Search Results for Tag: Arctic
Canada and Russia rippling muscles in the Arctic
Enjoying my morning tea the other day, my attention was caught by an Arctic headline in our local newspaper. When the Arctic makes its way into a publication I read rather for its regional flavour than international current affairs, I get the feeling there are certainly things afoot. Or is it just that stories involving Russia and any possible military conflict appeal to the public at the moment? The story was the latest sabre-rattling by Vladimir Putin, saying Russia would be stepping up its military presence in the Arctic to defend the country’s geopolitical interests.
The Kremlin chief has been turning into a bit of a public enemy number one here, with the arrest of the “Arctic 30″ and refusal to comply with the international maritime tribunal, the pressure on the Ukraine to keep away from the EU and the publicity of the treatment of homosexuals in the run-up to the winter Olympics. Now the big, bad Russians are sending soldiers up to the North Pole, that iconic supposedly untouched frozen waste at the top of the planet, which belongs to no country. Not so far anyway.
We remember how a Russian submarine planted its flag on the seabed under the North Pole in 2007. Back in 2001 Russia submitted a claim to extend its nautical borders to the UN commission on the limits of its continental shelf. In the meantime, the rapidly warming climate has increased the international race to get at Arctic resources and develop an infrastructure to profit from increased shipping through the area.
I do find it a matter of concern that Russia is re-opening military bases in the Arctic and has sent warships up there for the first time in more than 20 years. Luke Harding in the Guardian links Russia’s renewed interest in the region directly to Putin’s ascent to the Kremlin in 2000. In contrast to the policies under Dmitry Medvedev, “Putin’s Arctic rhetoric has been hawkish”, Harding writes. The same can be said of Canada’s conservative prime minister Stephen Harper. Canada has just submitted its claim to the UN Commission and says it will actually be laying claim to the North Pole soon. As current chair of the Arctic Council, Canada has been stressing the need to develop the region. This week I talked to a Canadian colleague, who was flabbergasted by the latest Canadian antics concerning the High North. His scepticism was based on what he sees as a huge discrepancy between the might of Putin’s Russia and a Canada with limited military resources.
Let us hope that military power is not what will decide the struggle for the North Pole and the Arctic in general. If the countries put as much effort into reducing emissions and developing climate-friendly technologies as into military developments – and I am thinking of political rhetoric and pr as much as actual spending – the Arctic might be able to continue to be the remote, frozen area at the top of the world with its unique ecosystems preserved for future generations.
DateDecember 13, 2013 | 3:53 pm
Norway focuses on “Humans in the Arctic”
With the Annual “Arctic Frontiers” conference in Norway’s “Arctic capital” Tromsö looming large on the horizon from January 19th to 24th, I was interested to see that the conference theme of “Humans in the Arctic” was the subject of an event held by the North Norway European Office in collaboration with The Arctic Institute and Maritimt Forum Nord.
Those of us who are too far away to be able to drop in to seminars like this ahead of the big event can thank Kathrin Keil and Andreas Raspotnik from the Arctic Institute for keeping us up to date with a short report summarizing the event.
It is not surprising to see an increase in the number of conferences and seminars on Arctic development, given the climate-change related changes to the region which feature here on the Ice Blog. I have the sense that there is considerable competition between different Arctic players on all levels to become the focus of development activities.
In the event report, Raspotnik and Keil refer to the “Tromsö High North Cluster”. According to Anne Husebekk, the rector of the University of Tromso (UiT), as quoted in the paper, “The Tromsö High North Cluster can play a crucial role in providing the necessary knowledge for sustainable development in the Norwegian Arctic”. On my visits to Tromsö, I certainly had the feeling that people were working hard at this.
In my last blog post I mentioned the campaign underway to establish an EU Arctic Info Centre in Rovaniemi in Finland.
Understandably, all the Arctic states are keen to have a large chunk of the cake and stress their own expertise and infrastructure. But in an area like the Arctic, international cooperation is clearly essential.
Oil and gas drilling and increased shipping are usually the first issues that come to mind in connection with Arctic development, with all the safety, logistic and environmental challenges they bring with them. But the High North is also a key area for fishing, an activity which may not exactly benefit from extended industrial or commercial activity, not to mention the pressures from climate change. One point that attracted my attention in the conference report was a presentation by Trygve Myrvang, Managing Director of the Norwegian Fishermens Sales Organization, looking at the sustainability of fish stocks in the Norwegian North and factors affecting it. “Myrvang underlined the necessity of cooperation between the fishery and energy industry in the High North, both interested in the same offshore areas, say Raspotnik and Keil.” Indeed. Interesting times ahead. And plenty of scope for discussion at Arctic Frontiers. The Arctic Institute will also be holding a side event on “infrastructure-related challenges in the Arctic”. There is certainly no shortage of those. I hope I can be there to join the forum.
DateDecember 10, 2013 | 2:31 pm
Rovaniemi: Finland and the Arctic
Rovaniemi is where I would like to have spent the last few days. From Dec. 2nd to 4th, the first of a series of Arctic conferences was held there, organized by the city of Rovaniemi and the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland.
Rovaniemi, a Finnish town right on the edge of the Arctic circle, is known to “Arctic buffs” because of the “Rovaniemi Process”, a Finnish initiative for Arctic environmental co-operation, which ultimately led to the adoption of the “Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy”, signed in Rovaniemi in 1991. This in turn played an important role in the establishment of the Arctic Council
In the spirit of that “Rovaniemi Process”, the city and the University’s Arctic Centre decided to organize a series of conferences, this being the first one. Finland, like all the northern states, is trying to assert its position in the region against the background of climate change and growing international interest.
Earlier this year, I received a copy of a very useful booklet produced by the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland. It’s entitled “The Arctic Calls. Finland, the European Union and the Arctic Region“. The authors are Markku Heikkilä and Marjo Laukkanen, both based at the Arctic Centre. Its aim is to “put a human face on the Arctic Region”, and it does that very well, looking across the whole region. President Sauli Niinistö wrote the foreword to the publication. He mentions Finland’s initiative to establish an EU Arctic Information Centre in Rovaniemi, which I am following with interest.
The European Union Arctic Information Centre (EUAIC) initiative is an international network of 19 leading Arctic research and outreach institutions from the various European Union Members States, and the EEA countries. It was started in 2009 as a professional network of European institutions aiming to provide information, outreach and insight into Arctic issues. The network’s objective is to provide the European Union, its citizens, institutions, companies and member states with a reliable source of information on what is happening in and concerning the Arctic. The EUAIC initiative network aims to “facilitate two-way communication between experts, decision makers, stakeholders and the public”, according to its website.
The initiative is organized as a network, making use of existing expertise and the infrastructures of its members. Its headquarters are located at the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi. Currently there are nineteen partners. The European Commission selected the consortium to carry out a key one million euro project to produce a “Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment of development of the Arctic”. The project should be completed in 2014 and should make for interesting reading.
Bearing all this in mind, it’s worth keeping an eye on what comes out of the Rovaniemi conference. And I’d recommend the publication, “The Arctic Calls”, ISBN 978-952-281-065-6. It has interesting interview, maps, photos and insight. You can also get it from the Arctic Centre or download an online version.
Let me just finish by quoting from the final pages:
“The images of icebergs drifting out to sea have turned from symbols of freshness to symbols of disappearance. They have become images of a unique world that is undergoing drastic change and is about to lose many of its characteristics.” How right you are.
DateDecember 5, 2013 | 3:19 pm
Polar regions hit by ocean acidification
Did you notice much about the problem of CO2 in the oceans in the (already minimal in most places) coverage of the Warsaw climate conference? A summary of the report published recently by the International Programme on the State of the Oceans (IPSO) was presented at the meeting to draw attention to the dangers posed by acidification for ecosystems, humankind and, in form of a feedback effect, for the climate warming which is causing it in the first place. If that sounds complicated, but intriguing enough to warrant further interest, you might want to listen to an interview I recorded this week with Alex Rogers. He is a Professor of Conservation Biology at the Dept. of Zoology and a Fellow of Somerville College, University of Oxford. Amongst his many other titles, he’s the Scientific Director of IPSO. He told me it was a “fascinating coincidence” that the report was published just after the latest IPCC report, which noted, amongst other things, that atmospheric temperatures hadn’t risen as much over the last ten years or so as had been expected. One main reason suggested is that the excess heat is being taken up by the ocean, especially the deep ocean. And that fits perfectly with the findings of the big ocean survey and collation of data, says Prof. Rogers.
I also talked to Ulf Riebesell from the Helmholtz Institute for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, a lead author of the report and the scientist who has been in charge of the in situ acidification experiments in the Arctic .You might also enjoy in my report from that venture.
That interview is in German, so I’m not putting it up here, but the content will be flowing into an article for the DW website very soon. Meanwhile, here’s Professor Rogers:
DateNovember 29, 2013 | 1:30 pm
Why conferences like Warsaw won’t save the Arctic!
No wonder the ngos walked out in disgust. The latest UN climate conference has strengthened my feeling that these mega-events are not going to lead to the emissions reductions we need to protect the polar ice and the world climate.
Typhoon Haiyan and its devasting effects on the Philippines was a fine warning of what the world could be facing if we are not able to put the brakes on climate change. The newest IPCC report provides impressive evidence of the need for swift and effective action to combat climate change. Otherwise, the world will have to cope with more frequent and severe extreme weather events, rising seas, floods and droughts. The World Bank and the UN have set the alarm bells ringing. We have to reduce emissions by around 85% by 2050 to keep global temperature rise to the two-degree Celsius limit. The International Energy Agency says that would mean leaving 80% of our remaining fossil fuels in the ground.
Climate sinners hosting
Unfortunately the track laid out for the conference in Poland was heading in another direction from the start. Fossil energy providers and huge energy consumers like the steel and car industry were sponsoring the event. The host country Poland is and plans to remain a coal country. So far, Warsaw has blocked more ambitious emissions targets in the EU. The fact that a coal summit was held in Poland during the climate negotiations was clearly demonstrative – and verges on the cynical. The sacking of the Polish environment minister who was chairing the talks shows a lack of respect for the meeting and the issue of climate change itself.
Climate politics: no leadership in sight
But the failure of the conference was not just Poland’s fault. CO2 emissions are continuing to rise globally, and the conference delegates did not have much in their luggage to do anything about it. It was far too little in the way of commitment to binding emissions reductions or to creating an effective and well-funded compensation mechanism for developing countries. The poorest countries, which are already struggling to cope with unpredictable climate patterns, droughts and flooding, went home disappointed and frustrated – once again.
The EU was unable to agree on tighter emissions targets ahead of the conference. Germany, long considered a leader in the field, is currently putting the brakes on its own renewable energy revolution by shifting financial incentives. Japan, Canada and Australia, all took a step backwards. And in spite of some progress at home, the major emitters China and the USA were unlikely to make any substantial announcements.
No progress on a new climate agreement
The Warsaw conference was supposed to come up with an effective timetable to lead to a new international climate agreement, scheduled to be set up in 2015 and implemented in 2020. Instead, it seems countries are playing for time and putting off any binding commitments. The vague document agreed at the very last minute contains no firm deadline for emissions pledges – which will not be binding anyway. The window of opportunity is rapidly closing. Decades of negotiations have produced little in the way of results. Every year without a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions reduces the prospect of keeping to the “two degree” target. Existing pledges fall way short of what is required. The “business as usual” trajectory is heading for a temperature rise of at least four degrees Celsius.
Once more, the UN climate conference has shown its inability to protect the world from the dangers of rapidly progressing climate change. Aside from the annual mega-meetings, which are in danger of disintegrating into mere token events, there are still signs of hope. China, for instance, is making considerable progress on energy issues, although the country refuses to accept internationally binding targets. Climate protection has to become part of daily politics and business in industrialised and emerging countries. Politicians must be prepared to abandon short-term advantages in favour of a long-term perspective, which would guarantee the future for coming generations through a sustainable low-carbon economy. The means turning away from oil and coal, developing renewable energies, ensuring a high price for carbon and providing adequate finance to protect developing nations from climate change caused by past emissions of the industrialised world.
DateNovember 23, 2013 | 5:53 pm