What others say: Arctic Council sets climate marker

  • By Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Editorial
  • Tuesday, May 16, 2017 10:53am
  • Opinion

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered reasoned and reflective words to his circumpolar counterparts on the subject of global climate change this week in his opening remarks at the Arctic Council gathering in Fairbanks.

It is the Arctic nations — and the U.S. is one of them because of its possession of the state of Alaska — that are witnessing the effects of climate change within their borders, so Secretary Tillerson’s comments were going to be closely watched for indication of the new U.S. administration’s position.

There have been many news reports about how the administration of President Donald Trump has a markedly different view than that of the Obama administration on human action as the cause of, or accelerator of, climate change. Opponents of President Trump breathlessly decry any decision they see as a change of course on the matter.

Secretary Tillerson said the Trump administration doesn’t have a set position. He noted that the Arctic “has been facing unprecedented change and challenges.”

“In the United States, we are currently reviewing several important policies, including how the Trump administration will approach the issue of climate change,” the secretary told his counterparts. “We are appreciative that each of you has an important point of view, and you should know that we are taking the time to understand your concerns. We’re not going to rush to make a decision. We’re going to work to make the right decision for the United States.”

That is some calm talk amid the hysterical chatter that has surrounded the issue since way back when now-

President Trump was just a rising Republican in the crowded field of GOP candidates.

As we have noted in this space previously, that climate change is underway — that the planet is warming and that the polar regions are being adversely affected — isn’t a subject to be debated. It is happening.

What can be debated — and is being debated — is the extent of human action as the cause and what, if anything, can be done to arrest the warming of our planet.

Climate change was one of the major subjects of discussion among Secretary Tillerson and the representatives of Russia, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Denmark.

Among the climate change statements agreed to by the United States in the nonbinding “Fairbanks Declaration” signed by all eight of the Arctic Council’s member nations:

— Note again that the Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate of the global average, note with concern that the pace and scale of Arctic warming will depend on emissions of greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants,

—Reiterate the importance of global action to reduce greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants to mitigate climate change, and call for the Arctic Council to undertake additional analyses to contribute to the assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and continued collaboration with all levels of governments,

—Underscore the important role of industry in fostering innovative technologies to further reduce greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants,

—Recognize that climate change is the most serious threat to Arctic biodiversity.

—Reiterate the importance of climate science to our understanding of the changing Arctic region and our activities in the Arctic environment,

As Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski noted in a news account about the Fairbanks Declaration, the inclusion of the climate change references are the best indicators about the Trump administration’s views on climate change.

And that is a strong development, one that can be held up as something to be accountable for, to come out of the high-level Arctic Council meeting in Fairbanks.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,

May 13

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