Global warming: Will you listen now, America?

Two of the leading contenders to contest the next US presidential election have delivered an urgent warning to the United States on global warming, saying the evidence of climate change has become too stark to ignore and human activity is a major cause.

On a high-profile and bi-partisan fact-finding tour in Alaska and Canada's Yukon territory, Senators John McCain, a Republican, and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic senator for New York, were confronted by melting permafrost and shrinking glaciers and heard from native Inuit that rising sea levels were altering their lives.

"The question is how much damage will be done before we start taking concrete action," Mr McCain said at a press conference in Anchorage. "Go up to places like we just came from. It's a little scary." Mrs Clinton added: "I don't think there's any doubt left for anybody who actually looks at the science. There are still some holdouts, but they're fighting a losing battle. The science is overwhelming."

Their findings directly challenge President George Bush's reluctance to legislate to reduce America's carbon emissions. Although both senators havetalked before of the need to tackle global warming, this week's clarion call was perhaps the clearest and most urgent. It also raises the prospect that climate change and other environmental issues could be a factor in the presidential contest in 2008 if Mrs Clinton and Mr McCain enter it. Mrs Clinton and Mr McCain, who represents Arizona, are among the leading, and the most popular, likely contenders.

That they chose Alaska as the stage from which to force global warming on to the American political agenda was not a matter of chance. In many ways, this separated US state is the frontline in the global warming debate. Environmentalists say the signs of climate change are more obvious there than perhaps anywhere else in the US.

Dan Lashof, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defence Council, a respected Washington-based group, told The Independent: "People in Alaska are starting to freak out. The retreat of the sea ice allows the oceans to pound the coast more, and villages there are suffering from the effects of that erosion. There is permafrost melting, roads are buckling, there are forests that have been infested with beetles because of a rise in temperatures. I think residents there feel it's visible more and more, more than any other place in the country."

President Bush's administration has repeatedly questioned the evidence of global warming and the contribution of human activity to any shift. Mr Bush, who in 2001 refused to ratify the Kyoto treaty on global warming weeks after he took office, has repeatedly been accused of doing nothing to enforce tighter controls on emissions of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases". But this summer, the US National Academy of Sciences - and the scientific academies of the other G8 nations as well as Brazil, China and India - issued a statement saying there was strong evidence that significant global warming was happening and that "it is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities".

They called on world leaders to recognise "that delayed action will increase the risk of adverse environmental effects and will likely incur a greater cost". Mrs Clinton, who must first win her re-election to the US senate next year if she is to enter the 2008 White House race, said at the press conference that she had spoken to scientists as well as native Alaskans during the trip.

She said that, flying over the Yukon, she saw forests devastated by spruce bark beetles, believed to be increasing at an unprecedented rate because of warmer weather. She also talked of what a 93-year-old woman at a fish camp at Whitehorse told her. The woman said she had been fishing there all her life but now fish have strange bumps on them.

"It's heartbreaking to see the devastation," Mrs Clinton said. Mr McCain, Mrs Clinton and Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine, also went to Barrow, the northernmost city in the US. There, they spoke to scientists and Inupiaq Inuit. They also saw shrinking glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park.

Mr McCain - with Senator Joe Lieberman - is behind proposed legislation that would require power-generating companies to reduce carbon emissions to their 2000 levels. Mr Graham, a Republican, said he had been moved by what he had seen. "Climate change is different when you come here, because you see the faces of people experiencing it. If you go to the people and listen to their stories and walk away with any doubt that something's going on, you're not listening."

Mrs Collins, a Republican, was even more convinced. She said the evidence in Alaska represented the "canary in the mine shaft of global warming crying out to us to pay attention".

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice