Why the Arctic Matters: A Preview of the #GLACIER Conference

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
August 28, 2015
An iceberg floats in the sea near Qeqertarsuaq, Disko Island, Greenland

The U.S. Department of State will host, GLACIER, an important conference in Anchorage, Alaska on August 30-31, 2015 that will focus the world’s attention on the most urgent issues facing the Arctic today. GLACIER will provide an unprecedented opportunity for world leaders and stakeholders to broaden global awareness and engage on ways the international community can address the effects of Arctic climate change.

WHAT IS GLACIER?

The conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement, & Resilience, or GLACIER, will be a global conversation convened by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, that will include senior U.S. Government and other Arctic nations officials as well as Arctic experts from the global scientific and policy communities, public and private sector representatives, and Alaskan State, local and indigenous leadership.

President Barack Obama will also travel to Alaska to join this important dialogue. This unique conference will be the first time a sitting U.S. President and a Secretary of State will visit Alaska together, and the first time an international meeting of this scale is hosted in the State.

AN IMPORTANT GLOBAL CONVERSATION ON ARCTIC ISSUES

Arctic countries and those with interests in the region have to work together on the basis of international law, through broad networks, and via cross-cutting collaboration to safeguard the future of the Arctic and protect the human, economic, and environmental interests that exist there. As Secretary Kerry has stated, “Every nation that cares about the future of the Arctic has to be a leader in taking and urging others to move forward with bold initiatives and immediate, ambitious steps to curb the impact of greenhouse gases.” And this is exactly what GLACIER is all about -- bringing global leadership together to focus on the Arctic to generate momentum and expedite progress in addressing some of the most pressing issues facing the region.

GLACIER reinforces the United States’ deep commitment to the Arctic. The Obama Administration has demonstrated this commitment through its Arctic strategy, Arctic Strategy Implementation Plan, and the January 2015 Executive Order that President Obama signed on enhancing the coordination of national efforts in the Arctic. This commitment serves as the impetus for our efforts in the Arctic Council and efforts to address Artic issues affecting us domestically as well. GLACIER is another important step in recognizing the need to protect and conserve this unique, valuable, and changing environment.

1941 photo of Muir Glacier melt in Alaska taken by Ulysses William O. Field alongside a 2004 photo of the same location taken by Bruce F. Molnia [Courtesy of the Glacier Photograph Collection, National Snow and Ice Data Center/World Data Center for Glaciology]

 

WHY THE ARCTIC MATTERS

The United States has been an Arctic nation, with important interests in the region, since the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. The Arctic covers six percent of the Earth’s surface area (that’s 5.5 million square miles) and spans all 24 time zones. The Arctic environment is beautiful and dynamic. It supports nearly four million people -- many indigenous -- living in Arctic communities and relying on sea ice for travel and fishing. 

The Arctic region is undergoing profound and rapid changes. The region is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet. Increased human activity is bringing additional stressors to the Arctic environment, with potentially serious consequences for Arctic communities and ecosystems.  Sea ice and glaciers are in retreat. Melting ice has contributed to rising sea levels. Permafrost is thawing and coasts are eroding. Pollutants from within and outside the Arctic are contaminating the region.

Increasingly rapid changes in the Arctic are not only a concern for local communities but are affecting the entire planet. These challenges will require governments to increase engagement with their citizens and with each other to raise awareness of the impacts of Arctic climate change and to find solutions.

How does the Arctic affect you? Join a digital relay and share a photo or video from your community or share your personal thoughts on the issues using #GLACIER, between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. in your time zone on Sunday, August 30th. Every time zone is participating! #GLACIER

HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED

Join the U.S. Department of State and our partners for a 24-hour Global Twitter digital relay to show the world how Arctic climate change affects you and your community.  Perhaps you’ve noticed the impact of Arctic climate change in the behavior of the wildlife in your city. Maybe you’ve noticed the receding water on the coastline where you live.  Share a photo or video from your community or share your personal thoughts on the issues using #GLACIER, between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. in your time zone on Sunday, August 30th.

You can also ask U.S. government leaders to answer your questions on the Arctic and international efforts to address Arctic climate change in a Facebook Q&A. Ask a question now, and you could receive a video response live from the conference.

You can also watch portions of GLACIER live on www.state.gov and join the online conversation surrounding the Arctic and #GLACIER.  Follow @JohnKerry, @StateDeptSpox, @StateDept, @StateDeptOES, and @USArctic on Twitter to keep up with Secretary Kerry’s travel and receive live updates. Photos from the Secretary’s travel and GLACIER will also be available on the Department’s Flickr account and on the GLACIER Flickr account.

For more information:

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