Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
The Arctic 2015 –
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A Little Arctic Town’s Big Transition
Pursuing zero emissions in the world’s northernmost settlement
Longyearbyen is one of Earth’s fastest-warming places.
Since 1991, Longyearbyen has warmed 1.7 degrees Celsius per decade —seven times the global average and twice the Arctic average over the same timeframe.
Saft, a subsidiary of TotalEnergies, is contracted to build an energy storage system in Longyearbyen as the town takes its biggest step yet toward becoming a zero-carbon community. But challenges remain.
“There is no energy technology yet proven to work for high Arctic conditions,” says Jøran Moen, director of the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS).
What Arctic ice tells us about climate change
Greenland is in the fastest-warming region of the planet
(WaPo) Each year, NASA analyses show, Greenland loses an average 270 gigatons of ice — enough to fill about 10 million Olympic swimming pools. Scientists say the loss will only accelerate as human-caused pollution continues to heat the planet.
…a team of scientists who were trying to figure out exactly how much trouble Greenland is in… camped for two months in subzero conditions while attempting to drill through more than 1,600 feet of ice. Their goal: to uncover rocks from underneath the ice sheet that could tell them about the last time Greenland completely melted — and when that might happen again.
(GZERO Media) Scientists this week stretched a 1,400-square-metre Russian flag on the Arctic ice to mark Russia’s Flag Day.
The Arctic University of Norway Professor Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv told The Barents Observer that the move was a provocation: “They are not just raising a flag. It’s a massive flag. It’s a sign of dominance. And I suspect it’s a sign of defiance,” she said, noting how Russia likely feels emboldened to flex its muscle while the work of the Arctic Council is halted, owing to the war in Ukraine.
The stunt is a reminder of the important work the eight Arctic nations do to coordinate and cooperate on their work in the region via the council, which focuses on climate change, shipping, Indigenous rights, and other trans-Arctic issues. But Russia’s northerly neighbors are increasingly worried about a military threat. The group has been on hiatus since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but Washington recently signaled that it wants to continue cooperation with Russia on technical issues in the Arctic.
What has changed in the climate? Scientists now believe the first ice-free summer may arrive in the Arctic in the 2030s. As polar ice recedes, the Arctic Ocean is increasingly being eyed as a shipping route. Case in point: In March, Russia announced plans to cooperate with China on shipping in Russia’s northern waters. The routes are not necessarily reliable, however, as two Russian crude tankers en route to China have been delayed by thicker-than-expected ice in recent days.
Still, since military vessels can go wherever commercial ones can, the increased thawing and commercial activity in the Arctic, especially by Russia, is raising security concerns for Arctic nations.
The desperate race to create a protection zone around the rapidly melting Arctic
The ice once protected the Arctic ocean from threats – but as it melts it exposes the sea to fishing, shipping, mining and pollution. Would a marine protected area help secure this fragile ecosystem or is it too late?
by Jimmy Thomson
(The Guardian) …The minimum extent of the ice in summer is dropping by about an eighth every decade. In June, scientists reported it is already too late to save the summer ice, foreshadowing a completely open Arctic Ocean for the first time since humans made the first stone tools 2.6m years ago.
As it melts, it invites in ships – offering them the chance to shave thousands of miles off common routes, to exploit the ocean’s largely untouched fish populations and dig up minerals on the seabed.
Without the ice as a natural barrier, the central Arctic Ocean – an amoeba-shaped area of water spanning more than 1m sq miles (2.8m sq km) off the coasts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, Norway and the US – is open territory. International waters are beyond any country’s jurisdiction. However, a patchwork of recent treaties – including a UN treaty on the high seas, agreed on 19 June – is providing new means of protecting the water column from chemicals, noise and traffic; the seabed from fossil fuel exploration and mining; and fisheries from overexploitation.
An Arctic ‘Great Game’ as NATO allies and Russia face off in far north
(WaPo) For several years now, European and U.S. security and intelligence officials have been keeping a closer eye on the world above the Arctic Circle, knowing that melting polar ice will open new trade routes, propel a race for natural resources and reshape global security. Western officials watched as Russia revived Soviet-era military sites and while China planned a “Polar Silk Road.”
But the war in Ukraine and the dramatic deterioration of Western relations with Moscow have put the frostbitten borderlands between Norway and Russia on heightened alert, while increasing the geostrategic importance of the Arctic.
The result is an uptick in military, diplomatic and intelligence interest that could usher in an iteration of the “Great Game,” the 19th-century rivalry between the British and Russian empires for influence in Asia.
For Russia, because the war in Ukraine has diminished Moscow’s conventional military forces and hobbled the Russian economy, its Arctic assets have become more critical.
Arctic and global security top agenda as Trudeau meets Nordic leaders in Iceland
Russia’s invasion had already caused new problems for Arctic security before this latest turn of events.
(CTV) Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway have all voiced support for Ukraine since Russia launched its attack, and they, along with Canada and the United States, hit pause on working with Russia through the Arctic Council after its invasion in February 2022.
Mathieu Landriault, director of the Observatory for Arctic Policy and Security, said the issue remains “fragile,” adding that without co-operation with Russia — which has a huge Arctic coastline — the council does not have data related to how climate change is affecting a major part of the region.
Landriault also suggested Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused Canada to “reassess” its position in the Arctic.
Roland Paris, a former senior adviser to Trudeau and director of the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, said cutting Russia out of the Arctic council talks turned what co-operation looks like in the region into a serious question.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned of growing threats to Arctic sovereignty from Russia and China during a visit to a military base in northern Alberta last summer, noting China has declared itself a “near Arctic” state and climate change was opening up access to the region.
Trudeau, who accompanied Stoltenberg on that visit, touted plans to spend billions on bolstering Canada’s military, including modernizing the aging Canada-U. S. Norad system which monitors Arctic aerospace.
Paris said he expects Trudeau may draw attention to those same commitments during his visit to Iceland.
“The fact is we are far behind where we need to be in order to secure the Arctic in a world where it will increasingly be an area of geopolitical competition,” he said.
As the ice melts, a perilous Russian threat is emerging in the Arctic
Putin is weakened and fears Nato encirclement. His militarisation of Russia’s northern border is intensifying
(The Guardian) the implications of what is happening in the Arctic will change patterns of international trade, drive food insecurity, deepen global poverty, increase refugee crises, reorient military alliances, and turbocharge military expenditures and the risk of war.
The eight Arctic states – Canada, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the US and Russia – have long collaborated on scientific research through the Arctic Council, a non-military body. Until now. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Arctic Council meetings ceased. So did cooperation with Russia. This has hampered progress on climate and environmental research and turbocharged the militarisation of the Arctic.
Arctic may have summers with no sea ice sooner than projected, study finds
(WaPo) A much feared moment — a summer in which the Arctic Ocean features almost entirely open water — could be coming even sooner than expected and has the possibility to become a regular event within most of our lifetimes, according to a new study (Observationally-constrained projections of an ice-free Arctic even under a low emission scenario).
New research shows Arctic could see ice-free summers by 2030
Past estimates suggested summer ice wouldn’t disappear until the 2040s, or might even survive
(CBC) A paper published Tuesday in the journal Nature has concluded that northern waters could be open for months at a time as early as 2030, even if humanity manages to drastically scale back its greenhouse gas emissions
Nathan Gillett, an Environment and Climate Change Canada scientist and one of the co-authors of the study, had noticed the growing differences between what climate models say should be happening to sea ice and what’s actually going on. “The models, on average, underestimate sea ice decline compared with observations,” Gillett said
Too late now to save Arctic summer ice, climate scientists find
Ice-free summers inevitable even with sharp emissions cuts and likely to result in more extreme heatwaves and floods
Des leçons inuites pour les soldats de l’Arctique
(La Presse) Le Canada s’est donné pour mission d’affirmer son emprise sur son territoire arctique, une immense étendue qui, autrefois, n’était guère plus qu’une préoccupation secondaire.
Alors que la Russie et la Chine s’intéressent de plus en plus au potentiel militaire et commercial de la région, les Forces armées canadiennes doivent comprendre le climat changeant de l’Arctique, la manière d’y survivre et de le défendre.
La compétition est mondiale : le secrétaire d’État américain, Antony Blinken, a réalisé la semaine dernière une visite de cinq jours en Europe du Nord afin de rallier des alliés contre les ambitions russes et chinoises dans l’Arctique.
Arctic chill: western nations fear China and Russia will exploit regional tensions
Arctic Council severed ties with Moscow after it invaded Ukraine, increasing risk of a polar region ‘with no rules’
(Financial Times) Western countries are worried that China and Russia could try to exploit growing geopolitical tensions in the Arctic to increase their influence over the region and its abundant natural resources.
In a series of interviews with the Financial Times, senior western policymakers expressed fears that the era of Arctic exceptionalism — when the polar region was insulated from tensions elsewhere — was over.
The seven western members of the Arctic Council, the main regional body, stopped co-operating with Russia on everything from protecting the environment to discussing the rights of indigenous people after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.
Feeling the chill: Navigating Arctic governance amid Russia’s war on Ukraine
Joanna Hosa, Policy Fellow, Wider Europe programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)
Russia’s war on Ukraine has highlighted the strategic importance of the Arctic and upended structures of cooperation between the western Arctic states and Russia, including the Arctic Council.
The Arctic Council includes six organisations of indigenous peoples alongside the eight Arctic states, providing a platform for inclusive governance and the recognition and representation of the Arctic’s indigenous population.
The participation of indigenous peoples in Arctic governance is key to upholding Europe’s values-based foreign policy and effective governance in the region, particularly against the backdrop of Russia’s values war with the West.
The war has divided the Arctic into two camps – one including the Western Arctic states and the other comprising the Russian Arctic – with both sides exploring alternative avenues for cooperation.
In this uncertain context, European governments need to preserve indigenous peoples’ participation in existing and emerging forums of cooperation.
Can new leadership help resolve two years of tensions within the Arctic Council? (audio)
(The World) For the last two years, Russia was officially in charge of the Arctic Council, an eight-nation governing body that manages cross-country Arctic collaborations. But once Russia invaded Ukraine, the seven other nations effectively boycotted the council and refused to meet. Now, on the pre-determined schedule, Russia is handing the torch to Norway, and it’s expected the council will re-start meetings and working groups. But as The World’s Anna Kusmer reports, it’s unclear to what extent Russia — half of the Arctic’s geography — will be involved.
The Arctic Council Resumes Some Activities in Mid-June
After more than a year of standstill, the Arctic Council starts its meetings again in mid-June.
On 11 May, Norway took on the Chairship of the Arctic Council from Russia in a historic digital event. The 13th meeting of the Arctic Council took place in Salekhard, Russia, and online. The meeting was attended by Senior Arctic Officials for each Arctic state and Heads of Delegations from the six Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations.
… Now, Norway’s new Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials (SAOC) Morten Høglund, announces that the council and its working groups will start meeting again in mid-June.
“A return to business as usual is not possible at this stage, and it will take time before the council is fully up and running. For example, meetings at the political level will not be happening anytime soon. But we hope to get much of the important work of the Arctic Council going again, and Norway will do its utmost to make sure that will happen as soon as practically possible,” Høglund says in a statement.
The Arctic: A Core Canadian Interest
In 1988, Brian Mulroney handed Ronald Reagan a globe, pointed to the Arctic, and said ‘Ron that’s ours. We own it lock, stock, and icebergs.’ Much has changed in the 35 years since, including in the Arctic itself, where climate change, geopolitical competition and shifting security dynamics have fuelled a multilateral rivalry over Arctic sovereignty. As Massey College Public Policy Chair Tom Axworthy writes, the stakes for Canada have never been higher.
(Policy) Today’s analysts and decision makers are still preoccupied with the geography of the Arctic and how it may impact global affairs and national security, especially given the transformations of climate change on both navigability and habitability and after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine heightened global tensions. A 2022 University of Ottawa Task Force on National Security, with prestigious contributors including Vincent Rigby (a former national security and intelligence advisor to Justin Trudeau), for example, calling for “a serious review by Canada of its presence in the Arctic, including its military footprint and capabilities, which have received scant attention over the decades despite considerable government rhetoric to the contrary.”
Lavrov: “The Arctic Council’s Future Depends on Whether a Civilized Dialogue Can Continue”
(High North News) Last week, Russia transferred the chairship of the Arctic Council to Norway. A way forward for the council requires joint efforts for dialogue to preserve the Arctic as a peaceful and stable region with constructive cooperation, says the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is putting critical Arctic research on ice
The Arctic is warming four times faster than anywhere else in the world, making it a significant area of research for climate and environment researchers.
The region brings together scientists from all over the world to study topics ranging from polar bears to permafrost, making it a model of international cooperation.
But, when Russia invaded Ukraine, the international scientific community lost access to over half of the Arctic — the massive portion of the polar region that lies in Russia. The lack of access to that territory has also meant a loss of critical climate research.
Projects that were in planning stages between Russian scientists and others have either been put on hold, or continued without Russian involvement. Russian scientists are likely continuing their own research, said Burn, but have to do it alone.
This pause on co-operation has suspended joint permafrost and carbon projects between Russia and the U.S. Many of these projects, which were originally aimed for the Russian Arctic, have been rerouted to Alaska and northern Canada.
The Current with Matt Galloway
…the invasion of Ukraine has jeopardized scientific research in Russia’s Arctic territory. We talk to Chris Burn, president of the International Permafrost Association; and former U.S. diplomat Evan Bloom, a senior fellow with the Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank.
From Russia to Norway: Three scenarios for the Arctic Council’s future after the chairmanship handover
Gabriella Gricius, Ph.D. Candidate at Colorado State University’s Political Science Department & Research Fellow with the North American and Arctic Defence and Security Network (NAADSN)
(European Leadership Network (ELN)) On May 11, 2023, Norway will take over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council from Russia. Diplomatic efforts are already underway to ensure the transfer of chairmanship goes as smoothly as possible. What will this Arctic Council look like? I outline three possible scenarios of what could happen: the best-case scenario, a middle outcome, and a worst-case outcome.
Best scenario: A Norway-led Arctic Council 2.0 – The best-case scenario for the Arctic is a Norwegian-led effort to continue the Arctic Council in some capacity while recognising that Russia cannot hold the same position as before
The middle ground: A toothless Arctic Council – A result that would fall somewhere in the middle would be the formal continuation of the Arctic Council, but at the same time, the simultaneous creation of a separate Arctic regional governance organisation that does not include Russia in any capacity. In short, the leftover Arctic Council from 1996 would be toothless and purely symbolic.
The worst case: No regional body
China ramps up construction on new Antarctic station –report
By Michael Martina
Beijing has sought to develop new shipping routes in the Arctic and expand its research in Antarctica, but Western governments worry its increasing presence in the polar regions could provide the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with better surveillance capabilities.
Russian aggression and the European Arctic: Avoiding the trap of Arctic exceptionalism
Russia has exploited Arctic cooperation for its military buildup – The West should establish comprehensive deterrence
Russia’s attack against Ukraine has halted diplomatic cooperation between Russia and the West on many fronts, including the Arctic. While the West has broadly come to agree that Russia must be deterred, many Arctic policy experts emphasize the relevance of maintaining dialogue. The Arctic has traditionally been viewed as a unique region of peace and cooperation, yet the notion of this “Arctic exceptionalism” is increasingly challenged by the current security environment.
(FIIA Briefing Paper 359) argues that Russia has systematically strengthened its military position in the Arctic by exploiting the tendency of the other Arctic states to focus on cooperative multilateralism.
The authors state that the foreign policy worldview of Russia is based on a zero-sum confrontation, where the entire West is perceived as a strategic enemy. Therefore, the West should not consider cooperation in good faith as a feasible option and should see the challenge of engaging in dialogue with Russia as systemic and long-term in nature. According to the authors, Arctic exceptionalism no longer applies, and the West should thus focus on forming comprehensive deterrence in the region.
“It is crucial to note that Arctic economic and military resources continue to play an essential role in Russia’s quest to achieve its grand strategic goals, and in its ability to conduct aggression”, the authors write. “The Western Arctic stance must match the current realities and the focus should be on building comprehensive deterrence in the northernmost regions of Europe as well.”
The Arctic Is the New Spot for NATO and Russia to Flex Their Military Muscle
(Bloomberg) Moscow houses nuclear submarines in the region, which is set to increase in strategic importance for major powers including the US and China.
Unusually Thick Sea Ice to Make for Challenging Shipping on Northern Sea Route This Summer
Unusual amounts of multiyear ice in the Laptev and Siberian Sea could lead to difficult summer navigation along parts of Russia’s Northern Sea Route this summer, says the country’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute.
Russia’s growing fleet of nuclear icebreakers may remain busy into the summer months this year. Usually returning to port in mid-Summer once sea ice has melted along the Northern Sea Route, Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) forecasts a more challenging environment for shipping along parts of the route this summer.
Arctic Council Chairmanship: “Norway Knows How to Do It”
Arctic experts trust Norway to maneuver the transfer of the Arctic Council Chairmanship from Russia based on Norway’s long-lasting relationship with the country. “Norway has been balancing and protecting the cooperation with Russia for many years while pushing back Russian aggression”, says American professor Evan Bloom.
(High North News) Since all official collaboration with Russia has ended after the invasion of Ukraine, there is a lot of anticipation riding on the transfer of the chairmanship of the Arctic Council (AC) from Russia to Norway on the 11th of May 2023.
Right now, there are more questions than answers.
What seems to be clear is that there is no Arctic Council without the 45 percent of the Arctic that Russia represents.
Life after May 11
So what lies beyond May 11th? What happens to the Arctic Council if the transfer of the chairmanship does not happen in a way that makes it possible for the Council to move forward?
Intensive High North Diplomacy at Work to Ensure the Future of the Arctic Council
The date is now set for the start of Norway’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council following Russia. “Preserving the Arctic Council as the most important international forum for handling Arctic issues is one of the main tasks of Norwegian foreign policy,” stresses the State Secretary of the MFA.
As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the activity of the Arctic Council was put on hold in March. This summer, however, the working groups’ project activity was resumed without Russian participation.
“Without overdramatizing, it is not a given that the Arctic Council will survive what we are facing now. I will be surprised if we come to the point where the council is formally dissolved. However, it is not guaranteed that it remains as relevant and important as it has been after the Ottawa Declaration of 1996 [about the establishment of the council, journ.note],” says Petersson.
He specifies that Norway has a particular responsibility as the incoming chairman.
“Preserving the Arctic Council as the most important international forum for handling Arctic issues is one of the main tasks of Norwegian foreign policy. This requires intensive High North diplomacy,” the State Secretary points out.
As climate clock ticks, war in Ukraine upends Arctic research
A team of Russian and Norwegian scientists stumbled upon the fastest-warming hotspot known on earth. Then the war began.
(Al Jazeera) The Barents Sea is the part of the Arctic Ocean off the northern coasts of Norway and Russia. It is one of the fastest-warming places on earth. About two-thirds of Barents sea ice has disappeared in the last 45 years, which in turn accelerates Arctic warming, creating a feedback loop.
Barents specimens – sponges and sea snails, blind marine worms and tiny “mud dragons” – could help researchers understand the effects of that warming. “By properly identifying species, we can correctly assess the impact of climate change on species distribution and extinction,” [Andreas] Altenburger [a marine invertebrate researcher] explained. But climate research in Tromsø has run into obstacles caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Before the war, Altenburger would regularly discuss work with Russian colleagues. Norwegian and Russian scientists studying Arctic warming co-authored studies together, attended conferences in Murmansk, Russia, and Tromsø and discussed research over tea or a beer. “It’s those informal discussions that I find most valuable, and where new ideas about what to research next and future collaborations are generated,” said Altenburger. That collaboration was especially helpful for identifying species as, according to several researchers in Tromsø, the best Barents taxonomists tend to be Russian.
Svalbard: The race to save the fastest-warming place on Earth
(BBC) Deep inside the Arctic Circle, the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard is home to the world’s northernmost permanent settlement, Longyearbyen, which is estimated to be heating at six times the global average. So what is being done to save it?
China, Russia Quietly Expanding Arctic Partnership, Says Panel
By John Grady
(US Naval Institute) China is subtly installing a larger presence in the Arctic through an extensive partnership with Russia in areas ranging from multi-use ports and airfields to energy extraction, Arctic security experts said Tuesday.
The partnership also includes scientific research and sharing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data. However, this increased interest and activity has not yet led to China establishing a base in Russia.
Marc Lanteigne, an associate professor at UiT the Arctic University of Norway, said China still is a newcomer to the Arctic and is learning by joining other nations in many activities in the region. Beijing “wants very much an open Arctic” where it can seek out business for the Polar Silk Road that goes beyond Russia and ensure a supply of liquified natural gas.
Climate change drives rapid decadal acidification in the Arctic Ocean from 1994 to 2020
The Arctic Ocean has experienced rapid warming and sea ice loss in recent decades, becoming the first open-ocean basin to experience widespread aragonite undersaturation [saturation state of aragonite (Ωarag) < 1]. However, its trend toward long-term ocean acidification and the underlying mechanisms remain undocumented. Here, we report rapid acidification there, with rates three to four times higher than in other ocean basins, and attribute it to changing sea ice coverage on a decadal time scale. Sea ice melt exposes seawater to the atmosphere and promotes rapid uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide, lowering its alkalinity and buffer capacity and thus leading to sharp declines in pH and Ωarag. We predict a further decrease in pH, particularly at higher latitudes where sea ice retreat is active, whereas Arctic warming may counteract decreases in Ωarag in the future.
Reversing global warming by REFREEZING the poles would be both feasible and ‘extraordinarily cheap’, study claims
New study outlines a unique concept for keeping the north and south poles cool
Jets would spray aerosol particles into the atmosphere above both of the poles
Aerosol layers would shield poles from solar radiation and stop ice from melting
(Daily Mail) Scientists have proposed an ambitious plan of refreezing the north and south poles as a way to reverse ice loss.
In a new study, the experts say high-flying aircraft could spray microscopic aerosol particles into the atmosphere at latitudes of 60 degrees north and south.
If released at a height of 43,000 feet (above airliner cruising altitudes), these aerosols would slowly drift poleward, slightly shading the surface beneath.
Polar powers: the future of Arctic security:
(The Monocle/Foreign Desk) Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has called for the alliance to boost its presence in the Arctic amid Russia’s military build-up in the region. As the Arctic undergoes significant shifts due to climate change and increasing interest from major powers, we ask what this means for the future of the region’s security. Andrew Mueller speaks to Benedetta Berti-Alberti, Malte Humpert, Caroline Kennedy-Pipe and Mia Otokiak.
US to appoint 1st Arctic ambassador as NATO warns about Russia, China
(Daily Sabah) The Biden administration announced it would upgrade its engagement with the Arctic Council with a new ambassadorial post, while the NATO head warned about Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic and China’s increasing interest in that part of the world.
The State Department said the U.S. would appoint an ambassador-at-large for the Arctic to deal with national security, environmental and development issues in the far North. The U.S. has had an Arctic coordinator for many years, but the upgraded position may bring new energy to the job.
US to name Arctic ambassador eying Russia and China
‘Critical strategic importance’ says the US as Russia reopens hundreds of Soviet-era military sites in the region and China describes itself as a ‘near-Arctic’ state.
The United States plans to name an ambassador at large for the Arctic – reflecting the region’s growing strategic and commercial importance as its shrinking ice opens up new sea lanes and vast oil and mineral resources.
Changing Contours of Arctic Politics and the Prospects for Cooperation between Russia and China
(Arctic Institute) The melting Arctic connects North America, Asia, and Europe creating new sea routes. The region contains 30 percent of the gas and 16 percent of total oil resources on the planet. The presence of natural resources makes the Arctic a new geopolitical hotspot with the increase in global energy demands.
The Arctic’s main governing body, the Arctic Council, is composed of 8 Arctic littoral states, 6 working groups, 6 permanent participants, and 38 member states. The governance of the Arctic has long been carried out by permanent members of the Arctic Council having coastlines with the Arctic Ocean. The entry of China into the Arctic Council with observer status has shifted many dynamics in the region.
… The Kingdom of Denmark, Canada, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the US have issued a joint statement against the Russian aggression in Ukraine calling it a grave impediment to cooperation in the Arctic as well. They have refused to attend the meetings under the chairmanship of Russia and have paused the participation in the Arctic Council and the subsidiary bodies. This move greatly isolates Russia in the region.
… The economic sanctions by the Western states are prompting Russia to enhance its ties with the People’s Republic of China. The establishment of the Northern Sea Route from the Bering Strait to the Barents Sea can be a win-win situation for both Russia and China, as it will produce revenues for Russia and save resources for China. Besides that, it can also serve strategic purposes amid the Sino-US and Russo-US rivalries.
Diane Francis: The Arctic War
Control of the Arctic is up for grabs and there is much at stake.
Now seven of the world’s eight Arctic nations are members of NATO because the top of the world is another potential battlefield. Washington has responded by bolstering its surveillance and defence systems in Canada and deploying jets and troops in Alaska, to protect the northern perimeter of North America from encroachments and missiles.
The fight at the top of the world is not simply an arms race, but is about Russian and Chinese hegemony over trade as well as resources. Russia has invested heavily in creating its own “Arctic Silk Road”, called the Northern Sea Route, to provide a shipping link between Europe and Asia. Estimates are that portions of the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer months in a few years which could open up three potential routes: Russia’s Northern Sea Route which hugs Russia’s coastline; the Northwest Passage through Canada’s Arctic Archipelago and along Alaska’s coast; and, lastly, the Transpolar Route that transits across the geographic North Pole, beyond the territorial waters of all eight Arctic states.
The only viable option is Russia’s route. The Transpolar route may never be ice-free or navigable and Canada’s Northwest Passage is littered with 94 islands (two bigger than Spain) and lots of ice. Besides, Canada’s north is empty, hosting a handful of settlements and mines and without military presence.
Arctic Council resumes work on limited scale, without Russia
(Nunatsiaq News) Seven of the eight member states, including Canada, announced earlier this month in a joint statement that Russia will not be a part of future meetings and projects due to its war against Ukraine that started in February.
The move to start work again follows a March 3 statement from the council that noted the “grave impediments to international co-operation, including in the Arctic, that Russia’s actions have caused.”
Why freezing the Arctic Council is bad news for global security
Gabriella Gricius, Graduate Fellow with North American and Arctic Defense Security Network, PhD Candidate in Political Science, Colorado State University
(The Conversation) The point of the Arctic Council is to foster collaboration in areas such as scientific research, search and rescue operations and the challenges posed by climate change. Under its auspices, friends and adversaries alike – as well as nonstate actors, such as Indigenous groups – can sit down, talk and find common ground. In early 2022, lawmakers from Norway nominated the council for the Nobel Peace Prize for its collaborative spirit.
That collaboration ended shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. One week after the start of the war, seven of the eight Arctic Council members announced that they would “pause” their work with the organization. Russia was left ostracized.
Pausing the work of the Arctic Council was an understandable response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Yet in doing so, the other Arctic countries lost a valuable line of communication with Moscow. In time, it will be important to resume the council or establish a new institution in its place.
Indeed, working with Russia in the Arctic is even more important now than it was before the invasion. From a global security perspective, it is essential that the hot war in Europe be prevented from spilling over into the Arctic and one of the world’s last wildernesses.
Behind China’s Rise in the Arctic
China is exploring the Arctic, conducting research on climate change, exploring new resources and pledging to build a “Polar Silk Road” linking Asia and Europe.
Some Arctic states have welcomed Chinese investment and aid, but traditional powers like the United States are suspicious of China’s motives.
Those living in the Arctic Circle have protested against Chinese business proposals to buy up large tracts of land, while some are questioning whether China harbours military interests in the region.
China’s plans for the Arctic: a potential flashpoint where climate change, geopolitics and new opportunities meet.
Conditions ripe for Polar Silk Road
Global tensions are spilling over into Arctic affairs. Environmental changes in the Arctic can shift international relations by raising the stakes associated with access to and control of the Arctic waters.
(Eco-Business) The loss of Arctic sea ice amplifies global warming by allowing more of the Sun’s energy to be retained instead of reflected. Economic estimates of the cost of sea ice loss are as much as hundreds of billions of dollars. The change may be occurring in Arctic waters, but the entire globe will feel — and pay for — the effects.
Changing access to Arctic resources may also affect global commodities markets and create economic benefits. Liquefied natural gas from northern Siberia is already being shipped to East Asia and Europe, providing energy while tapping into the shipbuilding prowess of the Republic of Korea, and helping Russia maintain the Northern Sea Route as a viable transportation corridor.
Shipping through the Arctic, as distinct from shipping to and from Arctic destinations, has also attracted great interest, if not yet a huge increase in vessel traffic, due in part to variable ice conditions that make passage unpredictable and hazardous. For the longer term, Arctic shipping features prominently in strategies such as China’s One Belt One Road initiative, though no actual Arctic projects have so far been undertaken.
A changing Arctic may also shift international relations by raising the stakes associated with access to and control of Arctic waters. Apart from relatively minor maritime boundary disputes, international boundaries in the Arctic are fixed and universally recognised. The main unsettled issues concern the extended continental shelf and the overlapping claims of several countries to seabed resources.
Russia and China to deepen cooperation in the Arctic
Russia and China agreed to continue cooperating on “the sustainable development of the Arctic” as part of a deep strategic partnership.
The Polar Silk Road will be cleared with Chinese icebreakers
Editor’s Note: “With its annual deployment of icebreakers and other research vessels to the Arctic each year and its increased scientific and economic investments in the region, China is in a position to have more presence in the Arctic than the United States will for some time,” writes Jeremy Greenwood. This article originally appeared in High North News.
(Brookings) China’s Ministry of Transport has announced that it will develop a new heavy icebreaker and a new heavy-lift semi-submersible vessel capable of salvaging and rescuing vessels in the Arctic. This would supplement their two existing icebreakers and be in addition to reports of their development of a
nuclear-powered icebreaker. With these investments, the Chinese have signaled a commitment to Arctic infrastructure and the importance of safe navigation for their economic lifeline — global shipping — in a way that the United States has failed to do.
‘Polar Silk Road’ eyes new vision amid global challenges
The time is right for greater China-Russia cooperation on logistics, energy
By Yin Yeping
(Global Times) The Polar Silk Road has recently gained renewed attention following its rapid growth in supporting regional economy and securing energy supplies amid volatility throughout global supply chains posed by an ongoing pandemic in many parts of the world.
During the recent 2021 Arctic Circle Assembly hosted in Iceland, the Polar Silk Road, proposed by leaders of China and Russia in 2017, came under the spotlight as the melting of Arctic sea ice has made it possible for merchant ships to navigate the Arctic Ocean, greatly shortening shipping lanes connecting Asia and Europe and even North America.
President Biden Appoints Commissioners of U.S. Arctic Research Commission
(The White House) The United States depends upon the USARC Commissioners to provide insightful guidance and rational, unbiased assessments of actions to maintain our position as an Arctic nation guided by science. The President’s appointments reflect his commitment to ensuring that USARC’s focus on scientific research goals and objectives for the Arctic are derived from a broad range of expertise and perspectives. One-third of the appointed commissioners are Indigenous, half are women, and two-thirds are residents of Alaska.
Is China worried about an Arctic choke point?
(Brookings) The recent deployment of four Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships to the waters off Alaska’s Aleutian Islands further highlights the growing chessboard of naval operations in the Pacific. The message from China was clear — that they maintain the ability to strategically challenge the United States homeland and that their naval operations are increasingly capable of long-range sustained deployments. We should not, however, assume that this message is meant for the U.S. alone, nor assume that this is only a tit-for-tat in response to U.S. freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. As Elizabeth Buchanan, a lecturer in strategic studies at Deakin University in Australia, told Arctic Today in a recent interview, this may be a signal to Russia as well as the U.S. that Chinese access to the Arctic is not negotiable.
Worrying Commercial Tensions Are Brewing in the Arctic
Vice Admiral (Ret) Fozzie Miller
(Brink) The Arctic is less than half the size it was when we started measuring it, and it continues to shrink every year.
And if it continues at that pace, we’ve only got about another, perhaps, 30 years, say 2050, until we’re at a point where, in the summertime, there is no polar ice. And so, the Arctic seas will be open for commerce, and for development, in terms of mineral rights.
There’s something like a trillion dollars worth of mineral rights in the sea floor. There’s also a significant amount of gas and oil, it is believed. In addition to that, the global fishery population continues to migrate toward the north, and as the climate warms up, that will likely accelerate, which means it then becomes an area that is in high demand for fishing activities as well.
Arctic Council to celebrate 25th anniversary
(RCInet) The Arctic Council, an international forum of the eight circumpolar nations, and six Arctic Indigenous groups, will celebrate its 25th anniversary on September 19.
The forum was established in Canada in 1996 with the Ottawa Declaration, as a way to foster cooperation in the North on sustainable development and environmental protection.
Russia currently holds the forum’s rotating, two-year chairmanship and on Thursday, the country’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, praised the Council’s role in allowing the northern countries to work together on common concerns.
Northern expedition: China’s Arctic activities and ambitions
(Brookings Report) This report explores China’s internal discourse on the Arctic as well as its activities and ambitions across the region. It finds that China sometimes speaks with two voices on the Arctic: an external one aimed at foreign audiences and a more cynical internal one emphasizing competition and Beijing’s Arctic ambitions. In examining China’s political, military, scientific, and economic activity — as well as its coercion of Arctic states — the report also demonstrates the seriousness of China’s aspirations to become a “polar great power.” China has sent high-level figures to the region 33 times in the past two decades, engaged or joined most major Arctic institutions, sought a half dozen scientific facilities in Arctic states, pursued a range of plausibly dual-use economic projects, expanded its icebreaker fleet, and even sent its naval vessels into the region. The eight Arctic sovereign states — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States — exercise great influence over the Arctic and its strategically valuable geography. China aspires to be among them. …
China supports existing Arctic governance mechanisms publicly but complains about them privately. Several Chinese texts indicate frustration with Arctic mechanisms and concern that the country will be excluded from the region’s resources. Official texts suggest gently that the region’s importance now transcends “its original inter-Arctic States,” while scholars once feared Arctic states would launch an admittedly unlikely “eight-state polar region alliance” or institutionalize the Arctic Council in ways that “strengthen their dominant position” at China’s expense. These texts stress China’s pursuit of “identity diplomacy,” namely, terming China a “near-Arctic State” because it is affected by climate change. They also indicate an interest in pushing alternative Chinese governance concepts — in some cases to supplement and other cases to run outside the Arctic Council — including a “Polar Silk Road” and China’s “community with a shared future for mankind,” though specifics are often lacking.
How Science Got Trampled in the Rush to Drill in the Arctic
This is one of the last untouched environmental treasures in the United States.
It also sits on top of an immense reserve of oil.
(Politico) Every year, hundreds of petroleum industry executives gather in Anchorage for the annual conference of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, where they discuss policy and celebrate their achievements with the state’s political establishment. In May 2018, they again filed into the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center, but they had a new reason to celebrate. Under the Trump administration, oil and gas development was poised to dramatically expand into a remote corner of Alaska where it had been prohibited for nearly 40 years.
Tucked into the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a bill signed by President Donald Trump five months earlier, was a brief two-page section that had little to do with tax reform. Drafted by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the provision opened up approximately 1.6 million acres of the vast Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas leasing, a reversal of the federal policy that has long protected one of the most ecologically important landscapes in the Arctic.
The refuge is believed to sit atop one of the last great onshore oil reserves in North America, with a value conservatively estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars. For decades, the refuge has been the subject of a very public tug of war between pro-drilling forces and conservation advocates determined to protect an ecosystem crucial to polar bears, herds of migratory caribou, and native communities that rely on the wildlife for subsistence hunting. The Trump tax law, for the first time since the refuge was established in 1980, handed the advantage decisively to the drillers.
The Final Report, But Not the Last Word
Even without drilling, the Refuge is already undergoing profound changes.
Climate change is warming the Arctic nearly twice as fast as anywhere else in the world, setting in motion changes that have alarmed scientists who study the region. As sea ice has diminished greater numbers of polar bears have been forced to come inland to den along the coastal plain. This has led to more encounters between humans and bears and the deterioration of the overall health of the bear population. The southern Beaufort Sea population was listed as a threatened species in 2008, which is part of the reason that FWS [Fish and Wildlife Service] has resisted approving permits for ecologically risky seismic surveys. Over the next 30 years, scientists fear that the population could be driven to extinction.
China Launches the Polar Silk Road
(Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)) On January 28, 2018, China’s State Council Information Office released a white paper detailing the country’s official Arctic policy for the first time.
The document plotted the course for future Chinese development goals in the region—including scientific, commercial, environmental preservation, and resource extraction efforts—and aligned Chinese Arctic interests with the Belt and Road Initiative.
Chinese companies are encouraged to invest in building infrastructure along the routes and conduct commercial trial voyages to gauge feasibility.
In 2017, the research vessel Xue Long became the first Chinese ship to navigate the three major Arctic shipping routes: The Northwest Passage, Northeast Passage, and Transpolar Sea Route.
The white paper emphasizes “peaceful utilization” of the Arctic and supports settlement of territorial and maritime rights disputes under established multinational treaties such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
While Chinese borders do not extend to the Arctic, China is one of 13 “observers” to the Arctic Council and has become increasingly active in the region. It obtained permanent observer status in 2013 after five years of courting member states and two failed attempts. Observership accorded China the ability to attend all council meetings and participate in workshops.
Scott Gilmore: The Canadian North is the least defended territory on earth
Never mind the Amazon, or even the Antarctic. Northern Canada is the global epitome of undefended territory.
(Maclean’s) … perhaps it is fitting that the Canadian North is essentially the largest military-free zone in the world. To be fair, it is not utterly bereft of Canadian Forces. We have three very small bases. There are some radar installations (that use 1980s technology). There are the Rangers, of course, local volunteers who are given Second World War rifles, a hoodie, a ball cap and an annual photo op with whichever politician is shameless enough to fly north for 24 hours to emote about the Canadian North from the depths of his or her $1,200 Canada Goose parka. Our largest icebreaker— built in 1969—is currently undergoing it’s seventh refit. And, we have approximately 120 armed forces personnel, just enough to fill a Tim Hortons. All of this, of course, is spread over an area the size of Europe (except the icebreaker—it’s in Halifax). (17 March 2017)
Finland voices concern over US and Russian climate change doubters
“What is even more worrying is that ice and snow are melting faster than we estimated, and that will change the composition of the waters and even the sea level might be rising. If we have two countries, Russia and the US, not sharing the view that climate change is happening or is manmade or how much it is manmade, it is very difficult to proceed.”
(The Guardian) The Nordic country takes up the two-year chairmanship of the body, increasingly a forum where arguments about climate change play out, at a ministerial meeting on Thursday in Fairbanks, Alaska, where the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, will represent the Trump administration.
The meeting is due to set targets to reduce black carbon in the Arctic, a pollutant that traps atmospheric heat, but comes amid fears the US is poised to downgrade its commitments made at the 2015 Paris conference on climate change.
What to expect from Finland’s Arctic Council leadership
Technology, education and weather forecasting in the Arctic region are priorities for the Nordic nation as it assumes the council’s chairmanship this week, says Heather Exner-Pirot, the managing editor of the Arctic Yearbook.
(Open Canada) The chairmanship of the Arctic Council will be passed from the United States to Finland when representatives of northern nations meet in Fairbanks, Alaska, later this week.
The shift back to a European nation is expected to come with a change in priorities, said Heather Exner-Pirot, the managing editor of the Arctic Yearbook, an annually published academic journal that most recently made the Arctic Council its focus. She expects Finland will want to leverage its famed education system and use its technological prowess to connect Arctic communities, as well as work toward better monitoring of the region’s weather and continue to pursue the council’s environmental initiatives. Arctic Deeply’s Ian Evans spoke with Exner-Pirot to learn more about what this change in leadership may entail.
Literature’s Arctic Obsession
The greatest writers of the nineteenth century were drawn to the North Pole. What did they hope to find there?
(The New Yorker) For the once enormous icescape ringing the North Pole, the results have been dramatic. Since 1980, sea ice in the Arctic has declined thirteen per cent each decade. The Greenland Ice Sheet, which is more than a hundred and ten thousand years old and covers six hundred and sixty thousand square miles of the Far North, has shed two hundred billion tons of water a year since 2003. These changes have already made travel in the region notably easier; in 2007, for the first time in history, a ship navigated through the Northwest Passage without help from an icebreaker. Such travel will only get easier in the future. According to the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, by the end of our own century the summertime Arctic will be entirely ice-free. …
As for the North Pole itself: Frederick Cook claimed to have reached it by sled in 1908, Robert Peary in 1909, Richard Byrd by airplane in 1926. Of all the fictions told about the Arctic, these are among the least plausible. To reach the Pole in the time Peary said he had done so, he would have had to average thirty-eight miles a day, or more than three times faster than the highest proven average ever achieved—and that was by snowmobile. Cook would have needed to average a faintly less unreasonable seventeen miles a day, but the rest of the evidence against him is damning. He had already lied about reaching the summit of Alaska’s Mt. Denali, he failed to record celestial navigations for eighty-eight days of his trip, and he later paid someone to fake the missing data. Byrd’s airplane could not have covered the mileage he claimed in the time allotted, and both he and his pilot later privately confessed to the fraud. The first person to actually reach the North Pole over land was Ralph Plaisted, an insurance agent from Duluth, who arrived on April 20, 1968. Fifteen months later, Apollo 11 landed on the moon. …
For the once enormous icescape ringing the North Pole, the results have been dramatic. Since 1980, sea ice in the Arctic has declined thirteen per cent each decade. The Greenland Ice Sheet, which is more than a hundred and ten thousand years old and covers six hundred and sixty thousand square miles of the Far North, has shed two hundred billion tons of water a year since 2003. These changes have already made travel in the region notably easier; in 2007, for the first time in history, a ship navigated through the Northwest Passage without help from an icebreaker. Such travel will only get easier in the future. According to the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, by the end of our own century the summertime Arctic will be entirely ice-free.
From time to time during the life of our planet, roughly once every half-million years, a curious thing occurs: its geomagnetic field reverses, such that the North Pole and the South Pole swap polarities. Lately, our stories about the poles have done the same. The nineteenth century dreamed of an Arctic that was warm, accessible, and domesticated, but found a remote and frozen region indifferent to human life. Now, in the twenty-first century, as we approach an ice-free, accessible pole that has succumbed to our influence, we dream of a faraway frozen land unspoiled by humankind. ♦
Trump’s budget could cause infrastructure crisis for rural and native Alaskans
(Eye on the Arctic) As a state with one of the highest proportions of rural residents, Alaska would be particularly negatively impacted. Some 34% of Alaskans live outside the state’s cities. Alaska’s rural populations, too, are different than those in the Lower 48. While much of rural America voted for Trump, counties with large Alaska Native populations tended to vote for Clinton. (The same is true of rural, largely Native American counties in the Lower 48).
… it’s hard to imagine Trump taking a tour of Alaska to witness climate change first-hand and visit Alaska Native settlements. Obama’s visit to Kotzebue made him the first sitting president to visit the American Arctic. In contrast, Trump proposes to eliminate the very agency that Obama tapped to lead the process of climate change mitigation in coastal communities in Alaska, including determining which ones should be relocated.
Obama bans oil drilling ‘permanently’ in millions of acres of ocean
(BBC) Outgoing US President Barack Obama has permanently banned offshore oil and gas drilling in the “vast majority” of US-owned northern waters.
Mr Obama designated areas in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans as “indefinitely off limits” to future leasing.
The move is widely seen as an attempt to protect the region before Mr Obama leaves office in January.
Supporters of president-elect Donald Trump could find it difficult to reverse the decision.
Canada also committed to a similar measure in its own Arctic waters, in a joint announcement with Washington.
During the election campaign, Donald Trump said he would take advantage of existing US oil reserves, prompting concern from environmental groups.
But supporters have already suggested that any attempt to reverse the “permanent” decision outlined by the law would be open to a legal challenge.
Two powerful new allies join WWF for a thriving Arctic
By David Miller, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund
(Policy Options) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama unveiled groundbreaking agreements on how they want to see the Arctic sustainably managed.
The Arctic is 40 per cent of Canada’s landmass, two-thirds of our coastline and a large part of our national identity. But it’s not ours alone. We share it with the United States and six other nations, so it’s vital that our efforts to balance environmental sustainability with community benefits be shared too.
That’s what makes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent visit to Washington so important to the Arctic, and to our work at WWF-Canada
Turning the Lens on Arctic Shipping’s New Era
(Arctic Deeply) Shipping in Arctic waters is expected to rise as sea ice thins and melts, particularly along Russia’s Northern Sea Route. Bernice Notenboom’s new film Sea Blind looks at the risks and environmental costs involved in Arctic shipping – and plots a path towards a more sustainable industry.
Melting Arctic sea ice creates the possibility of more shipping in the Arctic, especially along the Northern Sea Route, a shipping lane that extends from the Kara Sea to the Pacific Ocean, running along the Russian coast. In Sea Blind, Notenboom reports from Russia and Rotterdam in an attempt to understand what she sees as a “race to exploit the economic opportunities” of the receding ice – and its environmental impacts.
The film, which debuted in Paris in December at the COP21 climate change meeting, offers a deep dive into our reliance on the shipping industry, its environmental impact and how it is regulated. But the film goes beyond spotlighting problems, it also looks for – and finds – ways to clean up shipping so that it impacts less on the planet, the Arctic in particular.
No One Wants a New Cold War in the Arctic
(Arctic Deeply) Glance at the headlines and one could easily come to believe that an assertive Russia is squaring off against the West in a “race” or “scramble” for the Arctic, in a “new cold war.” The perceived threat from Russia in the Arctic even underscores calls for the construction of additional U.S. icebreakers.
This storyline is merely the taproot of a larger media-driven narrative about the global “scramble for the Arctic,” which brushes aside the overwhelming evidence of peaceful cooperation among Arctic states, in favor of alarming and attention-grabbing headlines. The facts on the ground suggest strongly that Arctic states, including the U.S. and Russia, collectively seek more cooperation and the peaceful resolution of territorial disputes as increasing human activity and climate change interact in complex and challenging ways.
Nevertheless, the current difficulties in Russia’s relationships with much of Europe and North America cannot simply be brushed aside. Diplomats like to talk of preserving the Arctic as a zone of peace, a walled-off garden in which outside political problems do not intrude, but this is an overly simple conception.
Arctic Report Card 2015 ; video
Every year since 2006, an international team of scientists track recent Arctic environmental changes and issue a report. What’s new for 2015? Maximum sea ice extent was 15 days earlier than average and hit the lowest value on record, and sea ice continues to be younger and thinner. These changes to sea ice are having impacts on the marine ecosystem, including fishes and walruses, and on sea surface temperatures. Tracking recent environmental changes, with 12 essays prepared by an international team of 72 scientists from 11 different countries and an independent peer-review organized by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme of the Arctic Council.
James F. Collins: Diplomacy at the Top of the World
(Project Syndicate) Geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West have been high in recent years, but there remain areas where constructive cooperation and dialogue remain possible. These include not only acute questions like Iran’s nuclear program, but also long-term issues critical to the Arctic region, such as maritime safety, energy development, responses to oil spills, and fisheries management.
As the United States convenes foreign ministers from Arctic and key non-Arctic states in Alaska on August 31 to discuss climate change and other topics concerning the region, it is vitally important that disagreements in other parts of the world not be allowed to derail the discussions.
When the US – an Arctic state with a strong interest in the region – assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in April, it emphasized its readiness to cooperate with all of the organization’s members, including Russia. The August conference, appropriately named GLACIER, will feature an address by President Barack Obama. It is not an Arctic Council event, but it will likely be the highest-level international forum that the US leads during its two-year term as the Council’s chair.
Shell ended its Alaskan oil exploration. The Dutch oil major will take a $4.1 billion writedown after it failed to find enough oil to continue investigating the Burger J well. An “unpredictable” regulatory environment concerning drilling in the Arctic, as well as the low price of oil, also contributed to the decision to end its exploration (paywall).
Obama walking a razor’s edge in Alaska on climate change
(Brookings) As President Obama wraps up his historic visit to Alaska and meeting with the Arctic climate resilience summit (GLACIER Conference), he is walking a razor’s edge, delivering a delicately crafted missive for two audiences. Each view is coherent by itself, but together they create a contradictory message that reflects the cognitive dissonance of this administration on climate change.
For the majority of Alaska and for businesses and more conservative audiences, Obama is proclaiming that Alaskan resources are part of our energy future. With oil providing 90 percent of state government revenues, that’s the message many Alaskans most ardently want to hear.
For environmentalists and to the nations of the world, Obama is making another argument. His stops were chosen to provide compelling visual evidence now written across Alaska’s landscape that climate change is real, it is here, Alaskans are already suffering, and we must act aggressively to address it. “Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now … We’re not acting fast enough.”
Remarks by the President at the GLACIER Conference
“The United States is, of course, an Arctic nation. And even if this isn’t an official gathering of the Arctic Council, the United States is proud to chair the Arctic Council for the next two years. And to all the foreign dignitaries who are here, I want to be very clear — we are eager to work with your nations on the unique opportunities that the Arctic presents and the unique challenges that it faces. We are not going to — any of us — be able to solve these challenges by ourselves. We can only solve them together.” President Obama delivers remarks at the GLACIER Conference in Alaska. (video)
Senator John McCain: The Real Arctic Threat
Obama focuses on global warming while Putin’s neo-imperialist dreams continue to spread north.
(WSJ) President Obama is on a three-day visit to Alaska that will include a stop north of the Arctic Circle. The focus of his trip is climate change. Some of my Senate colleagues and I recently returned from the Arctic, and while we saw the challenges of melting polar ice, we also saw a greater and more immediate threat. It is a menace that many assumed was relegated to the past: an aggressive, militarily capable Russian state that is ruled by an anti-American autocrat, hostile to our interests, dismissive of our values, and seeking to challenge the international order that U.S. leaders of both parties have maintained for seven decades.
Obama seeks to close icebreaker gap as Arctic sea traffic competition intensifies
President to speed up acquisition by two years of new heavy icebreaker
Barack Obama will propose on Tuesday accelerating the timeline for purchasing and building new icebreakers for the US coast guard in the Arctic Ocean, as part of an effort to close an increasing gap with other countries – particularly Russia.
The White House issued the announcement late on Monday, stating that Obama will call for speeding up by two years – to 2020 from 2022 – the acquisition of a replacement heavy icebreaker. The president will also call on Congress to pass sufficient funding for the construction of additional icebreakers, which the administration said would “ensure that the United States can meet our national interests, protect and manage our natural resources, and strengthen our international, state, local, and tribal relationships
The icebreaker gap
Russia has 40 powerful ships to clear lanes through crucial Arctic waters. America is down to 2.
(Politico) But even if funding to build new icebreakers came tomorrow, it would still take too long to build one ship, analysts say. Current law requires Coast Guard vessels to be constructed in U.S. shipyards unless the President determines there’s an overriding national-security interest to build a ship outside of the U.S.
Lockheed Shipbuilding of Seattle, Washington, which built the Polar Star and the Polar Sea, is closed. So is Avondale Industries outside of New Orleans, which built the Healy. One privately owned icebreaker, leased to Shell, was built by a pair of domestic shipbuilders. “But the domestic industry is kind of thin,” Uljua said. He estimated that building a new vessel stateside would take at least 10 years, and crafting a design alone could take several years. Another option would be leasing a ship, though according to Uljua, there are no heavy icebreakers available to lease; one would have to be built.
Obama using Alaska to add urgency to his climate change warnings
(WaPost) As stage sets go, Alaska is a spectacular one: craggy mountain ranges, picturesque coastlines and iconic glaciers. President Obama arrived here Monday to use that backdrop for his message that climate change is not just a thing of the future but something well underway in the nation’s largest state.
“The point is that climate change is no longer some far-off problem,” Obama told an international meeting on Arctic issues Monday night. “It is happening here and is happening now.”
But despite the geological props — what the president called “the God-given majesty of this place” — Alaska may not be the perfect setting for Obama’s message. The state also perfectly reflects the cacophony of disputes over rival claims to international sea borders, how best to tap the Arctic’s resources and how to handle growing traffic along northern shipping routes. Those huge financial and economic stakes complicate the president’s arguments about the urgency of combating climate change.
Obama’s Trip to Alaska Shows Both Sides of His Climate Change Legacy
(TIME) President Barack Obama brought his crusade against climate change to Alaska this week with a three-day trip designed to highlight the devastating effects of global warming and promote initiatives to address the issue. …
While Obama has billed his trip as an opportunity to highlight the threat of climate change—and the steps his Administration is taking to fight it—his policies embody the tension between the vital fossil fuels play in the U.S. economy and the need to reduce carbon emissions. Obama has proposed aggressive U.S. action on climate change, including a 26% to 28% reduction in carbon emissions by 2025 from 2005 levels. But he has also supported measures to open oil drilling in the Arctic, a move condemned by environmentalists angered over the danger of an disastrous oil spill and the threat of more carbon emissions
Nature’s last refuge: climate change threatens our most fragile ecosystem
An Arctic voyage through the awe-inspiring Northwest Passage shows that, with oil drilling in the far north on the way, rapid action is needed to protect the region
(The Guardian) … the Arctic today is changing. Global warming is altering it at a rate that is unmatched anywhere else on Earth, and a journey once considered grotesquely dangerous has become a voyage now feasible for the inquiring traveller. … there is another factor that made this journey possible, one that reveals the darker side of humanity’s scientific might and which provides the most intriguing aspect of any Arctic visit. Every year our factories and cars pump billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and emissions continue to rise remorselessly. As a result, our planet is heating at a worrying rate, with the Arctic bearing the brunt of temperature rises.
Every year the melting of sea ice in the far north starts earlier and earlier and it is now vanishing at a rate of about 13% per decade. As a result, the Arctic’s sea ice cap has shrunk by nearly a third since 1979, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre. Finding enough ice in which to get trapped is becoming the Arctic’s real problem.
U.S. Is Playing Catch-Up With Russia in Scramble for the Arctic
(NYT) With warming seas creating new opportunities at the top of the world, nations are scrambling over the Arctic — its territorial waters, transit routes and especially its natural resources — in a rivalry some already call a new Cold War.
When President Obama travels to Alaska on Monday, becoming the first president to venture above the Arctic Circle while in office, he hopes to focus attention on the effects of climate change on the Arctic. Some lawmakers in Congress, analysts, and even some government officials say the United States is lagging behind other nations, chief among them Russia, in preparing for the new environmental, economic and geopolitical realities facing the region.
“We have been for some time clamoring about our nation’s lack of capacity to sustain any meaningful presence in the Arctic,” said Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, the Coast Guard’s commandant.
Obama defends Arctic drilling decision on eve of Alaska climate change trip
President accused of undermining own agenda with decision to allow hunt for oil in Arctic, as he prepares for three-day tour to showcase effects of climate change
A defensive White House was forced to push back against campaigners who accuse Obama of undermining his environmental agenda by giving the go-ahead to Shell to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea, only weeks after rolling out his signature climate change plan.
Obama, in his weekly address on Saturday, insisted there was no clash between his climate change agenda and Arctic drilling.
America was beginning to get off fossil fuels, he said. But Obama went on: “Our economy still has to rely on oil and gas. As long as that’s the case, I believe we should rely more on domestic production than on foreign imports.”
The challenges of protecting the Arctic from climate change as well as the risks of offshore drilling were both on full display on the eve of Obama’s visit.
U.S. to make climate change a priority for Arctic Council
(Globe & Mail) Coping with the grave and growing consequences of climate change will be the top priority at the Arctic Council as the chairmanship passes to to the United States from Canada, U.S. State Secretary John Kerry told the eight nation ministerial gathering in Iqaluit on Friday.
“The numbers are alarming and that’s putting it mildly,” warned Mr. Kerry, who has a long and proven track record in regarding climate change as among the foremost of 21st century threats. The Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on earth, he said.
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who chaired the Arctic Council for the last two years, said “Canada’s deep commitment to the north and its people is part of our national identity” and listed among Canada’s achievements the creation of an Arctic Economic Council, a group of northern businesses.
The U.S. will shift priorities.
“This is not a future challenge, this is happening right now,” Mr. Kerry said as he outlined the rapid retreat of Arctic ice cover, the collapse of permafrost with resulting massive releases of the potent greenhouse gas methane as well as dire coastal erosion and the acidification of the Arctic Ocean.
Arctic Council renews commitment to Arctic economic and social development and environmental protection
Ministers from eight Arctic states and leaders of Arctic Indigenous Peoples met today in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, marking the conclusion of Canada’s Arctic Council Chairmanship and the beginning of the United States’ Chairmanship.
At the meeting, Ministers signed the Iqaluit Declaration 2015, which highlights the accomplishments of the Arctic Council during Canada’s Chairmanship (2013-2015) and guides the work of the Council under the Chairmanship of the United States (2015-2017).
“It is with great pride that we signed the Iqaluit Declaration here in Canada’s North,” said the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s Minister and Chair for the Arctic Council. “Canada has put Northerners at the forefront of the Arctic Council’s agenda, and we will continue working to ensure that the Council’s work benefits the people who live there.”
The theme of Canada’s Chairmanship was “Development for the People of the North”, and during its Chairmanship the Council advanced economic and social development and environmental protection in the Arctic, implementing action-oriented projects and programs on issues such as mental wellness, traditional knowledge and oil pollution prevention to improve the lives of Arctic residents.
U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council: The challenges ahead
(Brookings) This weekend the United States will assume the chairmanship of the Arctic Council for a two-year term. While the Obama administration has been preparing for this for several years, it remains to be seen how the president will balance the concerns of most Arctic residents who view development of the region as vital to improving their economic and social livelihood and those individuals inside and outside the administration who want to limit development out of concern for the how economic development may cause local environmental degradation while also accelerating climate change.
As part of this preparation, in May 2013, the president launched a new National Strategy for the Arctic Region based on three principles
The Road to the U.S. Arctic Council Chairmanship
By Heather Exner-Pirot
(World Policy blog) The United States will assume the chairmanship of the Arctic Council this coming April for a two-year term. In the run-up to this transition, the Obama Administration has been making significant efforts to beef up its Arctic policies and objectives. It launched a new National Strategy for the Arctic Region in May 2013 and appointed former Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Robert Papp, as the U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic in July 2014. It also issued an Executive Order to enhance coordination of national efforts in the Arctic in January 2015, and controversially proposed new wilderness protections in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) that will impact oil and gas production in the state of Alaska. In cataloging the nation’s interests in the Arctic region and articulating the common goals it shares with the other states and indigenous Permanent Participants that make up the Arctic Council, Admiral Papp has proffered the following agenda for its chairmanship:
— Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship
— Improving economic and living conditions
— Addressing the impacts of climate change
Arctic Meltdown Opens Fabled Northwest Passage (September 2007)