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Pompeo Says Melting Arctic Presents ‘New Opportunities For Trade’

(Mike Pompeo speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC in 2011. Photo: Gage Skidmore)
(Mike Pompeo speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC in 2011. Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“All of a sudden, the speech today shifted everyone’s attention to, ‘Are we looking at next conflict in Arctic?'”

Secretary of State Pompeo spoke to diplomats at a meeting of the Arctic Council in Finland on Monday, praising the “new opportunities for trade” melting arctic ice provided, and warning of the need to restrain Chinese and Russian expansion in the region.

“And its centerpiece, the Arctic Ocean, is rapidly taking on new strategic significance. Offshore resources, which are helping the respective coastal states, are the subject of renewed competition. Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade,” Pompeo said.

Other diplomats attending the meeting disapproved of Pompeo’s remarks, as the Secretary refused to mention climate change despite it being the reason for the Arctic Council meeting. The Secretary’s only mention of climate change was a dismissive reference to “scientific research into events that may or may not occur in 100 years.”

“Everything has been focused on constructive cooperation where you don’t bring outside problems in. All of a sudden, the speech today shifted everyone’s attention to, ‘Are we looking at next conflict in Arctic?’ when the real issue here is still climate change. No speech will change that,” Malgorzata Smieszek, a fellow at the International Arctic Science Committee, told the New York Times.

The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration sought to remove language involving climate change or the Paris Climate Agreement from any joint statements by the Arctic Council. Because the United States refused to include text involving climate change, Finish Foreign Minister Timo Soini said there would be no joint declaration from the summit.

A recent study estimates the cost of melting permafrost to the global economy will be at least $70 trillion, and the Pentagon has warned climate change poses immediate risks to US national security. Former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel described global warming as a “threat multiplier,” warning the increased frequency of severe weather would exacerbate threats like terrorism and infectious diseases.

“The steep decrease in Arctic sea ice is one of the more dramatic consequences of human-caused climate change. And it comes with huge national security challenges as we are forced to defend a new coastline. So there are really multiple levels of unintended irony to Pompeo’s statements,” climate scientist Michael Mann told Observer.

When asked where he would rank climate change as a national security issue, Secretary Pompeo refused to answer, saying, “I can’t rank it … I can’t tell you exactly which number. We’ve seen America reduce its carbon footprint, while the signatories, including China, haven’t done theirs… At the end of the day, the world is no safer.”

When serving as a Kansas Representative, Pompeo was chided as “the congressman from Koch,” for having taken large donations from the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers are fossil fuel billionaires who fund a broad network of think tanks dedicated to spreading disinformation and confusion about climate science.

The Secretary’s speech took place on the same day an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (IPBES) report showing the unprecedented rate of human-caused deterioration to the biosphere was revealed. According to the report, one million animal species are currently at risk of extinction, and rapid transformational change is needed to avert irreversible ecological destruction.

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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