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Changing Arctic

Obama To Visit Alaska, Talk About Arctic Climate Change, Tour Impacted Communities


President Obama announced his upcoming visit to Alaska in a video that includes scenes of destruction from storm surges, flooding and wildfires.

The scene switches to Obama, talking about the reasons for his visit.

“…  I’m going because Alaskans are on the front lines of one of the greatest challenges we face this century: climate change.”

President Obama announces his visit to Alaska in a video released by the White House.

Obama is scheduled to speak during a conference of foreign ministers from around the world meeting in Anchorage to talk about the circumpolar north. He also will visit coastal communities that have suffered erosion and other damage due to climate change.

“It’s a pretty exciting time for us,” says Craig Fleener, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker’s top adviser on Arctic issues.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to highlight the things that are important to us,” Fleener said, “to get the word out about what we would like to see done here, and work on the changes that are important to us. And, have opportunity to mingle with some of the world leaders that are going to be coming here over the next two years.”

Fleener says the top-level meetings attest to growing worldwide interest in the Arctic; and, among Americans, in the part of the United States that lies within the region – Alaska.

Craig Fleener, Gov. Bill Walker's top adviser on Arctic issues.

He says if he were given a chance to talk with the president, he’d like to help him understand some of the big challenges Alaskans face, starting with energy.

“Really, the greatest threat I think to all of Alaska is the extremely high cost of energy,” Fleener said.

He says Alaskans would like to find alternatives to conventional fossil fuels, which ironically, cost more here than just about anywhere else in the country. But renewable sources of energy are even more expensive.

Fleener says he'd like to ask the president to “help us to reduce the cost of renewable energy. Make it affordable. Bring it to within 10 percent of the cost of the energy that we’re buying now.”

He says he’d also like to make the case for greater food security in Alaska and throughout the Arctic.

“It’s unfortunate, really, that the State Department hasn’t made food security across the Arctic a primary issue, because so many folks are so concerned about ensuring that they have good, safe, stable, sustainable food supplies.”

Fleener says he’s not suggesting the federal government should give Alaska a handout. He’s just suggesting the feds should work with the state to wisely manage hunting and fishing. And to improve transport networks that bring food in from Outside.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include additional information about Obama's visit to Alaska that was released after this story was written.