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Norwegian Ambassador Speaks at SIS

By Mike Unger

Photo: Norwegian ambassador to the U.S. Wegger Strommen.

Norwegian ambassador to the U.S. Wegger Strommen spoke at SIS on Nov. 10. (Photo: Mike Unger)

Climate change is a fact of life, and its impact will be felt acutely in the Arctic for generations, Norwegian ambassador Wegger Strommen said during a speech Nov. 10 at American University’s School of International Service.

“The ice is going away,” he said. “There’s not going to be ice in the summer in the North Pole. We’re not going to save it—it’s too late. We have to live with the consequences and suffer.”

Despite those dire words, Strommen does not believe climate change will lead to conflict in the Arctic.

“I can foresee many places in the world where there can be confrontation and even armed conflict over climate change, but I can’t see it in the Arctic,” he said.

Norway is a country roughly the size of Montana, with a population equal to Alabama and an economy the size of Massachusetts. Fishing is one of its largest industries, and Strommen said his country and its gargantuan neighbor to the east, Russia, work well together when it comes to issues of sustainability in the sea.

“The world’s richest fisheries are in the North Pole, and we make a lot of money from it,” he said. “It is not true that fish stocks are being depleted all over the world. We have never caught as many fish in the North Pole as we do now. Our scientists are telling us there are more and more fish in the north. Our fishery collaboration [with Russia] looks very well.”

Oil also is big business in Norway, but Strommen doesn’t think the industry will spread deeper in the Arctic anytime soon. The economics of drilling in such a harsh environment don’t make sense unless oil prices skyrocket.

“It’s almost fantasy to start talking about oil and gas in the Arctic with prices what they are now,” he said.

Strommen’s house in his homeland sits just seven feet from the ocean. If climate change continues at its current pace, he and his fellow countrymen will feel very real consequences, he said.

“If sea levels really start to rise, our whole culture will be threatened.”