Obama jets to Alaska to talk up climate ahead of Paris

AirForceOnePresident Obama’s visit to Alaska on Monday will focus on the real-time effects global warming is having on the Arctic, while also helping to set the stage for reaching a global deal on climate change later in Paris in December.

The president will jet to Anchorage Monday to give the closing remarks at an international summit of Arctic nations meant to focus on the effects the Arctic faces from climate change. The summit also will be used to demonstrate political will for lowering greenhouse gas emissions and curbing global warming among the countries attending.

The State Department says the summit, known as GLACIER (Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience), will be used partly to build public support for reaching a deal at the United Nations global climate conference in Paris Nov. 30 through Dec. 11.

Although GLACIER is “not directly related to the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (otherwise known as COP-21),” it will “help to focus” attention on “how a region vulnerable to climate change is experiencing and responding to these impacts, helping to drive political will for ambitious action at COP-21,” the State Department says on its website.

The White House says the Arctic summit will be used to “discuss how climate change is reshaping the Arctic, increase global awareness of how Arctic climate change is affecting the rest of the world, and identify individual and collective actions to address these challenges.”

The other part of the president’s trip will be used to highlight the effects that a warming climate is already having on people who live in the icy north. “The issue of climate change is not an issue of the future tense in Alaska,” Brian Deese, the president’s senior climate change adviser, told reporters on a call Friday previewing the trip. “It is affecting people’s lives and their livelihoods in real ways.”

“We view this [visit] as part of a broader and longer-term effort by the president and the administration to speak openly, honestly and frequently about how climate change is already affecting the lives of Americans and the strength and health of our economy, and also what we can do, individually and collectively, to address it,” Deese said.

Many climate scientists blame greenhouse gas emissions, mainly through burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil, for driving manmade global warming.

Republicans have been critical of the president’s climate change agenda, which they say has been used to push unprecedented new regulations that would drive up the cost of energy for consumers, harm the economy and make the electricity grid unstable.

The president and the Environmental Protection Agency used August to both finalize and propose new landmark rules for power plants and the oil and gas sector. On Aug. 3, the administration finalized the centerpiece of that agenda, the Clean Power Plan. The plan would put states on the hook to reduce one-third of their emissions by 2032, a goal that the GOP believes is unattainable. The EPA also proposed new rules for the oil and gas sector to limit its emissions, which the industry argues will drive up costs for consumers by making fuel production more costly.

The administration says the regulations will help demonstrate to other nations that the U.S. is serious about global warming and will help to negotiate a global framework to lower emissions. Republicans argue that the harm the regulations pose to the U.S. economy vastly outweighs the benefits of securing a global deal in Paris.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky warned foreign leaders earlier this year that the Clean Power Plan — the linchpin negotiating a climate deal — is not likely to survive judicial review as many states look to oppose the rules.

“Considering that two-thirds of the U.S. federal government hasn’t even signed off on the Clean Power Plan and 13 states have already pledged to fight it,” McConnell said “our international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal.”

Republican senior staff have been fanning out to meet with foreign dignitaries at embassies in Washington, in an effort to thwart the president’s goal of reaching an international agreement, according to the news site Greenwire.

The news group reported that Senate staff, led by McConnell’s energy aide Neil Chatterjee, have been meeting with foreign officials in recent months to warn them that the White House’s pledges of emission reductions and aid dollars will not withstand opposition from lawmakers.

They also are telling European Union representatives that any hope of a deal will be squashed if a Republican is elected president in 2016.