President Barack Obama is in Alaska this week to talk about climate change. Some environmentalists say it’s a bit hypocritical, because just two weeks ago the government gave Royal Dutch Shell the green light to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean. Some Alaskans, too, are concerned about the president’s message.
Just like last year, tens of thousands of walruses are coming ashore in Alaska. They’re reacting to disappearing ice because of climate change, hauling out on a beach, instead of on ice, to rest. Jesse Morris, a scientist with the University of Utah, says people in the Arctic aren’t just talking about climate change, they live it.
“It’s challenging for us to wrap our minds around these low-frequency changes that have been happening in the high latitudes for a long time,” he says.
So it sounds like it’s time to develop a plan. Obama is using the word “strategy.” Dr. Stephen Langdon, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Alaska Anchorage, says he doesn’t know what that means.
“If that word means anything, it’s going to have to address numerous different kinds of topics,” he says.
Topics like an expanding Northwest Passage, which leads to sovereignty questions: who controls the waters of an Arctic Ocean that was, forever, not really an ocean? Not to mention the ongoing debate about drilling for oil both in Alaska and offshore in the Arctic.