Canada & the Arctic 2017 -2019

Written by  //  April 27, 2020  //  Arctic and Antarctic, Canada  //  No comments

First federal assessment of Arctic Ocean finds drastic change
Scientist says it may be changing faster than any other body of water on Earth
The assessment, the result of work by dozens of federal scientists and Inuit observers, describes a vast ecosystem in unprecedented flux: from ocean currents to the habits and types of animals that swim in it. … Changes are coming so fast scientists haven’t even had a chance to understand what’s there.
Sixty per cent of the species in the Canada Basin — like the worms found living in undersea mud volcanoes and living off expelled methane — are yet to be discovered, the report suggests.
The first assessment of fish species in the Beaufort Sea wasn’t done until 2014, she said. Still, changes are hard to miss, right down to the makeup of the water.
It’s 33 per cent less salty than in 2003 and about 30 per cent more acidic — enough to dissolve the shells of some small molluscs.
The Beaufort Gyre, a vast circular current that has alternated direction every decade, hasn’t switched in 19 years.
Nutrient-rich water from the Pacific Ocean isn’t getting mixed in as it used to, which affects the plankton blooms that anchor the Arctic food web. Sea ice is shrinking and thinning to the point where Inuit communities can’t get to formerly dependable hunting grounds.
Shorelines are on the move. Erosion has more than doubled in the last few decades. The mix of species is changing.

2019

27 May

Canada makes competing claim to North Pole against Russia, Denmark
Document filed last week with UN body determining validity of boundary claims
(CBC) After years of delay and political arm-twisting, Canada has made a claim to a vast portion of the Arctic seabed that includes the North Pole.
The claim sets up the federal government for talks with Russia and Denmark, which had already filed their own claims.
Canada’s document was filed last week with a United Nations body that is to determine the scientific validity of each country’s version of where the lines on the map should be.
A decision is to be made after negotiations between the three countries.
Canada’s submission is late — the previous federal government nixed plans for a claim in 2013 that didn’t include the North Pole.

6 May
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Canada’s claim to the Northwest Passage is ‘illegitimate’
Pompeo’s statement is described as a ‘stunning rebuke’ of the 1988 Arctic Co-operation agreement reached by Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan
(National Post) Canada’s claim over the Northwest Passage is “illegitimate,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday in a major speech to the Arctic Council that Canadian experts called both provocative and frequently inaccurate.
Pompeo offered his characterization during a wide-ranging speech in Finland in which he also warned against China’s increased Arctic presence, saying it threatens North American security and could be harmful to the environment.
Pompeo reiterated long-held concerns about Russia’s military build-up in the Arctic and how that, too, is viewed as being counter to American security interests.
Pompeo’s branding of a longtime disagreement on Arctic policy between the Canada and the U.S. is a “stunning rebuke” of the 1988 Arctic Co-operation agreement between the two countries, said Fen Hampson, the head of the international-security program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont.
“It underscores the ’upset-every-applecart’ approach by the Trump administration to Canada-U.S. relations,” said Hampson, the author of a recent book on the foreign policy of former prime minister Brian Mulroney.
The routes between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans run between Canadian islands but the two countries disagree about whether that makes them internal Canadian waters or international waters that have Canadian territory nearby. The disagreement matters more now that melting Arctic sea ice means the Northwest Passage is getting closer to being a viable commercial shipping route.
The agreement reached by Mulroney and then-president Ronald Reagan allows the U.S. to designate the Northwest Passage as an international waterway while allowing Canada to say that it is a part of Canadian sovereign territory
The treaty recognizes the “close and friendly relations between their two countries, the uniqueness of ice-covered maritime areas, the opportunity to increase their knowledge of the marine environment of the Arctic through research conducted during icebreaker voyages, and their shared interest in safe, effective icebreaker navigation off their Arctic coasts.”

30 March
High Arctic lab once again threatened with closure as federal funding runs out
PEARL’s research on air quality, the ozone layer and climate change could come to an end in September
The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) has been gathering data and conducting research on Ellesmere Island, just 1,100 kilometres from the North Pole, since 2005.
In 2012, the lab came within three weeks of closing due to funding cuts by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives before being saved by an eleventh-hour infusion of funding from the Climate Change and Atmospheric Research Initiative (CCAR).
When CCAR funding ran out in 2017, researchers once again faced the possibility of shutting down the station, but were able to keep research and data collection going with a $1.6-million grant from the federal government.
“By investing in the PEARL research network, we’ll ensure that the research done in Canada’s High Arctic continues to deepen our knowledge of the challenges before us,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said in a news release at the time

2017

8 November
High Arctic lab saved as federal money comes through
Liberal government has committed $1.6M to keep lab open until fall 2019

6 November
Finis Dunaway and Norma Kassi (The Globe and Mail) on the Arctic Refuge: “With climate change bearing down on the North, the coastal plain is critical to the future of Arctic ecosystems. Although this debate will be decided by American lawmakers, it is important to remember that they have listened before to Gwich’in representatives, to Canadian political leaders and to North Americans from all walks of life who have insisted that this special place be protected. They need to hear that message again – and soon – before this irreplaceable ecological treasure is auctioned off to serve the needs of short-term fossil-fuel development.”

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