Over the next few days the President is going where no president has ever gone before: Alaska. The purpose of the trip is to upgrade and cement his legacy as the first president to make any substantial moves to fight climate change. To borrow a phrase from the song New York, New York, if he can make it there, he can make it anywhere.
Why there? For one thing, one of the prime engines driving CC is man’s use of fossil fuels. Just weeks ago, Obama gave final approval to Shell Oil to drill in the Alaskan Arctic for the first time in 20 years.
Alaskans are accustomed to receiving an annual dividend check from the Alaska Permanent Fund, which is funded in large part from oil revenues. In 2014 each eligible Alaska resident received a check for $1,884. To them, the President’s drilling approval is a big step in the right direction.
On the other hand, CC is already profoundly affecting the lives and culture of people who depend on traditional ways of acquiring and storing their food. Because of thin ice, Inuit homes have had to be relocated, and one has already been lost.
Additionally, thin ice poses a danger of falling through to those whose livelihood depends upon ice fishing. Instead of several weeks suitable for walrus hunting, in some years the time has been cut to a few days. For more information from the standpoint of Inuits, go to http://www.nativescience.org/pubs/Impact%20of%20Climate%20Change%20on%20Alaska%20Native%20Communities.pdf.
Commercial fishermen will also face increased costs as cold-water fish move further out to sea.
Although it has not been mentioned, the effect of CC on tourism is also a factor. As glaciers recede from the shoreline, and calving of icebergs becomes less common, the attractiveness of Alaska as a cruise destination is going to diminish.
So the decision is between the indigenous people and those whose livelihood is dependent upon maintaining the status quo on climate, versus those who look forward to that big annual check.
As a liberal, I wish POTUS good luck on his quest. He will need it.