Obama issues order on Arctic climate change

President Obama on Wednesday signed an executive order establishing a new panel that will advise the federal government on preserving the Alaskan Arctic.

Obama said he was establishing the Arctic Executive Steering Committee to help juggle the variety of tribal, scientific, corporate, and federal interests at play in the Arctic, where temperatures have risen at twice the rate as the rest of the United States.

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"As the Arctic has changed, the number of Federal working groups created to address the growing strategic importance and accessibility of this critical region has increased," Obama said.

"Although these groups have made significant progress and achieved important milestones, managing the broad range of interagency activity in the Arctic requires coordinated planning by the Federal Government."

The panel will establish a working group to prepare a report by the end of April that identifies areas of overlap between and within federal agencies on Arctic policy, and recommends ways to improve coordination. The group is also expected to recommend ways the federal government could do more.

The president declared in his State of the Union address Tuesday night that "no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change" and pledged that he would veto legislation turning back White House efforts on the environment.

Obama also knocked Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSunday shows preview: Next steps after Trump upheaval Gun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA McConnell: Trump needs to act like a 'serious candidate' MORE (R-Ky.), who have deflected climate change questions by saying he was not a scientist.

"Well, I’m not a scientist either,” the president said. “But you know what? I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA.”

Press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that the comment wasn't intended as a slight toward McConnell, saying the remark was not meant to single out any one lawmaker.