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Posted on on August 6th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

BBC News – Arctic Map, prepared by Durham University, shows dispute hotspots.

Maritime jurisdiction and boundaries in the Arctic region.……

British scientists say they have drawn up the first detailed map to show areas in the Arctic that could become embroiled in future border disputes. A team from Durham University compiled the outline of potential hotspots by basing the design on historical and ongoing arguments over ownership.
Russian scientists caused outrage last year when they planted their national flag on the seabed at the North Pole.

The UK researchers hope the map will inform politicians and policy makers.
“Its primary purpose is to inform discussions and debates because, frankly, there has been a lot of rubbish about who can claim (sovereignty) over what,” explained Martin Pratt, director of the university’s International Boundaries Research Unit (IBRU).

“To be honest, most of the other maps that I have seen in the media have been very simple,” he added.
“We have attempted to show all known claims; agreed boundaries and one thing that has not appeared on any other maps, which is the number of areas that could be claimed by Canada, Denmark and the US.”

Energy security is driving interest, as is the fact that Arctic ice is melting more and more during the summer. Martin Pratt, Durham University.

The team used specialist software to construct the nations’ boundaries, and identify what areas could be the source of future disputes.

“All coastal states have rights over the resources up to 200 nautical miles from their coastline,” Mr Pratt said. “So, we used specialist geographical software to ‘buffer’ the claims out accurately.”

The researchers also took into account the fact that some nations were able to extend their claims to 350 nautical miles as a result of their landmasses extending into the sea.

Back on the agenda:
The issue of defining national boundaries in the Arctic was brought into sharp relief last summer when a team of Russian explorers used their submarine to plant their country’s flag on the seabed at the North Pole. A number of politicians from the nations with borders within the Arctic, including Canada’s foreign minister, saw it as Moscow furthering its claim to territory within the region.

Mr Pratt said a number of factors were driving territorial claims back on to the political agenda.

“Energy security is driving interest, as is the fact that Arctic ice is melting more and more during the summer,” he told BBC News. “This is allowing greater exploration of the Arctic seabed.”

Data released by the US Geological Survey last month showed that the frozen region contained an estimated 90 billion barrels of untapped oil.

Mr Pratt added that the nations surrounding the Arctic also only had a limited amount of time to outline their claims. “If they don’t define it within the timeframe set out by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, then it becomes part of what is known as ‘The Area’, which is administered by the International Seabed Authority on behalf of humanity as a whole.”


Countries in the area are Russia, Norway, Denmark (Greenland), Iceland, Canada, the US (Alaska).

We believe that 200 miles sovereignty (that is with exclusion of guaranteed maritime passage rights) from the shores of their land-mass is a foregone conclusion.

Any claims to the extension of those sovereign waters should be rejected. Those further sea-bed rights belong to the International Seabed Authority on behalf of humanity as a whole. We believe that no exception to the above should be allowed. We wrote several times that we expect China to step in and make this point stick.

We believe that this is China’s chance to declare its leading role for the 21st century.




Posted on on July 29th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Opinion: Polar Race.
Monday 28 July 2008
by: Guy Taillefer, Le Devoir…

Guy Taillefer argues in Le Devoir that the US Geological Survey’s most recent evaluation of the polar depths – that they contain 412 billion barrels of oil, or a third of the planet’s proven reserves – will put additional strain on the already-fragile international understandings with respect to polar sovereignty and development.

The North Pole. Guy Taillefer writes, “Northern governments and oil companies have never salivated to quite the same extent over the Arctic, which becomes all the more hospitable to them as the ice melts … If one were a cynic, one would say that in this instance it is altogether to Ottawa’s advantage to drag its feet in the fight against greenhouse gases …”
Four hundred and twelve billion barrels of oil. A third of the planet’s proven reserves. That’s what the depths of the Arctic contain, according to the US Geological Survey’s most recent evaluation. One may count on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take advantage of the opportunity to reassert Canada’s “unquestionable” sovereignty over the North – and to reduce the debate over the development of the circumpolar world to a war of flags and icebreakers.
Last Wednesday, after four years of research, the US Geological Survey, the American scientific agency specialized in hydrocarbons, delivered the first exhaustive estimate of potential oil and gas situated north of the polar circle: 90 billion barrels of crude, three times as much natural gas, 20 percent of the probable global reserves of liquefied natural gas…. The news is guaranteed to have a strong impact, given the present context of tightening energy supplies, surging prices at the pump, and the extraordinary growth of demand in developing countries. Northern governments and oil companies have never salivated to quite the same extent over the Arctic, which becomes all the more hospitable to them as the ice melts…. If one were a cynic, one would say that in this instance it is altogether to Ottawa’s advantage to drag its feet in the fight against greenhouse gases.
Moreover, quite by chance, the US Geological Survey estimates were made public one year, almost to the day, after two little Russian sailors dove to a depth of 4,000 meters in the beginning of August 2007 to plant a flag on the North Pole. This striking gesture – without any legal effect, however – relaunched the debate on the subject of sovereignty over the Arctic in great style.

Cut to the quick, then-Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay decreed that the region Russia coveted was “unquestionably” Canadian.
Unquestionably? That remains to be seen. Experts from the UN, guarantors of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, will say between now and 2013 which between Ottawa and Moscow has the better-founded pretensions from a scientific perspective. At the moment, however, it seems that Russia is better placed to prove geologically that the Lomonossov Dorsal, a chain of undersea mountains that cross the Arctic, is the prolongation of the Russian continental plateau, and not of the Canadian plateau.
Politicians, unfortunately, don’t bother much with such scientific details in their communications with the electorate, preferring to play a nationalistic rhetoric that is easily digested. So the bad scenario would be that, in this race for the summit of the world, the sharing of the Arctic will be less the result of a UN judgment and multinational dialogue than of power struggles between the five countries involved – Canada, Russia, the United States, Denmark, and Norway. That scenario is altogether plausible.
“The Canadian Arctic is at the heart of our national identity,” Stephen Harper declared last year. He has announced, among other military measures in the last year, an investment of $7 billion over 25 years for buying naval patrol boats. A depressing prospect: that Canada seeks to take on its northern identity is laudable, that it proposes to get there by emphasizing military defense to the detriment of social, ecological and diplomatic initiatives, is much less so. It is difficult in any case to imagine that pugnacious Prime Minister-President Vladimir Putin will allow himself to be intimidated.
Nonetheless, the Harper way remains very questionable, in that it is a thousand leagues from the Canadian Way – based on dialogue and cooperation. Still, the most recent decades have demonstrated that it’s by balancing its own interests with those of its circumpolar neighbors – and not by sticking out its chest – that Canada has succeeded in preserving its Arctic sovereignty.
Moreover, in order to calm tensions, the five held a big meeting last spring, which ended in the participants’ commitment to settle any litigious question “in an orderly way,” to “strengthen their cooperation based on mutual trust and transparency” and to “assure the protection and preservation of the fragile marine environment of the Arctic Ocean.” Empty phrases? The future will show how these beautiful promises that we’d like to see kept will withstand the lust for 412 billion barrels of oil.

We posted several days ago: “Reuters Reports That China Is Planting its Flag in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions. Actually they started already at least in 2003, so this is not just a reaction to the Russian Flag-posting of August 2007.”

Posted on on July 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz ( PJ at

So, face up to it – China is also in this game. And why should not Nauru or Grenada also be entiled to some of the profits? if they cannot afford the expense of drilling – bet you Brazil or Japan, even Korea and India, and who knows who else – can!

OK – Now Let Us Sit Down And Talk. For Once We Are Behind China and Expect The Dragon To Stand Its Ground.

The North Pole. Guy Taillefer writes, “Northern governments and oil companies have never salivated to quite the same extent over the Arctic, which becomes all the more hospitable to them as the ice melts … If one were a cynic, one would say that in this instance it is altogether to Ottawa’s advantage to drag its feet in the fight against greenhouse gases …” (Photo: NASA GSFC Direct Readout Laboratory / Allen Lunsford).


Posted on on July 28th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Following just shows how for the many losers from Global Warming there will be also some winners. This change can result not only in wished for positives, but also in potential fights for takeover of the new found wealth.



Posted on on July 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

 We feel the more countries get involved, the less possibility for a single country grab of the resources will be possible. According to the UN approved “The Law Of The Sea” – those resources belong to all humanity and are extraterritorial to country sovereignty. Multiplicity of contenders may thus pose the needed opposition to one country grab onto these resources, and avoidance of rules of the jungle.

BEIJING, Reuters, July 28, 2008 – China plans to install its first long-term deep-sea subsurface mooring system in the Arctic Ocean, to monitor long-term marine changes, the Xinhua news agency said on Sunday.

The system will collect data on the temperature, salinity and speed of currents at various depths around 75 degrees north in the Chukchi Sea, where Atlantic and Pacific currents converge above the Bering Strait. That will allow studies of the impact on China’s climate of changes in the Arctic, Xinhua said.
A trap will catch marine life for scientific research, it said, citing Chen Hong Xia, a member of the 122-member expedition team aboard the Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, an ice-breaker which set off from Shanghai this month.

The mooring system will be retrieved in 2009.

China is increasing scientific research at both poles at a time when global warming and high resources prices are raising international interest in Arctic and Antarctic territories.

It deployed a 40-day mooring system in the Bering Sea in 2003, and is building a new station at Dome A, the highest point of Antarctica, to study ice cores.

A Russian submersible planted a flag on the seabed of the North Pole last August, setting off a race among northern nations to increase their presence in the polar regions.


Posted on on March 24th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

U.S. firm lays claim to ‘potentially vast’ Arctic oil resources – U.S. firm lays claim to nearly all of what it says will be 400 billion barrels – makes it known, Friday, March 21, 2008, Randy Boswell of the The Ottawa Citizen.
A U.S.-based company that has controversially laid claim to nearly all of the Arctic Ocean’s undersea oil said yesterday that new geological data suggest a “potentially vast” petroleum resource of 400 billion barrels. That figure is backed by a respected Canadian researcher who recently signed on as the firm’s chief scientific adviser.
Las Vegas-based Arctic Oil & Gas has raised eyebrows around the world with its roll-of-the-dice bid to lock up exclusive rights to extract oil and gas from rapidly melting areas of the central Arctic Ocean, currently beyond the territorial control of Canada, Russia and other polar nations.

The company, which counts retired B.C. (British Colombia, Canada) Senator Edward Lawson among its directors, has filed a claim with the United Nations to act as the sole “development agent” of Arctic seabed oil and gas.
The firm acknowledges that the Arctic’s petroleum deposits are the “common heritage of mankind,” but has argued that the polar region requires a private “lead manager” to organize a multinational consortium of oil companies to extract undersea resources responsibly and equitably.

The Canadian government has dismissed the company’s “alleged claim” over Arctic oil as having “no force in law,” but experts in polar issues have raised alarms about the firm’s actions, saying they could disrupt efforts to create an orderly regime for exploiting resources and protecting the Arctic environment under international law rather than a marketplace model.

In its latest statement about the polar seabed’s “enormous reserve potential” for petroleum deposits, Arctic Oil & Gas cites recent scientific evidence that huge, floating mats of azolla — a prehistoric fern believed to have covered much of the Arctic Ocean during a planetary hothouse era about 55 million years ago — decomposed soon after the age of the dinosaurs and exist today as “vast hydrocarbon resources” trapped in layers of rock below the polar ice cap.

Jonathan Bujak, a former geoscientist with the Geological Survey of Canada who now works as a private consultant in Canada and Britain, is described in the Arctic Oil & Gas statement as confirming the “highly probable validity” of recent research pointing to rock layers “extremely rich” in “hydrocarbon precursors” throughout the Arctic basin.
Mr. Bujak, who previously worked for PetroCanada as a petroleum geologist, co-authored a landmark 2006 study in the journal Nature that first detailed the ancient azolla explosion that shows up today in Arctic seabed core samples.
Neither Mr. Bujak nor Mr. Lawson could be reached for comment yesterday.
Scientists have predicted that global warming could leave the entire Arctic virtually ice-free for months at a time within 20 years. That prospect has hastened a scramble among nations with a polar coast — namely Canada, Russia, the U.S., Norway and Denmark, which controls Greenland — to try to strengthen their scientific claims under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to extended territorial sovereignty over the Arctic Ocean floor.
A report issued last week by the European Union’s top two foreign policy officials also highlighted the looming international struggle over Arctic oil deposits. Authored by Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Europe’s commissioner for external relations, the study pointed to “potential consequences for international stability and European security interests” as the retreat of Arctic ice makes shipping and oil and gas exploration a reality in the region.

Noting the “rapid melting of the polar ice caps,” the report noted that “the increased accessibility of the enormous hydrocarbon resources in the Arctic region is changing the geo-strategic dynamics of the region.”


Posted on on March 20th, 2008

Summer ice cover in the Arctic has declined sharply

Click to view the article that takes you to the interactive interactive display



Posted on on March 19th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


Brace for the Arctic oil rush – Thursday, March 20, 2008, By DAVID HOWELL, LONDON, For The Japan Times.

For decades the world’s major oil companies and their engineering experts have been eyeing the Arctic region and wondering how to get at the oil and gas deposits that are said to lie, in almost legendary quantities, beneath the vast expanses of ice. With the price of crude oil now well above $100, has their moment at last arrived?

Two factors suggest that this may be the case. First, as long as world oil markets were dominated by cheap Mideast oil that could be easily extracted from the open deserts, there was almost no chance of competition from other regions.

But that era that passed. No one believes that oil will ever again be the cheap and plentiful commodity it once was. Even if the largest reserves remain in the Middle East, the whole region is now a caldron of turbulence.

Ideological Islamism, combined with Israeli-Palestinian feuding, Iranian nuclear ambitions and chronic anti-Americanism throughout the area have combined to make Middle East oil not only more expensive but also increasingly unreliable.

Second, the Arctic ice cap is shrinking. Armed with new technology for extracting oil and gas deep down on the seabed, the oil powers now see opportunities opening up across the whole polar region.

All round the Arctic the “circumpolar nations” have been raising their levels of activity and staking claims to sovereign “ownership” of the Arctic space, while delegations from countries as far afield as China, India and Japan have been streaming toward the ice cap and crowding on to survey ships and exploration vessels, all anxious not to be left out of a possible new oil bonanza.

The Russians in particular have made headlines by planting their national flag, in titanium, on the seabed below the North Pole, with a Gazprom spokesman adding that the Russian energy giant expected “major new discoveries” of oil and gas reserves under the Arctic Ocean, and had large-scale prospecting plans for the region.

Meanwhile, Canada has ordered up new naval patrol vessels to “defend its sovereignty over the Arctic.” The United States, stung by Russian activity, has announced plans for two new polar ships, and the Danes have sent a mission to find out how far Greenland opens the way to claims for Arctic sovereignty.

Staying slightly on the sidelines, Norway, having been embroiled in decades of dispute with Russia over demarcation lines in the Barents Sea, has pleaded for an end to “the gold rush.”

What are all these hopeful searchers likely to find? Of course, in one sense the Norwegians, the Russians and the Americans have already arrived and started nibbling round the edges of the Arctic. The Norwegians have their giant Snohvit project and are already bringing ashore very large quantities of gas for liquefaction at the world’s most northerly LNG plant near Hammerfest.

Meanwhile, the Russians are pushing ahead with their equally large Shtokman development in the Barents Sea, with of course the American interest having long been established via the BP development of the big Prudhoe Bay field on the northern edge of Alaska.

But what lies beyond, nearer to the polar heart of the Arctic’s icy and forbidding wastes? Estimates vary wildly. The most optimistic is that no less than 25 percent of the world’s yet-to-find oil and gas reserves (400 billion barrels of oil equivalent) lie beneath the ice. But that may be too hopeful. A more modest recent estimate is about half that (around 14 percent of world yet-to-find reserves) with about two-thirds of it in gas and the other third, or less, in liquid resources.

But we are getting here into guesswork, although of an informed kind. The much more immediate question is cost. What might be the break-even price of extracting these reserves, or what is likely to be commercially feasible, whether now, with crude at $100 plus, or in the years ahead?

The answers depend both on the limits of current technology and now on global warming. If the Arctic ice cap is going to shrink fast then, whatever the other downside consequences, the accessibility of hydrocarbon reserves is made significantly easier and cheaper. If liquids can be brought out at less than $40 a barrel, that makes them not only comfortably profitable in world markets but also just about competitive against alternatives like Canadian tar sands, Venezuelan heavy oil (also $40), or some of the oil being squeezed from the dregs of older wells via “enhanced-recovery techniques,” which can cost up to $50.

In short, while past estimates may have been inflated, and while the very highest environmental standards will need to be met at every stage to safeguard Arctic wildlife, the economics are beginning to give a wavering green light.

If crude oil prices stay near the present range, if world oil thirst grows as predicted and if the Middle East gets even more dangerous and less inviting, the attraction of Arctic energy could radically alter the pattern of global energy resources and, consequently, geopolitics.

David Howell is a former British Cabinet minister and former chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. He is now a member of the House of Lords.


Posted on on March 1st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Arctic warming could result in armed conflict: naval expert; Melting of passageway means countries will vie to control it, former coast guard official says.

Peter O’Neil, The Ottawa Citizen, Friday, February 29, 2008, From Paris.

The fast-warming Arctic’s vast economic potential makes it increasingly prone to smuggling, perilous polar tourism, environmental catastrophes and even armed conflict unless Canada and the U.S. lead efforts to bring order to the region, according to a new analysis.

Former U.S. Coast Guard Lt.-Cmdr. Scott Borgerson, in the latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine, argued Washington has to start with a Canada-U.S. agreement on how the Arctic should be regulated as global warming opens northern sea lanes. He also called on U.S. leaders to take seriously Canada’s sovereignty claims over the Northwest Passage, as well as consider a way to resolve competing claims involving Russia, Denmark and Norway.

“The United States should not underestimate Canadian passions on this issue,” wrote Lt.-Cmdr. Borgerson, a fellow at the influential Council on Foreign Relations.
He cited ongoing Canadian “sabre-rattling” and noted that Canada is among several countries bulking up their military and surveillance capabilities in the North in anticipation of expanded shipping and energy exploration activity.
“There are currently no clear rules governing this economically and strategically vital region,” stated the magazine’s summary of Lt.-Cmdr. Borgerson’s analysis, called Arctic Meltdown: The Economic and Security Implications of Global Warming.

“Unless Washington leads the way toward a multilateral diplomatic solution, the Arctic could descend into armed conflict.”

Lt.-Cmdr. Borgerson doesn’t specifically identify which countries would engage in battle, though he noted Russia’s increasing assertiveness in claiming sovereignty of huge swaths of the region off its coast.

Territorial disputes and the lack of regulations pose “grave dangers” that could “eventually lead to … armed brinkmanship” involving not only the countries staking claims, but also energy-hungry newcomers like China eying the North, he wrote.

The U.S. has consistently rejected Canada’s claim of right of control over the Northwest Passage. It has also refused to ratify the United Nations Law of the Sea because the Senate views the treaty as an encroachment on U.S. sovereignty.
Lt.-Cmdr. Borgerson said the U.S. government’s status outside the treaty restricts its ability to assert its own territorial claims off the Alaskan coast. He also asserted that the U.S. needs, as a first step, to strike an accord with Canada on regulating vessel and tanker traffic in the North.
Citing studies suggesting an ice-free Arctic in the summer as early as 2013, he said the U.S. should seek a broad treaty with all Arctic countries as well as a bilateral deal with Canada to manage and police shipping and Arctic activity, including tourism and environmental protection.

Among the concerns he cited:

– How to carve up the “the world’s longest uncharted and most geologically complex continental shelf among five states with competing claims.”

– How to regulate and protect a region facing an explosion of offshore oil and gas exploration and development. “Oil tankers present a particularly grave environmental threat, as illustrated by three recent oil spills in the much safer waters of the San Francisco Bay, the Black Sea, and the Yellow Sea.”

– How to clean up the hazard created by Russia’s dumping of 18 reactors, some still fully loaded with nuclear fuel, in the Arctic Ocean between 1958 and 1992.

– How to recognize the interests of one million indigenous people whose rights in areas such as the bowhead whale hunt, which could be jeopardized by an explosion of shipping activity by companies seeking to exploit far quicker sea routes than exist today from Asia to Europe through the Panama Canal.


Adds by Google that came along with the Ottawa Post article – Then why why should not Google also try to make money from the global misery like mostly everyone else is bound to do?:
(Yes – this is also freedom of speech and freedom of the press – the dissemination of venom that can make money for someone!)

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Posted on on August 4th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Arctic is Heating Up As If It Were The Site of Burning Oil.

Russia Planted Flag Over North Pole Ice, Claiming Sovereignty. Now India Launches Its First Arctic Expedition – the Himalya Ice is also melting and they also suffer from the monsoons – this is clear indication that they deserve also some Arctic oi compensation.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Russia was planning to stake a claim on the North Pole. Or, rather, the seabed deep underneath -because there is a seabed shelf somewhere there under the ice.

Yesterday, two mini-submarines planted a titanium national flag on the sea floor, causing celebration in Moscow and consternation in Canada, which also claims ownership of the area. “You can’t go around the world these days dropping a flag somewhere,” said Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay. “This isn’t the 14th or 15th century.”

Denmark, Norway, and the U.S. also own territory within the Arctic Circle; scoffed U.S. State Department spokesperson Tom Casey, “I’m not sure of whether they’ve put a metal flag, a rubber flag, or a bed sheet on the ocean floor. Either way, it doesn’t have any legal standing or effect on this claim.”

A less blustery expedition is heading north this month: a team of scientists from India will make that country’s first-ever Arctic research trip, exploring the link between the polar reaches and India’s fabled monsoons. We expect they will find a link indeed, but the world will forget the science and remember the potential for oil. We expect that China will not be far behind. Will this lead to some sort of talks at the UN. We would like to suggest that the Small Island States get the mining rights for the riches of the Arctic. They are the main losers of Climate Change and are clearly first in line for compensation.


Russian Arctic Underwater Oil Expedition Reaches North Pole.

By Charles Digges, for the Environmental News Service.

NEW YORK, New York, August 2, 2007 (ENS) – In an expedition reminiscent of the last century’s race to the North Pole, a Russian expedition today laid a territorial claim to the vast underwater oil and gas fields along the Arctic’s Lomonosov Ridge.

Two Russian mini-submarines made “a plunge into the abyss” beneath the pole and returned from a depth of over 4,000 meters with samples of water and ocean floor, according to the government owned Russian news agency ITAR-Tass.

In addition to planting a rust-proof titanium metal Russian flag and leaving a time capsule message, the subs collected specimens of Arctic flora and fauna and videotaped their dives.

The Russian research vessel Akademik Fyodorov (Photo courtesy European Polar Consortium)

Russia says it has strong scientific grounds to support the theory that the Lomonosov Ridge, extending from the New Siberian Islands in the eastern Laptev Sea towards the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, is a submerged geological extension of the Siberian platform and, therefore, is part of the Russian continental shelf. On Wednesday, the convoy, comprised of the Russian nuclear ice-breaker Rossiya and the Russian research vessel Akademik Fyodorov, approached the North Pole, and members of an advance party flew by helicopter to the pole, scouting the ice breaker’s route.

The mission is expected to set up atmospheric measurement posts in the Arctic to gauge the effects of global warming – a phenomenon that Russian officialdom is ambivalent about combating, even though it is a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol.

Many economic and trade circles in Moscow see global warming not as a threat but a welcome boon to open Arctic Sea shipping and more use of Russia’s northern ice-bound ports.

The symbolic Arctic mission, along with geologic data being gathered by expedition scientists, is intended to prop up Moscow’s claims to more than 460,000 square miles of the Arctic shelf – which by some estimates may contain 10 billion tons of oil and gas deposits.

Mission to lay claim to underwater regions:

The voyage, led by noted polar explorer and Russian legislator Artur Chilingarov, is part of the Kremlin’s effort to buttress its claims under international agreements to a large portion of the northern polar region.

Expedition leader Artur Chilingarov (Photo courtesy

The scouting of hard to reach Arctic oil and gas deposits has been an obsession of the Kremlin for the past two years. The Shtokman field, off the north coast of Russia and Norway has been a site of special interest and controversy. While Russia has a territorial claim to that area, and many other hard to explore Arctic sites, it does not have the technical savvy to actually work these fields.

The Russians have, therefore, attracted the participation of international oil companies, such as British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell and Norwegian giant Statoil to supply sophisticated equipment in exchange for drilling rights.

But Russia has proven to be a fickle partner in these ventures, as shown by the Royal Dutch Shell fiasco last year. The company had been promised almost unlimited drilling rights in the far east Russian region of Sakhalin. As the project neared success, however, Moscow found Royal Dutch Shell in violation of a little observed environmental law.

The end result was that Royal Dutch Shell – which had done all of the preliminary speculation and brought in all of the sophisticated equipment necessary to work the ice-bound field – was forced to capitulate to Russia’s insistence that the oil giant cede all but 30 percent of its drilling rights to Russia.

The move gave many international oil giants pause, and as evidenced by the current and unprecedented expedition, Moscow is now going it alone to reveal the theoretical riches of the Arctic oil fields.

Map of the Arctic showing the Lomonosov Ridge (Map courtesy Aagruuk)

While the Kremlin has stressed the current expedition has scientific aims, its main intention is to help expand both Russia’s energy reserves and its global political clout. “There’s no question that this particular expedition does have some kind of larger political and economic focus,” said Rose Gottemoeller, director of the Moscow Carnegie Center.

The expedition reflects an intense rivalry between Russia, the United States, Canada and other nations whose shores face the northern polar ocean for the Arctic’s icebound riches.

About 100 scientists aboard the Akademik Fyodorov are looking for evidence that the Lomonosov Ridge – a 1,995 kilometer underwater mountain range that crosses the polar region – is a geologic extension of Russia, and therefore can be claimed by Russia under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Denmark hopes to prove that the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of the Danish territory of Greenland, not Russia. Canada, meanwhile, plans to spend $7 billion to build and operate up to eight Arctic patrol ships in a bid to help protect its sovereignty.

The U.S. Congress is considering an $8.7 billion budget reauthorization bill for the U.S. Coast Guard that includes $100 million to operate and maintain the nation’s three existing polar icebreakers, AP reported. The bill also authorizes the Coast Guard to construct two new vessels.

{Published in cooperation with Bellona Foundation, an international environmental NGO based in Oslo, Norway.}


BOLSHOI SOLOVETSKY ISLAND (Reuters, August 3, 2007) – Summer doesn’t last long on the edge of the Arctic circle, but on the remote Solovetsky Island on Russia’s White Sea it marks the remarkable return every year of Beluga whales just meters from the shore.

Scientists say it is the only place in the world where the whales come so close. Like many whales worldwide, these belugas are threatened — not by hunting but by the quest for energy and people’s gradual encroachment on their habitat through shipping.

The whales come most days in good weather. Highly gregarious, the adult white mammals frolic and twist together with their calves, sometimes in schools of 50, lazily breaking the surface with their long backs, before diving underwater again at a location now known as Beluga Cape.

Described by environmentalists as one of Russia’s national treasures, the beluga — which resemble large dolphins — will be fighting for survival as the Arctic develops and shipping, energy projects and pollution threaten their natural habitat, Russian scientists say.

“The greatest dangers for beluga whales are oil and gas – energy development, marine traffic and even eco-tourism,” said Dr Roman Belikov, of the marine mammal group at the Institute of Oceanology in the Russian Academy of Sciences.

He fears that unless properly managed, tourists seeking to enjoy the wildlife could disturb the whales.

Belikov has spent every summer for the last eight years with a small band of marine biologists studying the belugas. He is optimistic that given time, the whales can adapt.

“They can learn to accept motor engines, if fishermen are careful with the distance and speed. It’s like people in cities adopting to the nearby sound from underground trains,” he said.

Climate change may also threaten the belugas, but so far, there is no conclusive proof whether warming seas or changing currents are affecting them, he says.

Like the other biologists, Belikov talks affectionately of the animals and willingly spends two months in basic conditions with no electricity, running water or toilets, so he can observe them.


Wading out to the observation tower on the foreshore of the cape every day the whales appear, his colleague and team leader, Vera Krasnova, is returning for the 12th summer.

Her husband is also a researcher on the island and they work together, leaving their young daughter with her grandmother in Krasnoyarsk, East Siberia. Krasnova laughs when asked to explain why she finds the belugas so fascinating, as they swirl around in the sea, meters away.

“These are animals with a very graphic, very vivid social organization, it’s interesting to study their behavior in a group, to see how they come together,” she says.

In eight colonies around the world, there are an estimated 100,000 belugas, with 2,000 in the White Sea.

Krasnova and her three assistants spend hours making careful notes of individual animals, with nicknames like ‘quasimodo’ for a male and ‘belle’ for a female.

Belikov, an acoustic expert, has been trying to crack beluga communications, but says he still has a lot to learn.

“They’re very noisy and when they gather here for reproduction, they communicate with each other very intensively,” he says. The observation tower fills with these sounds, transmitted from the seashore by special microphones.

“They have a very diverse vocal repertory, with many different sounds, like whistles, squeaks and howls. Some sounds seem like a baby crying or a bird when it chirrups,” he says.

Belikov recoils when asked if he believes the whales should be fished commercially for their meat. “Eat them? They are very kind, clever and nice. I think it’s impossible, I see no reason to do it — why? why?” he asks.


The project receives aid from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) which shares the concerns for the belugas’ natural habitat as Russia plans to develop energy reserves in the Barents Sea, said Igor Belyatskiy, IFAW’s spokesman.

“Like any major oil and gas development, it might pollute the sea with intense ship and air traffic, with a lot of noise. The whales are very sensitive to any kind of noise,” he said.

Belyatskiy said that Russia’s biggest challenge is not an absence of laws, but implementing existing controls in full.

“People are starting to understand that the main treasure of Russia is its nature, after the people. Oil and gas will disappear, but nature, and these animals must stay.”

IFAW hopes the entire Solevetsky island will also be declared a UNESCO heritage site, as well as the famous monastery on its Southern tip which was converted into Stalin’s first major gulag and lies close to the belugas’ isolated playground.

“We have these dark times behind us. And its good to come here and see a corner of untouched nature. You have a feeling of a long culture and of nature — still mostly untouched.”


Posted on on April 24th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

An island of Greenland – made by global warming – it will be called WARMING ISLAND.
By Michael McCarthy, Environmental Editor, The Independent of London, April 24, 2007.
The map of Greenland will have to be redrawn. A new island has appeared off its coast, suddenly separated from the mainland by the melting of Greenland’s enormous ice sheet, a development that is being seen as the most alarming sign of global warming.

Several miles long, the island was once thought to be the tip of a peninsula halfway up Greenland’s remote east coast but a glacier joining it to the mainland has melted away completely, leaving it surrounded by sea.

Shaped like a three-fingered hand some 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle, it has been discovered by a veteran American explorer and Greenland expert, Dennis Schmitt, who has named it Warming Island (Or Uunartoq Qeqertoq in Inuit, the Eskimo language, that he speaks fluently).

The US Geological Survey has confirmed its existence with satellite photos, that show it as an integral part of the Greenland coast in 1985, but linked by only a small ice bridge in 2002, and completely separate by the summer of 2005. It is now a striking island of high peaks and rugged rocky slopes plunging steeply to a sea dotted with icebergs.

As the satellite pictures and the main photo which The Independent we published today make clear, Warming Island has been created by a quite undeniable, rapid and enormous physical transformation and is likely to be seen around the world as a potent symbol of the coming effects of climate change.

But it is only one more example of the disintegration of the Greenland Ice Sheet, that scientists have begun to realise, only very recently, is proceeding far more rapidly than anyone thought.

The second-largest ice sheet in the world (after Antarctica), if its entire 2.5 million cubic kilometres of ice were to melt, it would lead to a global sea level rise of 7.2 metres, or more than 23 feet.

That would inundate most of the world’s coastal cities, including London, swamp vast areas of heavily-populated low-lying land in countries such as Bangladesh, and remove several island countries such as the Maldives from the face of the Earth. However, even a rise one tenth as great would have devastating consequences.

Sea level rise is already accelerating. Sea levels are going up around the world by about 3.1mm per year – the average for the period 1993-2003. That is itself sharply up from an average of 1.8mm per year over the longer period 1961-2003. Greenland ice now accounts for about 0.5 millimetre of the total. (Much of the rest of the rise is coming from the expansion of the world’s sea water as it warms.)

Until two or three years ago, it was thought that the break-up of the ice sheet might take 1,000 years or more but a series of studies and alarming observations since 2004 have shown the disintegration is accelerating and, as a consequence, sea level rise may be much quicker than anticipated.

Earlier computer models, researchers believe, failed to capture properly the way the ice sheet would respond to major warming (over the past 20 years, Greenland’s air temperature has risen by 3C). The 2001 report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was relatively reassuring, suggesting change would be slow.

But satellite measurements of Greenland’s entire land mass show that the speed at which its glaciers are moving to the sea has increased significantly in the past decade, with some of them moving three times faster than in the mid-1990s.

Scientists estimate that, in 1996, glaciers deposited about 50 cubic km of ice into the sea. In 2005, it had risen to 150 cubic km of ice.

A study last year by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology showed that, rather than just melting relatively slowly, the ice sheet is showing all the signs of a mechanical break-up as glaciers slip ever faster into the ocean, aided by the “lubricant” of meltwater forming at their base. As the meltwater seeps down it lubricates the bases of the “outlet” glaciers of the ice sheet, causing them to slip down surrounding valleys towards the sea,

Another discovery has been the increase in “glacial earthquakes” caused by the sudden movement of enormous blocks of ice within the ice sheet. The annual number of them recorded in Greenland between 1993 and 2002 was between six and 15. In 2003, seismologists recorded 20 glacial earthquakes. In 2004, they monitored 24 and for the first 10 months of 2005 they recorded 32. The seismologists also found the glacial earthquakes occurred mainly during the summer months, indicating the movements were indeed associated with rapidly melting ice – normal “tectonic” earthquakes show no such seasonality. Of the 136 glacial quakes analysed in a report published last year, more than a third occurred during July and August.

The creation of Warming Island appears to be entirely consistent with the disintegrating ice sheet, coming about when the glacier bridge linking it to the mainland simply disappeared. It was discovered by Mr Schmitt, a 60-year-old explorer from Berkeley, California, who has known Greenland for 40 years, during a trip he led up the remote coastline.

According to the US Geological Survey: “More islands like this may be discovered if the Greenland Ice Sheet continues to disappear.”

A self-governing dependency of Denmark, Greenland is the largest island in the world but is inhabited by only 56,000 people, mainly Inuit. More than 80 per cent of the land surface is covered by the ice sheet.


Posted on on April 10th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

UNEP: Adaptation to Climate Change Key Challenge for Arctic Peoples and Arctic
Economy; Thawing Permafrost, Melting Sea Ice and Significant Changes in Natural
Resources Demands Comprehensive Sustainable Development Plan.

GENEVA/NAIROBI, 10 April 2007 – Dramatic changes to the lives and
livelihoods of Arctic-living communities are being forecast unless urgent
action is taken to reduce greenhouse gases, according to the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Its Working Group II predicts wide-ranging thawing of the Arctic permafrost
which is likely to have significant implications for infrastructure
including houses, buildings, roads, railways and pipelines.

A combination of reduced sea ice, thawing permafrost and storm surges also
threatens erosion of Arctic coastlines with impacts on coastal communities,
culturally important sites and industrial facilities.

One study suggests that a 3 degree C increase in average summer air
temperatures could increase erosion rates in the eastern Siberia Arctic by
3-5 metres a year.

In some part of the Arctic, toxic and radioactive materials are stored and
contained in frozen ground. Thawing may release these substances in the
local and wider environment with risks to humans and wildlife alongside
significant clean-up costs.

Warmer temperatures also represent new economic opportunities but also
challenges in the Arctic. Declines in sea ice are likely to open up the
Arctic to more shipping, oil and gas exploration and fisheries.

A comprehensive sustainable development plan is urgently needed for the
region to maximize the opportunities and minimize potentially damaging

The future health and well-being of Arctic peoples is a major question. The
report, part of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment, recognizes that Arctic
communities and indigenous peoples lives and livelihoods are intimately
linked with their environment but that this is already changing.

Inuit hunters are now navigating new travel routes in order to try to avoid
areas of decreasing ice stability that is making them less safe. In the
future, increased rainfall may trigger additional hazards such as
avalanches and rock falls.

Inuit hunters are also changing their hunting times to coincide with shifts
in the migration times and migration routes of caribou and geese, as well
as new species moving northwards.

Some impacts of climate change may improve human well-being. Opportunities
for agriculture and forestry may increase. There is evidence that Arctic
warming could reduce the level of winter mortality as a result of falls in
cardiovascular and respiratory deaths.

But this will have to be set against possible increases in drought in some
areas, the emergence and survival of new pests and diseases, likely
contamination of freshwaters and health and psychological impacts of the
loss of traditional social and “kinship” structures.

However, it is likely that in order for Arctic communities and cultures to
survive and conserve their centuries-old ways of life decisive emissions
reductions will be needed alongside adaptation to the climate change
already underway.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
which co-founded the IPCC in 1988, said: “The costs of climate change are
already being paid by the peoples and communities of the Arctic. The report
underlines how this bill is set to rise unless action is taken to cut
greenhouse gas emissions.”

“The communities and indigenous peoples of this region are skilled in
adapting to harsh and often dramatic changing conditions including sharp
fluctuations in the scarcity and in the abundance of land and marine
resources. However, the rapid changes likely in the future may overwhelm
traditional coping strategies. It is thus also vital that communities are
assisted in climate-proofing centuries-old lifestyles in order to survive
and to thrive through the 21st century”, he added.

By the mid-21st century, the area of permafrost in the northern hemisphere
is expected to decline by around 20 per cent to 35 per cent.

The depth of thawing is likely to increase by 30 per cent to a half of its
current depth by 2080.

Permafrost thawing is already having impacts. It is the likely cause behind
the draining away and disappearance of Arctic lakes in Siberia during the
past three decades over an area of 500,000 square km.

The costs of relocating subsiding towns and villages could be high. The
price tag for relocating a village like Kivalina in Alaska has been
estimated to be $54 million.

Marine Resources
Changes in river flows, ice regimes and the mobilization of sediments as a
result of permafrost thawing are likely to have impacts on freshwater,
estuary-living and marine biodiversity upon which local and indigenous
people depend.

Lake trout, a cold water fish, is likely to be affected as will be the
spawning grounds of fish and bottom-living life forms as a result of
increased sediments.

Important northern fish species, like broad whitefish, Arctic char, Arctic
grayling and Arctic cisco, are likely to decline as a result of changes in
habitats and predatory species, perhaps carrying new diseases, moving into
the warming Arctic waters.

Thinning and reduced coverage of sea ice is likely to have important knock
on effects. Crustaceans, adapted for life at the sea-ice edge, are an
important food for seals and polar cod. Narwhal also depend on sea-ice

“Early melting of sea ice may lead to an increasing mismatch in the timing
of these sea-ice organisms and secondary production that severely affects
populations of the sea mammals”, says the IPCC report.

However, more open water and other climate-related factors are likely to
benefit fish stocks like cod, herring, walleye and pollock.

Ten per cent and possibly as much as 50 per cent of the Arctic tundra could
be replaced by forests by 2100. The narrow, remaining coastal tundra strips
in Russia’s European Arctic are likely to disappear.

Meanwhile, climate change is likely to favour pests, parasites and diseases
such as musk ox lung worm and nematodes in reindeer. Forest fires and
tree-killing insects such as spruce bark beetle are likely to increase.

For more information, please contact: Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, in
Nairobi, on Tel: +254-20-762-3084, Mobile: +254-733-632755, E-mail:
 nick.nuttall at or Michael Williams, UNEP Information Unit for
Conventions, in Geneva, on Tel: +41-22-917-8242, Mobile: +41-79-409-1528,
E-mail:  Michael.williams at


Posted on on February 10th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

Inuit accuse US of destroying their way of life with global warming – by Andrew Buncombe from Washington DC February 9, 2007.

A delegation of Inuit is to travel to Washington DC to provide first-hand testimony of how global warming is destroying their way of life and to accuse the Bush administration of undermining their human rights.

The delegation, representing Inuit peoples from the US, Canada, Russia and Greenland, will argue that the US’s energy policies and its position as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases is having a devastating effect on their communities.

Melting sea ice, rising seas and the impact on the animals they rely on for food threatens their existence.

The Inuit’s efforts to force the US to act are part of an unprecedented attempt to link climate change to international human rights laws. They will argue before the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights (ICHR) that the US’s behaviour puts it in breach of its obligations. “The impacts of climate change, caused by acts and omissions by the US, violate the Inuit’s fundamental human rights protected by the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and other international instruments,” the Inuit argued in a letter to the ICHR. “Because Inuit culture is inseparable from the condition of their physical surroundings, the widespread environmental upheaval resulting from climate change violates the Inuit’s right to practice and enjoy the benefits of their culture.”

Indigenous peoples from the Arctic have long argued that global warming was having a dramatic effect on their environment.

In 2002, villagers in the remote Alaskan island community of Shishmaref voted to relocate to the mainland because rising sea levels threatened to overwhelm their community.

Data has been gathered to support their claims and scientists have recorded how polar regions are the most vulnerable to climate change. The most recent international Arctic Climate Impact Assessment suggested global warming would see temperatures in the Arctic rise by 4-7C over the next 100 years – about twice the previous average estimated increase.

The delegation to Washington will be led by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the former chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference who was last week nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Speaking yesterday from Iqaluit in Nunavut, Canada, she said: “For us in the Arctic our entire culture depends on the cold. The problem of climate change is what this is all about. At the same time we will be bringing in lawyers to talk about the link between climate change and human rights.”

The invitation for the Inuit to give testimony before the ICHR next month comes just days after the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provided a dire assessment about the threat of climate change. In the Arctic, scientists have estimated that summer sea ice could completely disappear by 2040.

Martin Wagner, of the California-based Earthjustice, said: “There can be no question that global warming is a serious threat to human rights in the Arctic and around the world. The ICHR plays an important role in interpreting and defending human rights, and we are encouraged that it has decided to consider the question of global warming.”

The ICHR, an arm of the Organisation of American States, can issue findings, recommendations and rulings. It can also refer cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica, though the US has always made clear it does not consider itself bound by the court’s rulings.


Posted on on January 31st, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Threat of Climate Change


An iceberg melts in Kulusuk, Greenland, near the Arctic Circle.


Posted on on January 10th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

“EU: Climate change will transform the face of the continent,”
reprt Michael McCarthy and Stephen Castle, in The Independent, January 10, 2007.
Europe, the richest and most fertile continent and the model for the modern world, will be devastated by climate change, the European Union predicts today.

The ecosystems that have underpinned all European societies from Ancient Greece and Rome to present-day Britain and France, and which helped European civilisation gain global pre-eminence, will be disabled by remorselessly rising temperatures, EU scientists forecast in a remarkable report which is as ominous as it is detailed.

Much of the continent’s age-old fertility, which gave the world the vine and the olive and now produces mountains of grain and dairy products, will not survive the climate change forecast for the coming century, the scientists say, and its wildlife will be devastated.

Europe’s modern lifestyles, from summer package tours to winter skiing trips, will go the same way, they say, as the Mediterranean becomes too hot for holidays and snow and ice disappear from mountain ranges such as the Alps – with enormous economic consequences. The social consequences will also be felt as heat-related deaths rise and extreme weather events, such as storms and floods, become more violent.

The report, stark and uncompromising, marks a step change in Europe’s own role in pushing for international action to combat climate change, as it will be used in a bid to commit the EU to ambitious new targets for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases.

The European Commission wants to hold back the rise in global temperatures to 2C above the pre-industrial level (at present, the level is 0.6C). To do that, it wants member states to commit to cutting back emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, to 30 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, as long as other developed countries agree to do the same.

Failing that, the EU would observe a unilateral target of a 20 per cent cut.

The Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, gave US President George Bush a preview of the new policy during a visit to the White House this week.

The force of today’s report lies in its setting out of the scale of the continent-wide threat to Europe’s “ecosystem services”. That is a relatively new but powerful concept, which recognises essential elements of civilised life – such as food, water, wood and fuel – which may generally be taken for granted, are all ultimately dependent on the proper functioning of ecosystems in the natural world. Historians have recognised that Europe was particularly lucky in this respect from the start, compared to Africa or pre-Columbian America – and this was a major reason for Europe’s rise to global pre-eminence.

“Climate change will alter the supply of European ecosystem services over the next century,” the report says. “While it will result in enhancement of some ecosystem services, a large portion will be adversely impacted because of drought, reduced soil fertility, fire, and other climate change-driven factors.

“Europe can expect a decline in arable land, a decline in Mediterranean forest areas, a decline in the terrestrial carbon sink and soil fertility, and an increase in the number of basins with water scarcity. It will increase the loss of biodiversity.”

The report predicts there will be some European “winners” from climate change, at least initially. In the north of the continent, agricultural yields will increase with a lengthened growing season and a longer frost-free period. Tourism may become more popular on the beaches of the North Sea and the Baltic as the Mediterranean becomes too hot, and deaths and diseases related to winter cold will fall. But the negative effects will far outweigh the advantages. Take tourism. The report says “the zone with excellent weather conditions, currently located around the Mediterranean (in particular for beach tourism) will shift towards the north”. And it spells out the consequences:

“The annual migration of northern Europeans to the countries of the Mediterranean in search of the traditional summer ‘sun, sand and sea’ holiday is the single largest flow of tourists across the globe, accounting for one-sixth of all tourist trips in 2000. This large group of tourists, totalling about 100 million per annum, spends an estimated €100bn ( £67bn) per year. Any climate-induced change in these flows of tourists and money would have very large implications for the destinations involved.”

While they are losing their tourists, the countries of the Med may also be losing their agriculture. Crop yields may drop sharply as drought conditions, exacerbated by more frequent forest fires, make farming ever more difficult. And that is not the only threat to Europe’s food supplies. Some stocks of coldwater fish in areas such as the North Sea will move northwards as the water warms.

There are many more direct threats, the report says. The cost of taking action to cope with sea-level rise will run into billions of euros. Furthermore, “for the coming decades, it is predicted the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events will increase, and floods will likely be more frequent and severe in many areas across Europe.”

The number of people affected by severe flooding in the Upper Danube area is projected to increase by 242,000 in a more extreme 3C temperature rise scenario, and by 135,000 in the case of a 2.2C rise. The total cost of damage would rise from €47.5bn to €66bn in the event of a 3C increase.

Although fewer people would die of cold in the north, that would be more than offset by increased mortality in the south. Under the more extreme scenario of a 3C increase in 2071-2100 relative to 1961-1990, there would be 86,000 additional deaths.