JUNEAU, Alaska — U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Friday she hopes President Barack Obama does not merely use Alaska as a backdrop to talk about climate change during his upcoming visit to the state.
Murkowski said she hopes Obama will have an open mind in hearing the concerns of Alaskans and that he and administration officials who accompany him will take time to learn about other issues of importance to the state and innovations taking place here. She said, for example, that she’s using this as an opportunity to remind Secretary of State John Kerry about concerns in southeast Alaska with potential mine development across the border in Canada.
Murkowski, who with the rest of Alaska’s congressional delegation opposed an Obama proposal to designate the vast majority of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a wilderness area, said she has been told there will be “no surprises” as part of the visit.
In a web video released by the White House on Thursday, Obama said he’s coming to the state because Alaskans are “on the front lines of one of the greatest challenges we face this century — climate change.”
Glaciers are melting, storm surges are endangering villages and some homes are sinking into the ground as permafrost melts, he said, adding, “The state’s God-given natural treasures are all at risk.”
He said he will meet with people dealing with climate change every day and talk with other nations about tackling the issue together.
Murkowski said during a news conference in Anchorage that the president will give the keynote closing address to a State Department-hosted conference on the Arctic in Anchorage at the end of August; climate change is expected to be among the issues discussed at the meeting.
She said she also hopes Obama will get a sense of appreciation for Alaska’s remoteness and geography and its proximity to Russia and gets excited about leading as an Arctic president.
Murkowski, a Republican, said she had not been asked to travel with him during his visit.
If Obama uses Alaska merely as the poster child for climate change, that will be a problem, she said.
“If it is just an effort to close Alaskans off from our natural resources, and he uses Alaska as kind of the bully pulpit to lecture in that regard, I don’t think that is going to be productive,” she said.