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Norwegian parliament member speaks at UND

Most of the world has come to accept climate change as real and potentially disastrous, a leading Norwegian political figure said Tuesday, but the challenge for nations now is to come together to find ways to lessen the negative impacts and coope...

Odd Einer Dørum
Norwegian parliamentarian Odd Einer Dørum. Herald photo by John Stennes.

Most of the world has come to accept climate change as real and potentially disastrous, a leading Norwegian political figure said Tuesday, but the challenge for nations now is to come together to find ways to lessen the negative impacts and cooperate in a changed world.

The Arctic ice is melting "faster than anyone expected," Odd Einar Dørum said, and that will have significant impact on everything from international shipping lanes to global security.

"There is a need to establish a framework to keep this part of the world stable," he said, and that should include U.S. ratification of the United Nations convention on law of the sea.

All other nations touching the Arctic, including Norway, the other Nordic nations, Russia and Canada, have signed the convention, but the United States has not -- although both the Bush and Obama administrations have abided by its provisions, he said.

"This has to be done, to have the rule of law," Dørum said in a lecture Tuesday at UND.

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A 16-year member of the Norwegian parliament and a former justice minister and minister of transport and communications, Dørum was invited to spend a week at the university by UND's Nordic Initiative and other groups.

He said that Norway is developing a center for climate research in the northern part of the country as well as new research ships, and has welcomed China and other nations to join in the research effort. And while Norway is a small country with a relatively small "carbon footprint," the nation is determined to reduce CO2 emissions, he said.

But Norway also must rely on effective international institutions and the rule of law, he said, "the only way for a small country to survive in a challenging world."

'Nothing is impossible

In his lifetime in politics, he has seen apartheid fall in South Africa and a president of the United States bring a vision of the world without nuclear weapons to the U.N., he said.

"I never believe that something is impossible (when leaders exhibit) stamina and patience."

There is "broad room to maneuver between naiveté and cynicism," he added, and he offered Norway's cautious tip-toe dance through the Cold War as a model. Allied with the United States, Norway nevertheless refrained from arrogant posturing toward the Soviet Union, treating its neighbor instead with understanding and respect.

"Speak softly," Dørum said, adjusting Theodore Roosevelt's famous dictum, "but have a friend with a big stick."

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He is not afraid of evil "Dr. Strangelove"-type leaders so much as "I am afraid of politicians not being aware enough in due time," he said.

"I recognize that the United States has its hands full" with two wars, an economic crisis and the debate over health care reform, he said, "but we have to deal with this (situation) at the top of the world."

Reach Haga at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 102; or send e-mail to chaga@gfherald.com .

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