President Barack Obama’s trip this week to Alaska highlights realities somewhat at odds with each other.
▪ Climate change is having negative effects on the environment.
▪ The United States is still dependent on oil as a major contributor to its economy.
The president will spend a lot more time on the first point. He will point out that manmade pollution — linked especially to fossil fuel use — has created conditions that are eroding the state’s shorelines, melting huge chunks of sea ice and increasing temperatures.
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These and other changes are threatening small coastal communities and destroying the habitat of animals hunted by native Alaskans. As the state’s gorgeous scenery is altered, tourism may decline. Global warming is an economic problem for Alaskans, not just an environmental disaster in the making.
The president has a good case to make: America must find responsible ways to try to reduce the effects of harmful greenhouse emissions caused by its voracious appetite for fossil fuels.
But Obama’s visit to Alaska also is highlighting his recent decision to allow Royal Dutch Shell permission to expand its drilling for petroleum off the state’s northwest coast. Many environmentalists are upset, noting the connection between drilling and climate change.
The president’s longtime view, though, is to curtail the nation’s use of foreign oil. That’s generally a good thing, even while that approach can reduce more aggressive investment in renewable energy. His administration will make sure Shell follows the rules while drilling, Obama said, a promise that must be kept.
Alaska provides a beautiful and fitting backdrop for Obama’s needed warnings about the current and future dangers of climate change.