U.S. blocking Arctic report

Scripps Howard News Service, Memes.org, 16 September 2004

WASHINGTON—The Bush administration is trying to bury an international report that contains recommendations on the impact of global warming on the people of the Arctic, an Arctic leader told a Senate panel yesterday.

State Department officials are blocking the release of one of two reports that were to be presented to government ministers from eight Arctic nations at a meeting on Nov. 9 in Reykjavik, Iceland, Sheila Watt-Cloutier of northern Quebec in Canada told the Senate Commerce Committee. She is chairwoman of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, representing native people.

Four years ago, the United States and other nations launched the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. More than 300 scientists participated.

The results are contained in two reports—a scientific analysis and a report outlining policy recommendations—that were to be presented at the November meeting, Watt-Cloutier said.

The science report will still be presented, but the United States has succeeded in blocking the release of the policy report at the meeting and is attempting to bury its recommendations in a bureaucratic report that will be sent to the governments of the countries involved at a later date, Watt-Cloutier said.

In its current draft form, the policy report notes that the Arctic is susceptible to global warming and that there is a limit to how much the people there can adapt to the changing climate, said Terry Fenge, a Canadian representative to the conference. The policy document urges a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions, he said.

It's politics, Watt-Cloutier said. If the United States followed the recommendations, it would have to sign the Kyoto Protocol and the rest of it. It's short-term thinking pressured by [industry], she said.

The other nations participating in the climate assessment—Canada, Russia, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Sweden—want the policy recommendations released, but are being overruled by the United States, Watt-Cloutier said.

Sally Brandel, the U.S. Arctic representative, did not respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R- Maine), told Watt-Cloutier that she would look into the situation.