Lagging behind Russia, White House calls for more Arctic icebreakers

The White House called for faster construction of massive ocean icebreakers in a bid to catch up to Russia's Arctic fleet. That comes during President Obama's visit to Alaska, where he is appealing for action on global warming, while also catching fire for allowing offshore oil drilling. Gwen Ifill reports.

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    The president is trekking up a melting glacier in Alaska today on the second of a three-day trip to call more attention to and for action on climate change.

    But it's a moment that's also stirring its share of criticism. As the Arctic warms, the ice is thawing, opening the way to shipping, tourism and mineral exploration. The Russians have rushed in, leaving the U.S. to play catchup.

    So, today, the White House called to speed construction of massive ocean icebreakers. Right now, the U.S. has just two, compared to Russia's 41. The announcement came as President Obama visited Alaska and appealed for action on global warming.


    Climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. That, ladies and gentlemen, must change. We're not acting fast enough.


    Mr. Obama spoke Monday evening at a climate summit in Anchorage, where he also warned of the consequences of inaction.


    If we stop trying to build a clean-energy economy and reduce carbon pollution, if we do nothing to keep the glaciers from melting faster and oceans from rising faster, and forests from burning faster, and storms from growing stronger, we will condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair, submerged countries, abandoned cities, fields no longer growing.


    To draw attention to the effects of warming and his proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent, the president set out today to hike a melting glacier. But he's also found himself under fire for giving the green light to Royal Dutch/Shell to drill for oil off Alaska's northwest coast.

    That's sparked protests by environmental advocates in the Pacific Northwest. They argue oil exploration will damage the Arctic and contribute to climate change.

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