Search Results for Tag: Iceland
Why a new “Arctic Circle” Forum?
While working on a story about the Arctic Council in the run-up to its next meeting in May, I was greatly interested by the announcement that there is to be a new global forum called the Arctic Circle. Iceland’s President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, made the announcement this week at an event held by the National Press Club in Washington. On the Arctic Circle website, the new organization is described as “nonprofit and nonpartisan”. The mission is “to facilitate dialogue and build relationships to confront the Arctic’s greatest challenges. We aim to strengthen the decision-making process by bringing together as many Arctic and international partners as possible under one large ‘open tent’. By facilitating circumpolar meetings of leaders across disciplines, we will identify truly sustainable development practices for the Arctic, the world’s last pristine environment”.
The background, of course, is the opening of the Arctic to shipping and commercial exploitation because of climate change. The organisers say the new open forum will help raise the profile of Arctic issues worldwide and discuss solutions “in a frank and collaborative manner”.
I met President Grimsson in January in what at first sight might appear an unusual location – the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi.
He actually has close ties to the emirate, and was there for “sustainability week” and the World Future Energies Forum. He explained to me then his interest in making it clear that the Arctic is not just of significance to the High North region and the countries around it, but the planet as a whole. So I am not surprised that he is spearheading an attempt to open the region to the influence of other countries. Iceland has also been conducting a lot of negotiations with China, including a new free trade agreement announced by the President this week. As reported on the Ice Blog and DW before, China is increasingly interested in getting a foothold in the Arctic.
Grimsson told Thomson Reuters the new forum was needed because “while most countries have a stake in the melting of Arctic ice, only eight – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States – are members of the Arctic Council”. The intergovernmental group was established in 1996.
China, India and Singapore are amongst the non-Arctic states seeking observer status on the Arctic Council at a meeting to be held in Sweden next month. The new “Arctic Circle”, on the other hand, would be open to anybody: “concerned citizens, representatives of ngos, scientists, researchers alongside governments and corporations.”
The first meeting of the new forum will be held in Iceland in October. It remains to be seen who will sign up and how influential it will turn out to be. The formation of the group shows the Arctic’s rising significance on the international agenda. The question is which forum will turn out be the best placed to effectively protect the sensitive ecosystems and traditional lifestyles of indigenous groups in the Arctic at the time when international commercial interest is growing steadily. And with the burning of fossil fuels continuing to exacerbate climate change and no progress being made towards reducing emissions – who is to mediate in the conflict between those who want to profit from exploiting oil and gas resources in The Arctic and those who want to stop using it and shift to climate-friendly renewables? There are those who would like to do both. But as the saying goes, “you can’t have your cake and eat it” – or maybe you can’t have your ice and melt it?
DateApril 19, 2013 | 2:25 pm
“We are living in an ice-dependent world” (Iceland’s President)
During my recent visit to Sustainability Week in Abu Dhabi, I was interested to meet the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. He gave one of the keynote speeches at the World Future Energy Summit and was also on the Jury for the prizes presented as part of the Zayed Future Energy Prize to initiatives around the world to promote sustainability through renewable energy in different parts of the world.
I asked him how he had come to be involved so closely with Abu Dhabi, the icy north working with the desert oil state. The link goes back to an Abu Dhabi delegation visiting Iceland 8 years ago to talk about using clean energy. Since then, he finds it fascinating and encouraging to see how the Gulf state is turning itslf into “one of the primary locations in the world for dialogue and cooperation on a clean energy future.”
But the message I’d really like to share with the Ice Blog community is the one about the undeniable connections between what’s happening in the Arctic and what’s happening in the rest of the world. President Grímsson explained his view to me at a reception after the prize-giving ceremony.
In a nutshell, he says one of the key results of scientific research is recent years is that the Arctic plays a major role in influencing weather and other developments around the world, and that fact that the ice is melting fast. Let me quote him:
“I think the melting of the ice is really the frightening message. Climate change is a difficult word, because somehow it is not concrete. The melting of the ice is something that everybody understands.”
DateJanuary 31, 2013 | 11:02 am
As we descended to the lake, I was surprised to see that the party waiting on the beach to be picked up was a different generation from the young scientists one tends to encounter in these remote and often trying areas. The two women and three men waving us in were, I discovered, the “British North East Greenland project”. Now retired, but lovers of the Arctic, they have all the necessary gear, bought special inflatable boats and come to this remote region every year for around 3 weeks, set up camp and go hiking, boating and collecting samples for various scientists. They had also made some archaeological finds. One of the ladies told me she had two artificial knees. She walked with a stick, but still managed to get up the ladder and into the twin otter, with a little help from her friends. More power to you folks, and if you read this when you get home, please put some info about your project onto the blog, and an email address where I can contact you, if you like. I think your project is great.
The group had their stuff all packed up, and I now found out why the front of the plane had been cleared.
The captain and co-pilot do everything on these routes, and we all helped get the equipment loaded onto the plane.
Once it was all inside, we just had to trust we wouldn’t need to reach that emergency exit.
Our next destination was Mesterswig, a Danish military aerodrome used, like Daneborg, as a drop-off and pick-up point.
My fellow travellers told me the government had been threatening to close it down for the last 20 years. With the latest resurge in military interest in the Arctic, it probably has a good chance of staying open.
The group has storage space in Mesterswig where they store their gear until next year. They’re well known and welcome. While they stowed it all, our copilot had a well-earned break on the runway. I wonder what insect repellent he uses. You can’t tell to look at him we were all under mega-attack from thousands of giant mosquitoes. (I’d have liked our Zackenberg insect experts Gergely and Tomas to have a look, but the only samples I have are somewhat squashed..)
From here, we headed down to Constable Point, for refuelling before we tackled the longer stretch to Iceland. (Flying from East to West Greenland goes, I’m afraid, via Iceland, there are few direct travel options). There were plenty more beautiful ice and snow views on route.This is a very spectacular part of the world.
We found the fire brigade waiting. We had been warned our captain would be radio reporting some engine trouble – to provide a fire alarm test for the ground team.
The next entry will come from western Greenland.
DateJuly 27, 2009 | 9:43 am
The plane from Akureyri to Constable Point was a Dash, a bit bigger than the Twin Otter that was to bring us on to Zackenberg, there were about 14 people on it. In addition to the eight of us going on to Zackenberg, there were two parties of geologists. The American beside me described himself as a “mountain-builder”, then went on to explain he was studying the composition and age of mountains. He drew my attention to an interesting theory his colleague is working on, that the increase in speed at which some glaciers are moving is responsible for the “ice quakes” we’ve been hearing about recently. Will have to follow that one up later.
The other lads from Cambridge, UK, were going to be helicopter-dropped somewhere in the middle of nowhere to set up camp for three weeks looking at sediment – research they sell to the oil industry. Again, we come to the Arctic warming up and the international interest in getting at possibly hidden natural resources.
The weather was cloudy when we left, but cleared by the time we got near Constable Point, so we got some reasonable views. But the best was yet to come. We shifted to the Twin Otter – two logisticians, those are the people who do all the technical running of the station, a new cook to join the existing one, the two Finnish insect specialists I met last night, an ornithologist, and an expert on lemmings, and me of course. The weekly charter to Zackenberg also brings the food supplies in, so the long-term residents look forward to fresh supplies.
The plane flies low, and our flight path went along the eastern coastline. Some perfect Arctic summer weather with sunshine and blue skies gave us beautiful views of sea ice, solid in places, at various stages of breaking up elsewhere, spreading in patterns with blue ocean in between and little ice-bergs, dazzling white above and greenish-turquoise on the edges just under water. The mountains on land are at different stages of emerging from their winter white. There\’s a mixture of rugged browns, sometimes an initial tinge of green, and glacier white. I have beautiful photos, I promise, but we have to be sparing with them until I’ve left Zackenberg and reached a place with an internet connection.
Zackenberg station took me by surprise, suddenly we were there and rapidly approaching a collection of wooden huts and containers and some tent-like structures. The snow in the valley has melted completely, just some white on the hill-tops, so it reminded me of Switzerland rather than the white snowy Arctic of previous trips. Well, it is summer. And now I know what’s attracting those entomologists. Two surprisingly warm weeks have brought the mozzies out in force.
DateJuly 15, 2009 | 2:53 pm
I’m writing this in Akureyri, northern Iceland, where I have to spend tonight, the departure point for the scientific charter plane to Greenland tomorrow morning. It took me 12 hours to get here, via the capital, Reykjavik. Iceland is looking very green at the moment.
This is certainly one of the world’s more picturesque little airports.
The Akureyri runway
This is not a big place, but it’s the most populated of Iceland’s towns outside the capital. It’s at the centre of North Iceland and a base for visiting a lot of this country’s natural attractions, geysers, hot pools etc, also a hub for getting to the eastern side of Greenland.
We’ve come west as well as north, and there’s two hours time difference to Germany. Of course the sun is still shining and I hope the curtains in my room are thick enough to convince me it is actually night and time for sleep. It’s a good 15 degrees cooler than home, so a good preparation for heading up to Arctic Greenland tomorrow. I met two Finnish insect scientists on the way here, also on their first trip to Zackenberg Station. They’re hoping their equipment will be waiting for them at the airport, having been sent well ahead.
Our plane will be a Twin Otter, the tried and trusty vehicle for this kind of expedition, it seems. We’ll be stopping once or twice on the way, depending on weather conditions and other scientists and supplies needing to be picked up.
More from Zackenberg tomorrow.
DateJuly 13, 2009 | 9:35 pm