Obama Visits Alaska, Explains Why State Matters to Future of Climate Change

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Yesterday, President Barack Obama arrived in Alaska to officially begin his three-day trip to explore the region and talk to locals in the interest of getting a better understanding and raising awareness for climate change.

In a statement published by the White House yesterday, Obama listed extensive wildfires, bigger storm surges as sea ice melts faster, and some of the swiftest shoreline erosion in the world as the reasons why Alaska provides a good example for the urgency we face in the fight against climate change and why we need to act now.

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During his first day in the northwestern state, Obama a stopped by the Glacier Conference of Alaska and noted that, “even if this isn’t an official meeting of the Arctic Council, the United States is proud to chair the Arctic Council for the next two years.”

“And to all the foreign dignitaries who are here, I want to be very clear. We are eager to work with your nations on the unique opportunities that the Arctic presents and the unique challenges that it faces. We can only solve them together.” (Watch the full speech in the video below.)

In a letter Obama addressed to the public, the President talks about the state of Alaska’s role in the climate challenges the U.S. is facing as well as the renaming of Mount McKinley, which made headlines yesterday. You can read the letter as provided by the White House below and follow the Alaska trip at Whitehouse.gov/Alaska.

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Letter

Today I touched down in Alaska for a three-day tour — a trip I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Not only because Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in a country that’s full of beautiful places — but because I’ll meet with everyday Alaskans about what’s going on in their lives, and I expect to learn a lot.

Alaska is a region defined by its Native population ­ tribes that make up a large portion of the state’s population and have been here for thousands of years. People who, through their sheer ingenuity, found a way to wrangle the elements and stake out lives for themselves.

On the flight in, I had a great view of one of Alaska’s most beautiful sights — Denali.

It’s a new and ancient name all at once. In fact, just today, we renamed Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America, by restoring its native name: Denali, which means “the high one.”

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. Alaska’s glaciers are melting faster, too — threatening coastal communities, tourism and adding to rising seas.

Climate change is already affecting the salmon stock that generations of natives have relied on as an integral part of their lives. So my Administration is taking new action to make sure Alaska Natives have direct input into the management of Chinook salmon stocks. They’ve taken care of the salmon population for centuries and there’s no reason they shouldn’t now.

If we do nothing, Alaskan temperatures are projected to rise between six and twelve degrees by the end of the century — changing all sorts of industries forever. This is all real. This is happening to our fellow Americans right now.

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I’m looking forward to talking to Alaskans about how we can work together to make America the global leader on climate change around the globe.

And I’ll be sharing my experiences with you along the way because I want to make sure you see what I’m seeing.

And when you do, I want you to think about the fact that this is the only planet that we’ve got — and we’ve got to do everything we can to protect it.

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