National Press Club

Iceland president sounds climate alarm demanding global attention, action at NPC Luncheon

April 15, 2013 | By Robert Webb | Rewebb@aol.com

Iceland President H.E. Ólafur Grímsson announces newly formed Arctic Circle Organization, which unlike the existing Arctic Council, will give voice to a wide variety of experts on global warming and related issue at a National Press Club Luncheon on April 15, 2013.

Iceland President H.E. Ólafur Grímsson announces newly formed Arctic Circle Organization, which unlike the existing Arctic Council, will give voice to a wide variety of experts on global warming and related issue at a National Press Club Luncheon on April 15, 2013.

Photo/Image: Marshall H. Cohen

Iceland President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson announced at a National Press Club Luncheon April 15 the creation of an international assembly named "Arctic Circle" to alert the world to glacial melting and other climate threats and what can be done about them.

"The Arctic is the fastest-warming place in the world," Grímsson said, "and is playing an increasingly important role in globalization, economic development, energy exploration, environmental protection and international security."

"The aim of the Arctic Circle is to strengthen the policymaking process by bringing together as many Arctic and international players as possible under one large 'open tent,'" he said.

The strange weather patterns hitting many countries, including the United States, were signs nations must come together to plan what to do about it, Grímsson said.

The Arctic Circle's first meeting will be in October in Reykjavik, Iceland. Not only his country's Arctic neighbors such as Greenland, Finland and Russia will be represented but "India and China want permanent observer seats on the Arctic Circle," he said.

Participants will include "institutional and governmental representatives, political and policy leaders, scientists and experts, activists, and indigenous people from the Arctic countries, as well as Asia, Europe and other parts of the world,' Grímsson said.

Topics will include such things as sea melt and extreme weather, security in the Arctic, fisheries and ecosystem management, shipping and transportation infrastructure, Arctic resources, and tourism, Grímsson said.

Once a country largely ignored by much of the world, global warming has put Iceland on a larger map, Grímsson said. Iceland now gets visits from leaders of such countries as India, China and France, he said. He stressed his country's new role as a leader in bringing leaders together to discuss the meaning of climate change and what can be done about it.

"The Arctic has suffered from a lack of global awareness and, as a result, a lack of effective governance," Grímsson said. "In the past, the region did not matter to the world's decisionmakers and was largely forgotten. Now, with sea-ice levels at their lowest point in recorded history, the world is waking up to the challenges and opportunities the Arctic presents for its citizens as well as those who live in lower latitudes."

The Arctic Circle will have an advisory board of business leaders, scientists and policymakers, Grímsson said. Private donations and corporate sponsorships will support the Arctic Circle, he said. Grímsson will chair the honorary board of the nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, he said. Alice Rogoff, founder of the "Alaska Dispatch and the Arctic Imperative Summit" will chair the board of directors, Grímsson said.

Grímsson, who has a PhD in political science, is in his fifth term as President of Iceland. Iceland's constitution has no term limits.