The delegation, led by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), included Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John Sununu (R-NH). The trip lasted from August 22 to August 24.
The Senators came to Svalbard to learn more about climate change and other environmental issues in the Arctic. In many ways, the Arctic is barometer for future global environment development, and the visitors thus gained valuable insight in future effects of climate change in a global context.
Norway's Foreign Minister Jan Petersen and the Senators also discussed other issues of mutual interest, such as nuclear issues in northwestern Russia, relations with Russia in general, resource management in the High North etc.
The main part of the visit was conducted at the international research settlement of Ny-Ålesund. The Senators received oral briefings by two of Norway’s leading scientists on climate issues, namely Olav Orheim from the Norwegian Polar Institute, and Pål Prestrud, from the climate institute CICERO.
The field trip also included a mini cruise in the Governor of Svalbard’s boat in Kongsfjorden. This provided the guests with an opportunity to observe the impact of climate change in real life, for instance how far the glacier front had retracted up the fjord during the last decades.
Judging by their reactions the Senators enjoyed their stay. They expressed satisfaction in having learnt more about the important main issues of climate change and the environmental consequences that follow. The visit also included some spectacular scenery, as well as the chance to observe reindeer and arctic foxes.
The symbol of Svalbard, the polar bear, was unfortunately nowhere to be seen during the Senators’ stay. However, a polar bear had been chased from the main settlement of Longyearbyen just days prior to the Senators’ arrival.
Mr. Petersen was also very pleased with the visit, particularly the opportunity to provide the Senators with first-hand experiences of the important environmental issues. He also noted that this was the biggest group of US Senators ever to visit Norway, and that this was a reflection of the current strong and extensive ties that excist between the USA and Norway.