Search Results for Tag: Arctic
USA announces new five-year Arctic Research Plan
The US administration’s National Science and Technology Council has released a plan outlining key areas of study to be taken by the Federal government to better understand and predict environmental changes in the Arctic. The plan was developed by a team of experts representing 14 federal agencies and was based on input from sources including the indigenous Arctic communities, the Alaska Governor’s Office, local organizations and universities. It highlights research areas important for the development of national policies and areas which would benefit from cooperation between various agencies. Amongst the topics identified for focus are regional climate models, human health studies and adaptation tools for communities.
The announcement is a significant one in the view of the US Arctic Research Commission. They say it is “probably the first, truly integrated, five year US Arctic Research Program plan (ever?) released.”
Incidentally, the website of that particular organisation is a useful source for anybody following Arctic developments.
DateFebruary 22, 2013 | 1:53 pm
UNEP concerned about Arctic melt
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has issued a warning that last year’s record shrinkage of the Arctic sea ice highlights the risks climate change brings for the planet. The annual review of the state of the world’s environment was presented in Nairobi this week during an ongoing high-level ministerial meeting.
UNEP said the summer sea ice in the Arctic had covered a record low area of 3.4 million square kilometers, 18 percent below the previous recorded minimum in 2007 and 50 percent below the average for the 19802 and 1990s. The report also mentions melting land ice in Greenland and melting permafrost in high latitudes. The figures are not new, but it is significant that UNEP should highlight the Arctic and the fact that no action is being taken in reaction to the evidence which clearly shows climate-change-induced melting.
“Changing environmental conditions in the Arctic, often considered a bellwether for global climate change, have been an issue of concern for some time, but as of yet this awareness has not translated into urgent action”, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said presenting the report on Monday. He warned that the rush to extract oil and gas from the Arctic seabed as the ice retreats could lead to even higher emissions of greenhouse gases.
“What we are seeing is that the melting of ice is prompting a rush for exactly the fossil-fuel resources that fuelled the melt in the first place”, said Steiner.
“The rush to exploit these vast untapped reserves has consequences that must be carefully thought through by countries everywhere, given the global impacts and issues at stake”.
Meanwhile, this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the country’s “strategic program on Arctic development up to 2020. Enough said?
For anyone who wants to catch up on the Arctic development story, here are a few links.
DateFebruary 21, 2013 | 10:22 am
WWF Canada helps reduce polar-bear kills
There are estimated to be between 20 and 25 thousand polar bears left in the world. Climate change is the main threat to their survival these days. Hunting is strictly regulated, with quotas for the number allowed to be hunted as part of indigenous Arctic people’s heritage. But what happens when hungry bears, affected by the loss of sea ice, encroach on human territory? Not a good combination. WWF Canada has been involved in a project to set up electric fences – some of them solar powered – to keep the white giants out and reduce the number of bears killed in self-defense – with highly positive results so far. For the first time in at least three years, no bears were killed in defense of life or property in the hamlet of Arviat, in Nunavut in 2012 thanks to a “polar bear conflict reduction” project. The community , in the western Hudson Bay area, had reported increasing visits by polar bears in town in recent years. One reason is thought to be the loss of sea ice through climate change. WWF Canada has helped the locals fund a monitor to patrol the area at night from October to December, when bears are out and about in the Nunavut region. The monitor scares the bears with spotlights and noise. They have also installed electric fences around some of the dog-team pens. 2013 is the WWF’s “Year of the Polar Bear”. The organisation is also helping to fund monitoring programmes to keep track of the number of bears.
DateFebruary 12, 2013 | 10:25 am
Greenpeace criticizes draft Arctic oil spill response agreement
The Arctic Council environment ministers will be meeting in Jukkasjärvi in Sweden over the next few days. One of the items on the agenda is a long-awaited agreement on dealing with oil accidents in the Arctic. A copy of the document has been leaked, and Greenpeace says it is “vague and inadequate”. “Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic” is the title of the paper, set to be adopted by the Council’s foreign ministers at their meeting in May. An oil spill in the Arctic would be very hard to tackle for various reasons, including remoteness, cold, ice, darkness and the fact that oil takes longer to break up in cold conditions. Remember the Exxon Valdez? If you are young enough not to, it was a tanker that went down in Prince William Sound in 1989, with devastating effects on the environment.. I visited the spot a couple of years ago, and there are still clumps of oil under stones on the beaches. And of course Shell is having its own problems with Arctic drilling at the moment.
Greenpeace is running an international campaign against oil drilling in the Arctic. Ben Ayliffe, head of the campaign, told the media: “This draft agreement does not inspire confidence in the ability of the Arctic Council to protect this fragile region when the worst happens. It’s incredibly vague, it fails to hold oil companies liable for the impact of their mistakes, and there is nothing here that ensures adequate capacity to deal with a spill in these nations”
I have been talking to a lot of experts on this over the last few years and most of them are convinced that a spill would happen sooner or later and would be extremely difficult to deal with. The risks to the fragile Arctic ecosystem would be enormous.
DateFebruary 4, 2013 | 4:05 pm
EU stepping up campaign to join Arctic Council
When the Arctic Council meets in Sweden in May before chairmanship is handed over to Canada, one of the items on the agenda will be applications from the EU and China amongst others for observer status of the Arctic Council.
With climate change making access easier, the chances of keeping the Arctic free of economic activities like oil and gas exploration and increased sipping are dwindling. (I wrote a story about this just very recently: Business opportunities boom in the Arctic).
Some EU members are already on the Council, but the organisation wants its own observer seat. The reasons for this interest are not hard to find: to “wield greater influence over a region thought to hold huge undiscovered oil and gas reserves”, according to the publication EurActiv.com
EU member countries have different interests in the Arctic, so this is an interesting development to watch.
DateFebruary 1, 2013 | 1:58 pm