Center for American Progress

RELEASE: As Administration Issues Executive Order on National Arctic Priorities and the U.S. Arctic Council Chairmanship, CAP Paper Urges Maximization of This Unique Opportunity
Press Release

RELEASE: As Administration Issues Executive Order on National Arctic Priorities and the U.S. Arctic Council Chairmanship, CAP Paper Urges Maximization of This Unique Opportunity

This press release contains a correction.

Washington, D.C. — As the United States prepares to assume the chairmanship of the Arctic Council this spring, President Barack Obama issued an executive order creating a new governing structure to strategically guide and coordinate agencies toward meeting the country’s Arctic goals. With the Arctic currently experiencing climate change effects more drastic than any other part of the globe, strong leadership from the United States is necessary right now for the Arctic Council to have the desired effect on curbing climate change, improving the resilience and living conditions of Arctic communities, and reducing the risks of commercial activity in this remote and treacherous region.

In an issue brief released today by the Center for American Progress, climate experts Cathleen Kelly and Miranda Peterson present the many reasons why the two-year U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council poses a unique opportunity to affect real change in the Arctic as the rest of the international community works toward a global plan for avoiding the worst climate change effects.

“With the recent joint announcement on climate change cooperation by the United States and China and the upcoming climate negotiations in Paris, the next few years are going to have a momentous effect on the global battle against climate change,” said CAP Senior Fellow Cathleen Kelly. “The Arctic is experiencing the effects of climate change at a rate double that of the rest of the planet.* With the United States chairing the Arctic Council, the time is now for the president, Secretary Kerry, and Congress to demonstrate strong leadership and seize the opportunity for real and lasting progress on cutting heat-trapping pollution and strengthening community resilience to climate changes that are already underway.”

The paper asserts that the effects of climate change in the Arctic will cascade downward, having environmental effects on the rest of the globe and also economic and public safety effects as sea levels rise and the weather becomes more extreme and unpredictable. The paper also warns that risky commercial activities in this isolated region could cause catastrophes such as oil spills. The paper offers concrete recommendations for the United States to take full advantage of its chairmanship, including reducing black carbon and methane emissions. The paper asserts that reducing these emissions would slow global warming with “an outsized benefit” in the Arctic, where it could have two to three times the effect on warming compared with the global average.

In addition, the brief’s authors urge the president and Congress to provide federal agencies the resources needed to expand research on climate change and marine biodiversity, improve the resilience and living conditions of Arctic communities, and strengthen Arctic search and rescue capacity. The authors also call on the White House to set world-class standards for Arctic oil spill prevention and response and to identify and protect important marine areas in the Arctic.

Click here to read the brief.

For more information, contact Tom Caiazza at [email protected] or 202.481.7141.

*Correction, January 23, 2015: This press release has been corrected to more accurately characterize the temperature increase in the Arctic compared with the global temperature increase.

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