Norway Wants U.S. Politicians to See Warming Arctic
OSLO Norway will invite U.S. politicians to visit a group of fast-thawing Arctic islands in 2007, hoping to win converts for tougher action against global warming, its foreign minister says.
"Climate change may be one of the most serious threats mankind has ever faced," Jonas Gahr Stoere told Reuters in a end-year interview. "The Arctic is a clarion call, perhaps more than anywhere else, that things are changing."
Stoere said the Svalbard archipelago, 1,000 km (620 miles) from the North Pole, where melting glaciers and thawing sea ice is disrupting the lives of people and animals such as polar bears, could be a showcase in 2007 for the effects of warming.
"One ambition we have...is to extend strategic invitations" for visits to Svalbard, Stoere said about Norway's plans for International Polar Year in 2007, when many countries are planning to step up scientific research.
"In particular we are working towards the United States, we are thinking in terms of key advisers, key political decision-makers," he said.
He said he had no names yet on his list.
"People change from seeing," he said. Norway also chairs the eight-nation Arctic Council in 2006-08.
A 2004 report by 250 scientists said the Arctic region was warming twice as fast as the global average and blamed a build-up of greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels.
Stoere noted that U.S. Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, both seen as possible candidates for the White House in 2008, visited the islands in 2004.
British opposition Conservative leader David Cameron was among visitors in 2006. Reached by scheduled flights from Norway, the town of Longyearbyen on Svalbard is farther north than Alaska and has everything from hotels to supermarkets.
In 2001, President George W. Bush pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N. plan binding 35 industrial nations to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels in factories, power plants and vehicles.
Bush argued that Kyoto would cost U.S. jobs and wrongly excluded developing nations.
Stoere said he believed the arguments for tougher action to slow warming were getting across to more people. "I feel that talking about this is being listened to -- in Oslo, Brussels, Washington and New Delhi," he said.