Obama’s controversial Arctic trip

On Monday, President Obama embarked on a three-day tour of Alaska and the Arctic in an effort to increase awareness of climate change and the need for increased American

involvement in the region. The president has been notably ambitious in his work to bolster policies meant to combat climate change and reduce energy dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels.

This visit should not come as much of a surprise given how visible the effects of climate change are in the Arctic region. The area, with “frequent wildfires, shoreline erosion, and melting sea ice and glaciers,” presents the perfect stage for Obama to reinforce his platform and the imperative need for action to counter global warming.

At the same time, not everyone is pleased with the Obama’s trip, with some going so far as to call it hypocritical given the controversial permission granted by the president to and the shell decision Royal Dutch Shell for offshore oil drilling.

Obama approved Shell’s application for drilling less than a month ago, and the decision’s proximity to the time of his trip did not go unnoticed. However, it is important to note that while offshore drilling is not the preferred route to go, the current dependence on fossil fuels requires certain accommodations to be made until energy production can be switched entirely to clean, renewable resources.

While climate awareness is certainly at the forefront of the president’s agenda, he also has expressed a desire to increase the number of Coast Guard icebreakers, given that the number of U.S icebreakers pales in comparison to Russia’s “40 icebreakers with 11 planned or under construction.” As the Arctic environment is altered by climate change, new industry and opportunities will arise such as “shipping, tourism, mineral exploration, and fishing,” making it imperative for the United States to solidify its stakes in the region sooner rather than later.

Global-climate change is an issue that cannot be ignored, and while the president may have to make controversial decisions within the context of the nation’s current energy needs his efforts overall should be commended. The transition to renewable energy will not be immediate, but emphasizing the need for climate-change awareness and advocating action to alter our path of energy consumption can never be done too soon.

Obama is aware of the pressing need for action on climate change. “Human activity is disrupting the climate, in many ways, faster than we previously thought,” he said at a summit on Arctic environmental issues. “The science is stark. It is sharpening. It proves that this once distance threat is now very much in the present.”

With his trip, the president is not only working to address what may prove to the most prominent issue for the next generation but also looking to the future for potential industry advancements in a currently underutilized region. The shifting landscape of the Arctic will present new opportunities and responsibilities that will mandate increased U.S presence in the future.

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