“Spectacular! We want to ensure that our grandchildren can enjoy it too.”
Walk in the national Park, Kenai Fjords, or aboard a boat in Resurrection Bay, Barack Obama spent Tuesday a whole afternoon in the middle of the glacier, in the south-east of Alaska.
Under an immense blue sky, in the middle of the mountains, the images are strong.
The White House has carefully choreographed the route and points of view, all spectacular, on the second day of this trip in Alaska as a whole focused on global warming and its impacts.
This move comes three months prior to the Paris conference, which aims to conclude a global agreement to try to limit to 2°C global temperature rise and prevent a runaway of the climate machine.
Thousands of miles from Washington, the us president, explains the threats to the Arctic, which is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet.
The bow of the Viewfinder, in front of three glaciers perched high above the sea, he watches the scenery breathtaking. And evokes smiling his life after the White House: “When I will no longer be president, you might well find myself there, in that hut,” he says, pointing to a small wooden house on the shore.
A few hours earlier, on the solid ground, he was approached, on foot, to the Exit Glacier. Located approximately 200 miles south of Anchorage, has retreated more than 2 km since 1815.
“Climate change is the main factor that explains the retreat of the glaciers,” explains Deborah Kurtz, who works within the national Park. “Almost all of the glaciers in Alaska are retreating”.
“This is one of the most studied glaciers by this that it is very accessible,” explains for its part, the american president. “It says something to the degree of urgency with which we must act in the face of this problem.”
“It is the best indicator that is the challenge we face when we talk about climate change”, he adds, in the wake of a speech in the form of a warning in which he warned: “We do not act quickly enough”.
Proof of the contradictory feelings that this presidential visit is raising up in this vast State whose resources are closely linked to oil exploration, the messages are mixed.
On Monday, a few hundred protesters had gathered in the centre of Anchorage, requesting cancellation of the permit granted to Shell to carry out drilling in the Chukchi sea, north of Alaska.
The tone was different on Tuesday. Upon his arrival by helicopter on the small airport of Seward, city of 3000 inhabitants, Mr. Obama was greeted by a huge banner deployed in a field. “Welcome, Mr president, thank you for the permission granted to Shell”.
But the climate is not the only concern of the inhabitants of this vast territory, sold in 1867 to the United States by the Russian Empire and became the 49th State of the United States of America in 1959.
“We wish you a welcome to the height of Denali”, could be read on one of the banners aloft by an inhabitant visibly delighted with the president’s decision to rename Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America.
It will now be officially designated by the name of the 25th president of the United States, but by the one which was used for centuries by the local people and is still widely used.