10 Highlights from the President’s GLACIER Conference Speech

President Barack Obama has been traveling in Alaska this week to shine a spotlight on climate change. During the tour, which included a historical visit for a sitting president to cross the Arctic Circle, Obama made stirring closing remarks at the Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER) Conference in Anchorage, where attendees are focused on international and domestic priorities in the Arctic.

Watch the President’s speech from the GLACIER Conference

Here are 10 highlights of the President’s GLACIER speech:

1. Climate change is happening now
“Climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now. Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety – now. Today. Already it’s changing the way Alaskans live. And considering the Arctic’s unique role in influencing the global climate, it will accelerate changes to the way that we all live.”

2. The Arctic is an indicator for global change
“The Arctic is the leading edge of climate change — our leading indicator of what the entire planet faces. Arctic temperatures are rising about twice as fast as the global average. Over the past 60 years, Alaska has warmed about twice as fast as the rest of the United States. Last year was Alaska’s warmest year on record — just as it was for the rest of the world. And the impacts here are very real.”

3. Arctic sea ice is decreasing at alarming rates
“Since 1979, the summer sea ice in the Arctic has decreased by more than 40 percent — a decrease that has dramatically accelerated over the past two decades. One new study estimates that Alaska’s glaciers alone lose about 75 gigatons — that’s 75 billion tons of ice each year. To put that in perspective, one scientist described a gigaton of ice as a block the size of the National Mall in Washington — from Congress all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, four times as tall as the Washington Monument. Now imagine 75 of those ice blocks. That’s what Alaska’s glaciers alone lose each year. The pace of melting is only getting faster.”

4. Climate change is not only apparent to scientists

“I had a chance to meet with some Native peoples before I came in here, and they described for me villages that are slipping into the sea, and the changes that are taking place — changing migratory patterns; the changing fauna so that what used to feed the animals that they, in turn, would hunt or fish beginning to vanish. It’s urgent for them today. But that is the future for all of us if we don’t take care.”

5. Climate change effects economy, security and more
“Climate change is a trend that affects all trends — economic trends, security trends. Everything will be impacted. And it becomes more dramatic with each passing year. I’ve come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating this problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it. And I believe we can solve it. That’s the good news. Even if we cannot reverse the damage that we’ve already caused, we have the means — the scientific imagination and technological innovation — to avoid irreparable harm.”

6. Clean energy is a good investment
“Here in the United States, we’re trying to do our part… We’ve invested in energy efficiency in every imaginable way — in our buildings, our cars, our trucks, our homes, even the appliances inside them. We’re saving consumers billions of dollars along the way. Here in Alaska, more than 15,000 homeowners have cut their energy bills by 30 percent on average. That collectively saves Alaskans more than $50 million each year. We’ve helped communities build climate-resilient infrastructure to prepare for the impacts of climate change that we can no longer prevent.”

7. We must address carbon
“Earlier this month, I announced the first set of nationwide standards to end the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants. It’s the single most important step America has ever taken on climate change…. So we are working hard to do our part to meet this challenge. And in doing so, we’re proving that there doesn’t have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth. But we’re not moving fast enough.”

8. Climate change is undeniable
“We know that human activity is changing the climate. That is beyond dispute. Everything else is politics if people are denying the facts of climate change. We can have a legitimate debate about how we are going to address this problem; we cannot deny the science. We also know the devastating consequences if the current trend lines continue. That is not deniable. And we are going to have to do some adaptation, and we are going to have to help communities be resilient, because of these trend lines we are not going to be able to stop on a dime.”

9. We all have a part to play
“A growing number of American homeowners are choosing to go solar every day. It works… More Americans every day are doing their part, though. Thanks to their efforts, America will reach the emission target that I set six years ago. We’re going to reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. And that’s why, last year, I set a new target: America is going to reduce our emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 10 years from now.”

  • Learn how Coloradans are making choices that make a difference in this video.

10. World powers need to come together
“The United States will double the pace at which we cut our emissions, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting its emissions. Because the world’s two largest economies and two largest emitters came together, we’re now seeing other nations stepping up aggressively as well. And I’m determined to make sure American leadership continues to drive international action, because we can’t do this alone… We have to do it together.

“This year, in Paris, has to be the year that the world finally reaches an agreement to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.”

Learn more about the President’s unprecedented trip to Alaska on the White House blog.

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