U.S. Dismisses Climate Change at Arctic Council Summit: Pompeo Says Melting Sea Ice Brings ‘New Opportunities for Trade’
For the first time since it was founded in 1996, the Arctic Council didn't release a joint declaration outlining its priorities after a summit in Rovaniemi, Finland Monday and Tuesday. The reason? The insistence by the U.S. that the statement not mention climate change or the Paris agreement designed to combat it, The New York Times reported.
The U.S. objections come as the Arctic just experienced its five warmest years on record, and is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world.
"The others felt they could not water down climate change sentences," Finnish delegate Timo Koivurova told BBC News.
Instead, the council, which consists of eight Arctic nations, as well as indigenous communities in the region, issued a brief statement pledging its "commitment to maintain peace, stability and constructive co-operation in the Arctic," as Time reported.
Eight Ministers from the Arctic States and six Permanent Participant Head of Delegation gathered for a traditional Ministerial meeting family photo and are now ready to begin the #ArcticMinisterial2019. pic.twitter.com/fYJqf1dcE0— Arctic Council (@ArcticCouncil) May 7, 2019
The council, whose members include the U.S., Canada, Russia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland, meets every two years to discuss environmental and economic issues in the region, BBC News explained. Its statements are agreed to by consensus, which means any member country can block them, according to The New York Times.
Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini, whose country has chaired the council for the last two years with a focus on climate change, told the press he didn't want to "name and blame anybody" and called the summit's outcome "good enough," according to Time. However, in other statements he made it clear that the U.S. was isolated in its climate denial.
"A majority of us regarded climate change as a fundamental challenge facing the Arctic and acknowledged the urgent need to take mitigation and adaptation actions and to strengthen resilience," Soini said in a statement reported by The New York Times.
However, while the U.S. blocked the council from mentioning climate change, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not shy away from putting a positive spin on its impacts: the melting of Arctic sea ice.
"Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade," he said in a speech Monday reported by BBC News. "This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days. Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st-Century Suez and Panama Canals."
Scientists and environmentalists, on the other hand, have warned that a reduction in Arctic sea ice could harm Arctic wildlife like polar bears and marine life, as well as contribute to sea level rise.
Several delegates at the summit did speak of the negative impact climate change was having on their communities.
"The effect of climate change is being felt most acutely here," Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, according to The New York Times.
Representatives of indigenous communities spoke in the most detail of how climate impacts like wildfires, coastal erosion and melting ice and permafrost were altering the lives of people who had lived in the region for generations.
"We recognize that climate change is real," Arctic Athabaskan Council Chairman Bill Erasmus told Time, expressing regret that the council had not arrived at a detailed statement. "Climate change is man-made, and our elders tell us that we are clearly in trouble."
Pompeo mentioned the importance of protecting the Arctic's "fragile ecosystem" in remarks Tuesday, and an anonymous senior U.S. official said that the country could be committed to the environment without using particular words.
"Just because you don't have a certain phrase in it, you can't infer that the United States has taken a position that is anti-environment," the official said, as Time reported.
But a commitment to increased shipping could be at odds with environmental protections. Scientists have warned that more frequent transport in the Arctic could increase pollution, BBC News said.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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