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President Arrives for Historic Trip to Alaska – ‘On the Front Lines of Climate Change’

U.S. Air Force

President Obama begins his historic visit to Alaska today to promote his plan to respond to global warming in the place he says is “on the front lines of climate change.”

President Obama says he’s coming to Alaska because what’s going on here demonstrates the urgent need to respond to climate change.

“Alaskans,” he said. “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.”

The president promoted his climate-change agenda in his weekly radio address. And he also explained how he’s promoting renewable energy sources such as wind and solar while allowing offshore oil exploration in the Chukchi Sea and onshore in the National Petroleum Reserve.

“Now even as we accelerate this transition, our economy still has to rely on oil and gas,” Obama said. “And as long as that’s the case, I believe we should rely more on domestic production rather than foreign imports. And we should demand the highest safety standards in the industry – our own.”

That’s welcome news to Gov. Bill Walker, who reportedly flew to Washington, D.C., over the weekend in order to fly back on Air Force One to get some quality time to talk with the president.

Walker told the Alaska Dispatch News that he intended to talk a lot about energy, including the president’s idea of using oil and, especially, natural gas as “bridge fuels” to power the economy as the nation transitions to renewable energy sources.

Credit White House
A view of Denali from Air Force One. On the eve of his three-day visit to Alaska, President Obama directed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to officially restore the Koyukon Athabaskan name of North America's highest peak, formerly known as Mt. McKinley.

“The oil is a bridge fuel, and we have plenty of it up north,” the governor said. “We have a pipeline that’s two-thirds empty. We need to put more oil in it. So, I think we actually will be aligned on that.”

Walker says he’s got a few other things on his mind that he’d like to share.

“I’ll also talk to him about our financial situation we’re in here in Alaska with the price of oil being down, the (pipeline) throughput being down,” he said. “I’ll talk to him about the military-base drawdown in Alaska. And the impact that would have. And the concern that we have about the buildup in military force in Russia, in the Arctic.”

The president will meet today with Alaska Native leaders and top elected officials about strengthening what the White House says is cooperative management strategies for fish and wildlife. Along with other initiatives.

He’ll also talk about climate-change in a speech to foreign ministers from around the world meeting here in Anchorage to discuss the issue.

“One of the things I’ll do while I’m in Alaska is to convene with other nations to meet this threat,” Obama said. “Several Arctic nations have already committed to action.”

On Tuesday, the president will travel to the Kenai Peninsula, to tour rapidly melting of the Exit Glacier and Kenai Fjords. He’s also scheduled to visit Dillingham to learn about the impact of climate change on fisheries. Then he’ll become the first president to cross the Arctic Circle when he flies to Kotzebue to talk with residents of villages endangered by storm-surge erosion.

In Anchorage, I’m Tim Ellis.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.