Newspaper article The Canadian Press

No Reversing Arctic Impact: 'We Will Have Climate Refugees,' Says US Secretary

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

No Reversing Arctic Impact: 'We Will Have Climate Refugees,' Says US Secretary

Article excerpt

No turning back Arctic climate impact: Jewell


GATINEAU, Que. - Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says the key to dealing with climate change in the Arctic is to have "real conversations" with the Inuit peoples who live there.

But Sally Jewell, the U.S. secretary of the interior, has a much blunter assessment, arguing climate impacts are already underway, can't be turned around and that moving some Arctic communities may be the only solution.

"We will have climate refugees," Jewell said Thursday after meeting McKenna at the Museum of History across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill.

National parks, migratory species, climate change and Arctic adaptation -- and an urban hike in the spring sunshine -- were on their agenda.

They also met Natan Obed, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, who has become a go-to sounding board for the new Liberal government on the matter of climate adaptation and mitigation in the Far North.

McKenna, not quite six months into her job leading the environment ministry in the climate-focused Trudeau government, was her usual cautious self in describing the daunting challenges of climate change in the fast-warming Arctic. She stressed the importance of co-operation and dialogue when asked to name the single most important measure government can take to address climate change in the region.

Jewell, who has only months left in her post before the Obama administration is replaced, was far less circumspect.

"We need to provide support for adaptation and build communities that are resilient in the face of what's happening in the Arctic," the secretary said flatly. "You're not going to be able to turn this around."

"We can stem the increase in temperature, we can stem some of the effects, perhaps, if we act on climate as we are committed to do through the Paris accords. But the changes are underway and they are very rapid. …

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