyone in this room – those here at the circular table, and those in the audience – are connected to the Arctic in some way,” Kerry said.

The other delegations came from nations such as China that are interested in economic opportunities in the Arctic that will come with the warming climate. Such as newly-accessible resources like hydrocarbons, and shorter shipping routes opened up by the retreating sea ice.

Obama gets a handshake from Borge Brende, Norway's foreign affairs minister, as he makes his way around the room after his speech greeting diplomats from 20 nations who attended the GLACIER conference.
Credit Alaska Dispatch News

The diplomats heard detailed briefings from scientists and other experts on the impact of climate change on the Arctic. Kerry says that information serves as the basis of the U.S. strategy to mitigate that impact and improve health and safety of the people who live in the region.

“We made progress in a host of areas. And our communique will summarize that,” he said.

Kerry urged the diplomats to use what they learned to help build support for the policies that the United States and other nations hope to enact at the conference in Paris.