As President Obama prepares to become the first sitting president to travel north of the Arctic Circle this week, the administration’s concerns revolve largely around climate change.
This contrasts with the more overtly geostrategic approach to the contested region being pursued by Russia, which this year carried out large-scale military maneuvers in the region involving Northern Fleet vessels and aircraft.
Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a major conference in Anchorage, which Obama will attend on Monday, ahead of the president’s visit Wednesday to the small town of Kotzebue in the Alaskan Arctic.
The focus of the Anchorage event and the president’s three-day visit to the state is climate change, as Obama made clear in his weekly broadcast.
Citing wildfires, storm surges, shoreline erosion and melting glaciers, Obama said Alaskans are already living with the effects of climate change, adding that “if we do nothing,” temperatures in Alaska are projected to rise by 6-12 degrees by 2100.
“This is all real,” he said. “This is happening to our fellow Americans right now.”