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With Trump as president, what will happen to the Arctic?


Likely the most foolhardy response to Donald Trump’s surprise win in Tuesday night’s election would be to start offering up predictions on what lies ahead, both for America and the rest of the world.

But as Mr. Trump has shown quite vividly by his own actions, fools will indeed rush in, and so will we, too, by focusing on how Trump’s victory might impact the Arctic, its environment, politics and resource development.

In March of this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama put forth the Joint Statement on Climate, Energy and Arctic Leadership, which detailed both countries’ pledge to work collaboratively to combat climate change, to protect the Arctic’s environment and peoples and to build a sustainable Arctic economy based on clean, low-carbon development.

Among others, the statement included intentions to act cautiously and responsibly in respect to the opening up of Arctic waters for fishing and shipping and expanding oil and gas exploration and development and to include Indigenous knowledge and leadership in decision-making processes.

In contrast, Donald Trump has vowed to recharge the U.S. economy by encouraging greater coal production and further offshore Arctic oil drilling, something Hillary Clinton campaigned against. Proponents of Arctic drilling are saying that Trump’s victory will mean more opportunities for oil and gas. American Energy Alliance President Tom Pyle says a Trump presidency will be able to bring industry back even during these days of low oil prices. “There’s still a lot of untapped energy potential in Alaska and I suspect that President-elect Trump will look at that very closely and put together plans that put the state back in the game,” Pyle said.

Concerning security and defence, Donald Trump’s plans to build a ballistic missile defence system to counter potential attacks from rogue states will mean greater military presence in the North, including radar and communications, Air Force and Navy. The Arctic Council, which oversees international communication over issues facing the Arctic, is currently chaired by the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, who will be replaced in that role by a Trump appointee (pundits are putting forth ex-House speaker Newt Gingrich as a potential candidate for the position).

On the climate change file itself, many believe that Trump’s ascendency will likely mean the U.S. will backtrack on its current commitments, effectively crushing international efforts to combat global warming.

President Obama’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which supports the U.S.’s participation in the Paris Climate Accord, is likely to be scrapped, says John Sterman, MIT professor of system dynamics. “Worse, other key emitter nations – especially India – now have little reason to follow through on their Paris pledges: If the U.S. won’t why should developing nations cut their emissions?” says Sterman.

And finally, with climate change impacting the Arctic, its ecology and the livelihood of its peoples must faster and harder than many other regions of the planet, the news comes as less than promising that known climate change skeptic, Myron Ebell, is being pegged as Trump’s top candidate to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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