President Obama used a speech to a State Department-sponsored Arctic climate change conference in Alaska on Monday to deliver one of his most urgent and dire warnings to date on the need to address manmade global warming. The speech, which comes at the beginning of a historic three-day visit to the Alaskan Arctic, was clearly aimed at trying to build momentum toward pivotal global climate talks in Paris in early December.
A new climate treaty covering the post-2020 period is supposed to be negotiated at that meeting, and it is viewed as the last feasible chance to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, a threshold world leaders agreed to in 2009. The emissions reduction commitments outlined ahead of that conference so far — including action by the U.S. — would not be sufficient to meet that target. In the speech to foreign ministers and delegates from Arctic nations such as Norway, Finland, Iceland, Denmark and Russia, and leaders from non-Arctic states as far away as Singapore, China, and South Korea, Obama said the world is simply not acting fast enough to curb global warming.
“None of the countries represented here are moving fast enough,” he said. Obama ran through a litany of climate change problems already evident around the Arctic, including in Alaska. These include melting sea and land ice, villages being slowly swallowed by the sea, thawing permafrost and wildfires that are burning more of the Arctic with each passing year.