This week, I hiked Exit Glacier in Seward, Alaska. These moments always serve as a reminder of why Secretary Kerry established a Special Representative for the Arctic, recognizing the profound and urgent need to address the opportunities and challenges arising in the region. In this role, I have seen firsthand the dramatic changes taking place across the region and believe that tackling the causes and impacts of climate change is one of the greatest challenges of this generation.
On Sunday, August 30, I will join Arctic leaders in welcoming President Obama to Anchorage, Alaska for the Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER) conference. GLACIER will focus the world’s attention on the most urgent issues facing the Arctic today and provide an unprecedented opportunity for foreign ministers and key stakeholders to discuss the region’s most crucial challenges; highlight innovative ways in which these challenges can be addressed at the local, national and international levels; and broaden global awareness of the impacts of Arctic climate change.
Robert J. Papp, Jr., Special Representative for the Arctic near Exit Glacier in Seward, Alaska, August 26, 2015 [State Department Photo]
I am proud that, by convening GLACIER, the U.S. Department of State is bringing to Alaska experts and dignitaries from around the world with the goal of strengthening international cooperation and commitment to address the causes and impacts of climate change in the Arctic region.
In Alaska, communities have thrived for millennia in some of the harshest conditions on earth. But, based on decades of rigorous scientific research, we know that climate change will continue to transform the Arctic in the future as its consequences grow more severe. Dramatic seasonal reduction in Arctic sea ice, widespread glacier retreat, acidifying oceans, earlier spring snowmelt, and thawing permafrost are changing the ways people can access, live, and work in this remote region.
Robert J. Papp, Jr, Special Representative for the Arctic hikes Exit Glacier in Seward, Alaska, August 2015 [State Department Photo]
The United States is investing in the Arctic. Domestically, the U.S. government is involved in a wide range of Arctic-related work. We are working to promote environmental stewardship, preserve cultural heritage, and encourage science and research, maritime safety, defense and security. Internationally, we have been a strong supporter of the Arctic Council since its inception. We are currently chairing the Arctic Council and working with its participants to fulfill an ambitious agenda.
The President released the U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic Region in May 2013 and its implementation plan in January 2014 to ensure that our Arctic work is strategic and forward leaning. A January 2015 Executive Order established the Arctic Executive Steering Committee (AESC) as a cohesive federal government entity to increase coordination among Federal, State, tribal, and local governments and Alaska Natives. This is only the beginning of an elevated discussion throughout the U.S. government that will continue beyond the conclusion of our Arctic Council Chairmanship in 2017.
Video: President Obama's Weekly Address: Meeting the Global Threat of Climate Change
I look forward to the GLACIER conference as a chance to engage the many visionary leaders in the Arctic region on the challenge posed by climate change in the Arctic. Through increased international partnership, engagement, and innovation, I am confident we will find collaborative solutions to this global challenge.
About the Author: Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., USCG (Ret.) is the State Department’s Special Representative for the Arctic.
For more information:
- Find out why the Arctic matters in this preview of the GLACIER Conference.
- Find out more about the GLACIER Conference, related events, and who else will attend.
- See the details about the Department’s 24-hour Global GLACIER Digital Relay.
- Find out more about the United States chairmanship of the Artic Council.