US To Arctic: How Can There Be Global Warming When Ice ... Oh, No Ice?
The Arctic is in big trouble. The region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, with worrying consequences -- like the thawing of permafrost releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and speeding up global warming even more. A major new study released in April -- this one surveying changes since 1971 -- put the situation quite bluntly:
The Arctic biophysical system is now clearly trending away from its 20th Century state and into an unprecedented state, with implications not only within but beyond the Arctic.
That's scientist talk for Shit Is Very Bad. So of course we shouldn't be the least bit surprised to learn that the Trump administration has been attempting to strip all mentions of climate change from an international statement that's supposed to be issued next week by the eight nations that make up the Arctic Council. While the rest of the countries with territory in the Arctic think science is real, Donald Trump's very good brain thinks otherwise, and don't you tell him different!
The Arctic Council nations meet every two years to discuss international policy at the top of the world, and they have always issued a unanimous statement about goals and principles like "Maybe we should try not to kill all the sea otters with crude oil" and "Indigenous People have rights, sure, we guess" and "Look! A Whale!" But not this year, reports the Washington Post:
The Trump administration's position, at least initially, threatened a standoff, in which the United States would not sign off on a statement that included climate discussion and other members would not agree to a version that left it out, according to senior diplomats and others familiar with the discussions.
The administration objected to language that, while nonbinding, could be read as a collective commitment to address the effects of climate change in the Arctic, diplomats said. One official familiar with the preparations for this year's meeting said that at meetings last month, the United States "indicated its resistance to any mention of climate change whatsoever."
That's according to "three officials from member states" who wanted to stay off the record, because diplomacy. In addition, the US insisted there should be no mention at all of the Paris climate agreement, because now that the US is pulling out of the agreement, it is actually nonexistent, or at least very insulting to mention it at all.
Happily, "dialogue has improved during the last couple of days," according to one senior official, who no doubt suppressed the urge to say the climate for the talks was warming.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has his own history of downplaying climate science, is set to travel to Finland next week, where he is expected to summarize the administration's position on climate change by pretending to put two fingers down his throat and gag whenever the term is used. Still, it appears the final document will deal with the Trump administration's objections to reality by carefully suggesting some sort of action while avoiding mention of the C-word and the P-place:
Negotiations continued this week, one official said. He predicted the final document will include something "substantive" and "robust" on the impact of climate change in the Arctic, although he was not sure if the phrase 'climate change' itself would be used.
Two officials said they do not expect the document to refer to the Paris agreement, now that the United States is pulling out — an apparent compromise. The other seven Arctic nations are all signatories.
We suppose it's too late at this point to suggest the other seven nations just release a normal statement calling for action on climate change in accord with the Paris goals, and just call the US "Nation 1." We're used to that by now.
And as with any other international event where other countries try to figure out how to deal with the angry toddler, diplomats are struggling to put things diplomatically. Toddlers, after all, are terrible at matters of protocol. Still, the former Finnish ambassador in charge of wrangling this shitshow remained optimistic:
Aleksi Härkönen [...] , who chairs the group of diplomats from each nation who serve as delegates to the council, said negotiations are still not completed over wording in the final, joint declaration that must be approved unanimously.
Härkönen declined to be specific, but said the remaining differences reflect "different shades of gray."
"We have made good progress," Härkönen said in a phone interview. "There is a willingness on all sides to achieve a result, to be able to get a declaration all can agree on. I sense the willingness to make compromises. I believe this will be the outcome. But we are not there yet."
You'd expect Mr. Härkönen to be especially sensitive to issues of climate, given his family's unfortunate association with developments on the desert planet Arrakis. (Rebecca: this is a Dune joke. The nerds will eat it up.)
The Post points out that in the Before Times, the Arctic's vulnerability to climate change made the biennial conference an opportunity to spotlight climate change as a threat to the rest of the world. Obama-era State Department official David Balton, who left government in 2017 and used to be in charge of US Arctic policy, says the climate deniers currently in charge want to do nothing of the sort, though of course he said that like a diplomat:
"It's not so much facts are in dispute, as it is what the Arctic Council in particular ought to be doing about it, and how the document ought to characterize Paris," he said. "It's more about public relations, that the administration should not sign a document that calls for the Council, including the United States, to broadcast to the world just how terrible the situation for climate in the Arctic really is."
Maybe the administration could just delay the conference until the Friday after Thanksgiving and then release the joint statement after like 5:00 pm Eastern so nobody notices.
The Post also points out, perhaps a bit naively, that Pompeo is scheduled to visit Greenland, which is pretty much soaking in global warming, even at times of the year when it used to be frozen solid:
Greenland, a sparsely populated island that lies mostly above the Arctic Circle, has lost ice at an accelerating pace in the past several decades. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that Greenland's glaciers went from dumping about 51 billion tons of ice into the ocean between 1980 to 1990, to 286 billion tons between 2010 and 2018.
Rafe Pomerance, who despite his name is not a Star Wars hero but a fellow at Woods Hole Research Center and chair of the advocacy group Arctic 21, pointed out that the loss of sea ice and Greenland's glaciers is also accelerating climate change, since ice reflects sunlight back into space. That's called the planet's albedo, and you'd think Donald Trump would really want to do what he can to enhance that.
"It is the central issue for the Arctic Council to address. The joint statement of ministers of the Arctic Council must reflect the urgency of Arctic decline and the commitment of governments to act with absolute urgency to respond," Pomerance said. "The fate of Greenland is the fate of Miami."
We're not getting our hopes up. That mention of Miami won't worry Trump -- he'll just tell Pompeo all about watching the returns come in from Florida in 2016. Now THAT'S some flooding he can believe in.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.