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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Alaska Dispatch News
Published on Alaska Dispatch News  www.adn.com)

August 24, 2015

The White House on Sunday revealed some details of President Barack Obama’s upcoming three-day trip to Alaska [1].

The president will travel to “the Seward area, where he will have the opportunity to view the effects of climate change firsthand,” on Tuesday, Sept. 1, according to White House spokesperson Hallie Ruvin.

On the following day, the president will visit Dillingham and Kotzebue, “where he will engage directly with Alaskans on issues important to their communities and to the local economy,” Ruvin said.

Obama will leave the state on Sept. 2, Ruvin said, adding that additional details will be available later this week.

Speculation over Obama’s plans has grown as the date draws near. The president will touch down in Anchorage on Aug. 31 and deliver a speech at a State Department-sponsored Arctic conference that will draw nearly a dozen foreign ministers and hundreds of attendees.

Obama has said he plans to address climate change during his visit. But details are sparse — and rumors rampant — about whether he will address other issues, if security concerns will enable a visit to some of the most rural parts of Alaska, and just what kind of impacts the unusual visit will have on downtown Anchorage.

Source URL: www.adn.com/article/20150824/whit…

Links:
[1] www.adn.com/list-article/20150820…

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The three member Alaska Congressional delegation – two Senators and one Member of the House of Representatives – complained that they were not consulted by the White House. We assume that the President had good reasons for making his own decisions.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Coming Clean – The blog of Executive Director Michael Brune, The Sierra Club.
July 23, 2015


Obama’s Arctic Error: A Bad Call on Shell


The Obama administration inched a little closer to disaster yesterday when it issued almost-but-not-quite final approval to Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer. Because Shell’s capping stack (a critical piece of emergency response equipment) is currently on its way to Portland, Oregon, aboard a damaged icebreaker that requires repairs, the oil company is allowed to drill only part way into the seafloor — stopping short of where the oil is. If and when the capping stack gets to the proposed drilling site, Shell could then reapply for permission to resume drilling the rest of the way.


Last week, I wrote about why letting Shell into the Arctic makes no sense. It’s a case of taking huge risks to get something we don’t need. In fact, not only do we not need that oil and gas — we can’t even afford to use it if we want to meet the urgent imperative to limit climate disruption.

So why has the administration allowed things to go this far? If this were a wedding with a reluctant bridegroom, we’d be listening to the minister clear his throat and gaze out over the congregation. I don’t know. Maybe, even though they know this is a bad idea, they just don’t have the guts to call it off.

But you know what? That’s the wrong analogy. What’s about to happen in the Chukchi Sea is more like a blind date than a shotgun wedding. Even if Shell manages to get its act together with its exploratory drilling this summer, it will still need approval for commercial drilling, and it will be even harder to make a case that such drilling can be done safely. Shell would also need to install hundreds of miles of pipeline, both on the seafloor and dry land. The process could take a decade or more, and every step along the way, we have opportunities to make the case that clean energy is better for our country and our planet. And the longer this drags on, the more obvious it will be that drilling in Arctic waters is an unnecessary invitation to disaster.


When Shell’s damaged ship arrives in Portland, we’ll be there. When Shell cuts corners or takes dangerous risks, we’ll be there. When this or any other administration flirts with selling more oil leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, we’ll be there, in the courts and on the streets. We’re in this for the long haul, along with the hundreds of thousands of Americans who’ve already joined the growing #ShellNo! movement. We’re in it for the Arctic, for the wildlife, for the Native Alaskans, and for the climate. And we’re in it to win.

We will not rest until President Obama cancels all drilling and future leases and protects the Arctic Ocean.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Arctic Icy hotspots in focus at climate talks?

Irene Quaile, Deutsche Welle
July 8, 2015

With western Europe sweltering in a record-breaking heat wave, climate scientists are meeting in Paris this week for what is regarded as the last major climate science conference before the key COP 21 in Paris at the end of this year.

“Our Common Future under Climate Change” wants to be “solutions-focused,” but starts off with a resumé of the state of science as a basis.

Related:
Permafrost ‘carbon bomb’ unlikely, but worries over northern thaw persist
Outlook for September Arctic sea ice tilts toward small reduction from last year


One of the topics on the wide agenda is, of course, the cryosphere, with scientists reporting on rapid changes in the Arctic ice and permafrost, and worrying developments in the Antarctic.

As conference after conference works to prepare a new World Climate Agreement, to take effect in 2020, the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) is concerned that the INDCSs, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, i.e. the climate action countries propose to take are not in line with keeping global warming to the internationally set target of a maximum 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Scientists tell us this itself would already have major impacts on the world’s ice and snow.
Climate pledges way too low

Pam Pearson, the founder and director of ICCI, told journalists during a recent visit to Bonn her indication of INDCS so far was that they are ”somewhere between 3.8 and 4.2 degrees” Celsius.

Pearson and her colleagues are working hard to make the scientific evidence on climate changes in our ice and snow regions accessible and “must-reads” for the politicians and others who are preparing to negotiate the new agreement at the Paris talks at the end of the year, to replace the Kyoto protocol. She was here in Bonn at the last round of UN preparatory climate talks last month, holding a side event and briefing media and negotiators.

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Pearson was part of the original Kyoto Protocol negotiating team. She is a former U.S. diplomat with 20 years’ experience of working on global issues, including climate change. She says she resigned in 2006 in protest over changes to U.S. development policies, especially related to environmental and global issues programs. From 2007 to2009, she worked from Sweden with a variety of organizations and Arctic governments to bring attention to the potential benefit of reductions in short-lived climate forcers to the Arctic climate, culminating in Arctic Council ministerial-level action in the Tromsø Declaration of 2009.

Pearson founded ICCI immediately after COP 15 to bring greater attention and policy focus to the “rapid and markedly similar changes occurring to cryosphere regions throughout the globe” and their importance for the global climate system.

IPCC reports already out of date! At the briefing in Bonn a couple of weeks ago, she said:

“Certainly through AR5, (the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC) the science is available to feed into the negotiations. But I think what we see as a cryosphere organization, participating as civil society in the negotiations – and I think also, very importantly, what the IPCC scientists see — is a lack of understanding of the urgency of slowing down these processes and the fact that they are irreversible. This is not like air or water pollution, where if you clean it up it will go back to the way it was before. It cannot go back to the way it was before and I think that is the most important aspect that still has not made its way into the negotiations”.

Scientists taking part in the event organized by the ICCI in Bonn stressed that a lot of major developments relating especially to Antarctica and to permafrost in the northern hemisphere was not available in time for that IPCC report. This means the scientific basis of AR5 is already way out of date, and that it does not include very recent important occurrences.

Sea ice in decline

Dirk Notz from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg heads a research group focusing on sea ice and rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic.

He told journalists in Bonn: “Over the last 10 years or so we’ve roughly seen a fifty percent loss of Arctic sea ice area, so this ice is currently retreating very, very rapidly. In the Antarctic, some people are talking about the increase of sea ice. Just to put things into perspective: there is a slight increase, but it’s nothing compared to the very rapid loss that we’ve seen in the Arctic.“

The slight increase in sea ice in the Antarctic is certainly not an indicator that could disprove climate warming, as some of a skeptical persuasion would like to have us believe.

“In the Antarctic, the changes in sea ice are locally very different. We have an increase in some areas and a decrease in other areas. This increase in one area of the southern ocean is largely driven by changes in the surface pressure field. So the winds are blowing stronger off shore in the Antarctic, pushing the ice out onto the ocean, and this is why we have more sea ice now than we used to have in the past. Our understanding currently says that these changes in the wind field are currently driven by anthropogenic changes of the climate system,“ said Notz.

He stresses that as far as the Arctic is concerned, the loss of sea ice is very clearly linked to the increase in CO2. The more CO2 we have in the atmosphere, the less sea ice we have in the Arctic.
Changing the face of the planet

Notz stresses the speed with which humankind is currently changing the face of the earth:


“Currently in the Arctic, a complete landscape is disappearing. It’s a landscape that has been around for thousands of years, and it’s a landscape our generation is currently removing from the planet, possibly for a very long time. I think culturally, that’s a very big change we are seeing.”

At the same time, he says the decline in the Arctic sea ice could be seen as a very clear warning sign:

“Temperature evolution of the planet for the past 50 thousand years or so shows that for the past 10 thousand years or so, climate on the planet has been extremely stable. And the loss of sea ice in the Arctic might be an indication that we are ending this period of a very stable climate in the Arctic just now. This might be the very first, very clear sign of a very clear change in the climatic conditions, like nothing we’ve seen in the past 10,000 years since we’ve had our cultures as humans.”


Simulations indicate that Arctic summer sea ice might be gone by the middle of this century. But Notz stresses that we can still influence this:

“The future sea ice loss both in the Arctic and the Antarctic depends on future CO2 emissions. A rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice in this decade is possible but unlikely. Only a very rapid reduction of CO2 might allow for the survival of Arctic summer sea ice beyond this century.”
Antarctic ice not eternal

Whereas until very recently the Antarctic ice was regarded as safe from climate warming, research in the last few years has indicated that even in that area, some possibly irreversible processes are underway. This relates to land ice rather than sea ice.

Ricarda Winckelmann is a scientist with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research (PIK). She told journalists and climate negotiators at the Bonn talks that Antarctica could be regarded as the “sea level giant.. The global sea level would rise by 5 meters (16.4 feet) if West Antarctica’s ice sheet melted completely, 50 meters (164 feet) for the East Antarctic ice sheet.

“Over the past years, a couple of regions in Antarctica have really caught our attention. There are four hotspots. They have all changed rapidly. There have been a number of dynamic changes in these regions, but they all have something in common, and that is that they bear the possibility of a dynamic instability. Some of them have actually crossed that threshold, some of them might cross it in the near future. But they all underlie the same mechanism. That is called the marine ice sheet instability. It’s based on the fact that the bottom topography has a certain shape, and it’s a purely mechanical, self-enforcing mechanism. So it’s sort of driving itself. If you have a retreat of a certain region that undergoes this mechanism, it means you cannot stop it. “

The hotspots she refers to are the Amundsen Basin in West Antarctica, comprising the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which are the fastest glaciers in Antarctica:

“It has been shown in a number of studies last year that it actually has tipped. Meaning it has crossed that threshold, and is now undergoing irreversible change. So all of these glaciers will drain into the ocean and we will lose a volume that is equivalent to about a meter (3.3 feet) of global sea level. The question is how fast this is going to happen.”

Next comes the Antarctic peninsula, where very recent research has indicated that warm water is reaching the ice shelves, leading to melting and dynamic thinning.

Even in East Antarctica, which was long considered virtually immune to climate change, Winckelmann and her colleagues have found signs that this same mechanism might be at work, for instance with Totten Glacier:

“There is a very recent publication from this year, showing that (…) this could possibly undergo the same instability mechanism. Totten Glacier currently has the largest thinning rate in East Antarctica. And it contains as much volume as the entire West Antarctic ice sheet put together. So it’s 3.5 meters’ (11.5 feet) worth of global sea level rise, if this region tips,” says the Potsdam expert.
Pulling the plug?

The other problematic area is the Wilkes Basin.

“We found that there is something called an ice plug, and if you pull it, you trigger this instability mechanism, and lose the entire drainage basin. What’s really striking is that this ice plug is comparably small, with a sea-level equivalent of less than 80 millimeters (3.15 inches). But if you lose that ice plug, you will get self-sustained sea level rise over a long period of time, of three to four meters,” or 9.8 feet to 13 feet.

This research is all so new that it was not included in the last IPCC assessment:

“We’ve known that this dynamic mechanism exists for a long time, it was first proposed in the 1970s. But the observation that something like this is actually happening right now is new,” Winckelmann stresses.

Clearly, this is key information when it comes to bringing home the urgent need for rapid climate action.

Pam Pearson stresses that these changes in themselves have a feedback effect, and have an impact on the climate:

“The cryosphere is changing a lot more quickly than other parts of the world. The main focus for Paris is that these regions are moving from showing climate change, being indicators of climate change, to beginning to drive climate change, and the risks of those dynamics beginning to overwhelm anthropogenic impacts on these particular areas is growing as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up, as the temperature rises.”
Climate factor: permafrost

This applies in particular to the effect of thawing permafrost. Susan Natali from the Woods Hole Research Center is co-author of a landmark study published in Nature in April. She also joined the ICCI event in Bonn:

“Carbon has been accumulating in permafrost for tens of thousands of years. The amount of carbon currently stored in permafrost is about twice as much as in the atmosphere. So our current estimate is 1,500 billion tons of carbon permanently frozen and locked away in permafrost. So you can imagine, as that permafrost thaws and even a portion of that gets released into the atmosphere, that this may lead to a significant increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.”

The study was conducted by an international permafrost network. “The goal is to put our current understanding of the processes in permafrost regions into global climate models. The current IPCC reports don’t include greenhouse gas emissions as a result of permafrost thaw,” says Natali.

Permafrost regions make up some 25 percent of the northern hemisphere land area. The scientists say between 30 percent and 70 percent of it could be lost by 2100, depending on the amount of temperature rise. There is still a lot of uncertainty over how much carbon could be released, but Winckelmann and her colleagues think thawing permafrost could release as much carbon into the atmosphere by 2100 as the US, the world’s second biggest emitter, is currently emitting.
The time for action is now

“The thing to keep in mind is that the action we take now in terms of our fossil fuel emissions is going to have a significant impact on how much permafrost is lost and in turn how much carbon is released from permafrost. There is some uncertainty, but we know permafrost carbon losses will be substantial, they will be irreversible on a human-relevant time frame, and these emissions of GHGs from permafrost need to be accounted for if we want to meet our global emissions targets,” says Winckelmann.

The challenge is to convince politicians today to act now, in the interests of the future. Pearson and her colleagues are working to have a synthesis of what scientists have found to date accessible to and understandable for the negotiators who will be at COP21 in Paris in December.

In terms of an outcome, she says first of all we need higher ambition now, in the pledges being made by different countries. The lower the temperature rise, the less the risk of further dynamic change processes being set off in the cryosphere. The other key factor is to make sure there is flexibility to up the targets on a regular basis, without being tied to a long negotiating process. The current agreement draft envisages five year reviews.

“There are a number of cryosphere scientists who actually expect these kinds of signals from cryosphere to multiply, and that there may be some dramatic developments just over the next three to five years, that may finally spur some action,” Pearson says.

Here’s hoping the UN negotiators will not wait for further catastrophic evidence before committing to an effective new climate treaty at the end of this year.

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This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 30th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The THIRD ANNUAL ARCTIC CIRCLE ASSEMBLY
OCTOBER 16 – 18, 2015
REYKJAVÍK, ICELAND

PRESIDENT OF FRANCE – WILL ATTEND THE ASSEMBLY and Deliver an Opening Speech linked to the Climate Negotiations at COP 21.

At a meeting at the Élysée Palace in Paris on April 17th, the President of France, François Hollande, accepted an invitation from President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson to deliver an opening speech at the October Assembly. The attendance by President Hollande is linked to the upcoming climate negotiations COP21 in Paris in December and the relevance of the Arctic to those negotiations.

PRESIDENT XI JINPING – And Offered to host a special CHINA SESSION at the Assembly.

President of China XI Jinping has in a recent letter to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson endorsed China’s participation in the Arctic Circle Assembly and declared his decision that China will host a special Plenary Session at the October Assembly in Reykjavík.


CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL – suggested a special plenary GERMANY and the ARCTIC SESSION at the Assembly.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has in a recent letter to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson announced her support for the Arctic Circle and its importance as a venue to present the involvement of Germany in the future of the Arctic. Consequently, the program of the October Assembly in Reykjavík will include a special Plenary Session on Germany and the Arctic.

More Assembly news in the coming weeks.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 28th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Thawing Ice and Chilly Diplomacy in the Arctic.

The Opinion Pages | Editorial
Thawing Ice and Chilly Diplomacy in the Arctic.

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, THE NEW YORK TIMES, APRIL 27, 2015

Photo -The Yamal Liquified Natural Gas project, a Russian-French-Chinese joint venture, in the Arctic Circle. Credit Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

So long as the Arctic was mostly frozen solid, the biennial meetings of the eight-nation Arctic Council attracted relatively little attention with their discussions on ways to cooperate on environmental protection, search-and-rescue operations and the like.

But with melting ice opening up northern shipping lanes and access to vast troves of oil, gas and minerals — and with Russia increasingly alienated from the other members on the council and assertive in its claims to the far north — the past weekend’s council meeting in the far-northern Canadian city of Iqaluit sometimes seemed as frigid as the outside air.

At the meeting, the United States assumed the rotating two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council, whose other members are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden as well as six indigenous groups of the far north. Secretary of State John Kerry declared that protecting the delicate Arctic environment from the consequences of climate change will be a top American priority over the next two years. As important a task will be to prevent the clash with Russia over Ukraine from undermining the cooperation on which the council has operated for the past 20 years.

Russia has steadily increased its military presence in the far north. On the eve of the meeting, a hard-line Russian deputy prime minister, Dmitri Rogozin, traveled to the North Pole to open a scientific research station — and to make clear that Russia intended to protect its claims to the Arctic region, which he proclaimed “a Russian Mecca” on Twitter. In an added provocation, Mr. Rogozin traveled through Norwegian territory on his way, though he is among the Russian officials blacklisted from traveling to much of Europe.

The Obama administration has declared that tensions with Russia will not change its focus on ocean safety, economic development and climate change.

The danger of the Arctic’s falling prey to East-West hostility was sufficiently clear to prompt a group of 45 international experts, government officials and representatives of nongovernmental organizations to meet in Washington in February and issue a unanimous report urging that the region remain outside geopolitical confrontations.

The Arctic Council, never intended to debate military matters, must remain a forum for finding ways to sort out competing claims peacefully.

At the peak of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to ban military activity on the other end of the Earth, in Antarctica. And today, despite all the hostility over Ukraine, the United States and Russia have continued to work together in outer space, showing that cooperation is possible. In the Arctic, it’s essential.

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A version of this editorial appears in print on April 28, 2015, on page A26 of the New York edition with the headline: Thawing Ice and Chilly Diplomacy.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 30th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Arctic – North Pole camps planned for Russian paratroopers, scientists.

Trude Pettersen, Barents Observer
March 27, 2015

There will be two Russian North Pole bases of operation this summer — one a set of floating camps to be used by scientists, and the other a site for Russian soldiers to train on ice.
 www.adn.com/article/20150327/nort…

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Arctic – Kremlin supports Lukoil’s Arctic ambitions

Trude Pettersen, Barents Observer.
March 30, 2015

Putin’s government, dissatisfied with the pace of work performed by state-owned Rosneft and Gazprom, is considering changing policy to open up the Arctic shelf to private companies. If that happens, Lukoil — Russia’s top private oil producer — would benefit.
 www.adn.com/article/20150330/krem…

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Arctic Committee forms to tackle Arctic waterways safety.

Carey RestinoThe Arctic Sounder
March 28, 2015

The Arctic Waterways Safety Committee, formed to develop the best practices for managing Arctic waterways, held its first formal meeting this month in Juneau, electing officers and meeting with the governor and Alaska’s state committee on the Arctic.
 www.adn.com/article/20150328/comm…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

While on his way to Saudi Arabia, Obama released his opposition to drilling in a sensitive area of he Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Could this allay some Saudi worries?

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Obama’s Arctic Refuge Drill Ban Won’t Change Much, For Now
January 26, 2015

by John Ydstie of NPR

President Obama says he will ask Congress to give wilderness status to protect more than 12 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The president announced his intention Sunday in a video, describing the area as a pristine habitat with abundant wildlife:

“It’s very fragile. That’s why I’m very proud that my Department of Interior has put forward a comprehensive plan to make sure that we’re protecting the refuge and that we’re designating new areas, including coastal plains, for preservation,” he said.

But Obama’s action could put billions of barrels of oil beneath the wilderness out of reach of energy companies. Industry representatives are criticizing the decision, but also say Obama’s request will have little immediate effect.

Obama’s request for wilderness status reverses a recommendation by the Reagan administration in 1987 to allow drilling in a small area of the ANWR. In the intervening quarter of a century Democrats and Republicans have continuously sparred over the issue and no drilling has taken place.

Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the industry’s views, says despite the glut of oil on the market today because of the U.S. shale boom, the country will eventually need the oil from ANWR.

“If you look at Department of Energy forecasts, we’re gonna need oil and natural gas to fuel this economy for decades to come,” Milito says. “So, we gotta plan well ahead so we have the ability to fuel this economy for future generations.”

He points to a U.S. Geological Survey estimate that projects ANWR contains between 5 billion and 16 billion barrels of oil. He says the industry would likely find even more once it begins drilling.

Fadel Gheit, a managing director and oil expert at Oppenheimer & Co., says he believes the president’s decision does not change the outlook for developing the ANWR reserves significantly.

“It will make life more difficult for the industry; it will put another hurdle — but technology will always bring the hurdle down,” Gheit says.

He says the shale revolution reduces the urgency of tapping the ANWR oil.

“There’s really no need to take a chance on ANWR, since ANWR is still a very sensitive area,” he adds.

Gheit says the shale oil glut gives the oil industry five to 10 years to develop the technology it needs to convince the public that it can drill safely in such an environmentally sensitive place.

It’s virtually certain the new Republican-controlled Congress will reject the president’s recommendation. But Obama’s request does effectively block drilling for the next two years and he could veto a congressional bill to allow it.

But if Republicans keep control of Congress and the country elects a Republican president, Obama’s effort to protect ANWR from drilling could be swept aside.

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Battle Over Offshore Drilling In Arctic Dwarfs ANWR

April 15, 2009

by Elizabeth Arnold of NPR

Melting ice in the Arctic may not be good for species that live there, but it does mean those icy waters are much more accessible and cost-effective places to drill for oil and gas.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was in Alaska this week as part of an “information gathering” tour to help craft a new Outer Continental Shelf drilling policy. After two days of public testimony from those for and against offshore drilling, Salazar pronounced Alaskans passionate and divided.

Just over a year ago, the oil and gas industry bid $2.6 billion for drilling rights in the Chukchi Sea, located in the Arctic between Alaska and Russia. It’s the largest oil and gas lease sale in history, and it’s staggering when compared with the $7 million that the same leases went for in 1991.

Though rapidly retreating sea ice makes it easier and more cost-effective to drill in the Chukchi Sea, it also means the area is more fragile. Just about every marine mammal and seabird in the Chukchi Sea is already endangered or a candidate for listing. And, the opposition from native villages that rely on fish, walrus, seals and whales for subsistence dwarfs the fight over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


Melting Ice Could Mean More Drilling, More Controversy

The biggest lease of the most recent sale went to Shell Gulf of Mexico, which spent $105 million for rights in the Chukchi Sea. Shell already had bought leases even further north and was ready with rigs when then-President George W. Bush lifted the ban on drilling along the Outer Continental Shelf.

“We are drill-bit ready to move in the Arctic right now, and this is stuff that can happen right now, and with a few things going our way, we will be ready to go in 2010,” says Pete Slaiby, Shell’s Alaska general manager.

But those few things are now largely in the hands of Salazar, who went to Alaska this week as part of the process of developing this administration’s offshore energy plan. He has called a time out on new leasing, for more public input, and he got plenty Tuesday.

Whaling captain and mayor of the North Slope Borough Edward Itta advised slowing down: “Mr. Secretary, like all Alaskans, the people of the North Slope depend on the economic engine of oil and gas development. We have supported onshore for well over 30 years now. But, Mr. Secretary, offshore is a different matter.”

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin advised speeding up: “Delays or major restrictions in accessing our needed resources for environmentally responsible development are not in the nation’s or our state’s best interest.”

Passionate Protests From Both Sides

From laborers in hard hats chanting “jobs, jobs, jobs” to environmentalists dressed as polar bears and puffins, division and emotion over offshore drilling was apparent.

Shell’s Slaiby says the industry has learned from problems like the Exxon Valdez spill. Of the total volume of oil, less than 1 percent ends up in the oceans, he says. And, he says, more than 100 exploratory wells have been drilled in U.S. and Canadian Arctic waters without a single accident.

But concern over offshore drilling in Arctic waters doesn’t just center on spills. The Interior Department is also responsible for endangered species. An increasing number of marine mammals and seabirds in the arctic are in decline, and the fear is that the impacts of a warming climate will be compounded by new development.

Species At Risk

Traveling on an icebreaker in the northern Bering Sea, University of Wyoming researcher Jim Lovvorn studies seabirds that breed in the Arctic, including the spectacled eider. On both hands, he counts off other species in danger: Steller’s eiders, king eiders, common eiders, red-throated loons, yellow-billed loons, four species of ice seal, walruses and bowhead whales.

“You could not find a more sensitive habitat,” Lovvorn says.

On the same ship, USGS research ecologist Chad Jay is tracking the Pacific walrus, which is also under consideration for listing as a threatened or endangered species. Reductions in the extent of ice over the past few years have forced walruses onto small pieces of remnant ice.

In 2007, there was no ice at all near the shelf.

“As a result of [ice shelf melting] we saw upwards of 6,000 walruses hauling out along the shore of northwest Alaska, which is the first ever,” Jay says. “It means that a greater number of animals are using a smaller space to forage in and to haul out on — probably not a good thing.”

But the very thing that is cause for concern with regard to walrus and other species in the Arctic is what’s made drilling in these waters more attractive to industry: less sea ice.

Whether and how to balance development of a what is a fragile ecosystem — and what some believe is the next best answer to America’s thirst for oil — poses a major policy decision for the new Department of Interior. Salazar says he doesn’t expect to make everybody happy.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from: Martin Indyk <foreign_policy@brookings.edu>
please reply to:  foreign_policy at brookings.edu

Subject: Brookings Search for a New Energy Security and Climate Initiative Director

THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION – FOREIGN POLICY
 www.brookings.edu/about/employmen….

Please share this job posting with qualified candidates. We appreciate your help in getting the word out to qualified candidates in the energy security and climate policy communities.

Best Regards,

Martin Indyk
Vice President and Director, Foreign Policy
The Brookings Institution

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 26th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from:  Charles Ebinger, Brookings Institution FPEnergySecurity@brookings.edu

New Report: Oil and Gas in the Changing Arctic Region

Dear Colleagues:

The Arctic is changing. A shrinking polar icecap—now 40 percent smaller than it was in 1979—has opened not only new shipping routes, but access to 13 percent and 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas, respectively.

Today, the region’s vast energy, mineral and marine resources draw substantial international and commercial interest.

What can the U.S. do to strengthen the Arctic offshore oil and gas governance regime as it takes over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015?

In a new report, Offshore Oil and Gas Governance in the Arctic: A Leadership Role for the U.S., authors Charles K. Ebinger, John P. Banks, and Alisa Schackmann review the current framework regarding offshore Arctic energy exploration, and recommend efforts the U.S. should take to assert leadership in the region, such as:

  • Establish oil spill prevention and response as a guiding theme for its Arctic Council chairmanship;
  • Appoint a U.S. Arctic ambassador;
  • Accelerate development of Alaska-specific oil and gas standards; and
  • Strengthen bilateral arrangements with Russia and Canada.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Establish oil spill prevention, control, and response as the overarching theme for U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015-2017.
  • Create the diplomatic post of “Arctic Ambassador.”
  • Establish a Regional Bureau for Polar Affairs in the U.S. Department of State.
  • Accelerate the ongoing development of Alaska-specific offshore oil and gas standards and discuss their applicability in bilateral and multilateral forums for the broader Arctic region.
  • Strengthen bilateral regulatory arrangements for the Chukchi Sea with Russia, and the Beaufort Sea with Canada.
  • Support the industry-led establishment of an Arctic-specific resource sharing organization for oil spill response and safety.
  • Support and prioritize the strengthening of the Arctic Council through enhanced thematic coordination of offshore oil and gas issues.
  • Support the establishment of a circumpolar Arctic Regulators Association for Oil and Gas.

 

To learn more, watch this video and read the new policy brief from the Brookings Energy Security Initiative:

www.brookings.edu/ArcticEnergy

 

“I congratulate you and your collaborators on the report and
on the Energy Security Initiative. The active interest and involvement of Brookings in Arctic affairs is, and will be,
of enormous importance for the future development of the region.”

—H.E. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland (written to Dr. Charles Ebinger)


We hope you will find this new report an informative primer on Arctic governance and a dependable reference in discussing Arctic affairs. We encourage your feedback by emailing ESI Project Coordinator Colleen Lowry at clowry@brookings.edu.

Warm regards,

Charles K. Ebinger
Director, Energy Security Initiative at Brookings

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from the goals of the assembly -

 

“The Arctic Circle is nonprofit and nonpartisan. Organizations,  forums, think tanks, corporations and public associations around the world are invited to hold meetings within the Arctic Circle platform to advance their own missions and the broader goal of increasing collaborative decision-making without surrendering their institutional independence.

The Arctic Circle is designed to increase participation in Arctic dialogue and strengthen the international focus on the future of the Arctic. Participating organizations will maintain their full institutional independence, identity and decision-making abilities. To this end, the Arctic Circle aims to create opportunities for everyone to attend different meetings, conduct their own networking and engage in one-on-one informal discussions. Organizations will be able to decide their own agendas and convene their own meetings.”

The Reykjavik 20013 meeting was the Assembly’s Inaugural – to be followed by a 20014 Assembly in a location that was to be decided at a closed meeting following immediately the open 2013 meeting. We post this now because the 2014 meeting was set already – it wil be held at the same place in Reykjavik September 5-7, 2014. Then in 2015 it will move to Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

“Following the meeting, participating organizations will be invited to a brainstorming session to contribute ideas for the 2014 Arctic Circle assembly.”

it said – Eventually – date and location – will be posted on - www.arcus.org/events/arctic-calen…
and   www.state.gov/documents/organizat…

 

NOW THE NEW MATERIAL CAN BE FOUND WITH THE HELP OF INFORMATION WE JUST RECEIVED:

As someone who attended the inaugural Arctic Circle Assembly, held October 12-14, 2013, in Reykjavík, Iceland, you might like to see our latest brief, which summarizes the event and describes the mission and structure of the Arctic Circle.

 

The Assembly attracted more than 1,200 attendees from more than 40 countries and proved to be the most diverse international gathering of its kind.

 

You can download the brief at ArcticCircle.org. We encourage you to share it with interested colleagues and with other individuals and organizations in your network to promote participation at the second annual Assembly.

 

Thank you for participating in the Arctic Circle
and helping advance the dialogue on  these crucial issues.
We look forward to reconvening with you September 5-7, 2014, in Reykjavík.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 1st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The Old Story – With Oil Comes Crime. Development of Oil Resources in Montana and North Dakota Destroys Communities and Environment. Just try to Foresee what the Development of Oil Resources Could do to The Arctic – a region that is even more out of site then above mentioned US States.

QUOTATION OF THE DAY

“It just feels like the modern-day Wild West.”

SGT. KYLAN KLAUZER, an investigator in Dickinson, N.D., on an increase in crime during an oil boom.

 

As Oil Floods Plains Towns, Crime Pours In

By JACK HEALY

 

With the new prosperity, soaring crime rates have come to places in Montana and North Dakota, straining law enforcement resources and shattering the sense of safety.

SIDNEY, Mont. — One cold morning last year, a math teacher jogging through her hometown in eastern Montana was abducted, strangled and buried in a shallow grave. Charged in her death were two drifters from Colorado, drawn to the region by the allure of easy money in the oil fields.

One hundred fifty miles away, in a bustling oil town in North Dakota, a 30-year-old man disappeared one afternoon from the street where he had been putting in water and sewer pipes, leaving behind a lunchbox with his paycheck inside and a family grasping for answers. After months of searching, his mother said she now believes her son is gone, buried somewhere on the high plain.

Stories like these, once rare, have become as common as drilling rigs in rural towns at the heart of one of the nation’s richest oil booms. Crime has soared as thousands of workers and rivers of cash have flowed into towns, straining police departments and shattering residents’ sense of safety.

etc. … etc.

Last year, a study by officials in Montana and North Dakota found that crime had risen by 32 percent since 2005 in communities at the center of the boom. In Watford City, N.D., where mile-long chains of tractor-trailers stack up at the town’s main traffic light, arrests increased 565 percent during that time. In Roosevelt County in Montana, arrests were up 855 percent, and the sheriff, Freedom Crawford, said his jail was so full that he was ticketing and releasing offenders for minor crimes like disorderly conduct.

“I don’t have nowhere to put them,” Sheriff Crawford said.

Officials say that most of the new arrivals are hard workers who are simply looking for better lives, and that much of the increase in crime has resulted from population growth: Waves of new residents inevitably mean more traffic crashes and calls to 911.

Police and sheriff’s departments are responding by hiring more officers, in part with new tax revenue but often not fast enough to keep pace with their booming populations. In Dickinson, for example, the population has surged to an estimated 25,000 from 16,000 in 2000, with new hotels, condominiums and extended-stay inns being built every week. The city’s police department has 38 officers, but Sergeant Klauzer said it would need to add 12 more to keep up with the growth. Each detective’s caseload has doubled. Federal prosecutors say the boom’s riches have attracted opportunists and criminals. Mexican cartels and regional methamphetamine and heroin traffickers have proliferated, hoping to tap the same sources of wealth that have turned farmers into millionaires and shaved unemployment rates to as low as 0.7 percent.

 

“It’s following the money,” said Michael W. Cotter, the United States attorney for Montana. “I hate to call the cartels entrepreneurs, but they’re in the business to make money. There’s a lot of money flying around that part of Montana and North Dakota.”

Federal prosecutors say the boom’s riches have attracted opportunists and criminals. Mexican cartels and regional methamphetamine and heroin traffickers have proliferated, hoping to tap the same sources of wealth that have turned farmers into millionaires and shaved unemployment rates to as low as 0.7 percent.

“It’s following the money,” said Michael W. Cotter, the United States attorney for Montana. “I hate to call the cartels entrepreneurs, but they’re in the business to make money. There’s a lot of money flying around that part of Montana and North Dakota.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 19th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The following I learned, Thursday October 10, 2013, coincidentally at a breakfast meeting of the new series at he Green Tech Investors Forum run by Dr. Gelvin Stevenson and hosted by the New York Offices of the International law Firm Crowell &  Moring.

I said coincidentally because that day I was traveling to Reykjavik, Iceland, for the First International Conference of the Arctic Circle Nations, October 11-14, 2013. This Conference, as it turned out, was mainly concerned in the creation of wealth in the old way, but viewing  now on how it will be possible to using the access to the newly un-covered-of-ice waters and lands of the Arctic.

There could not have been a more contrasting set of visions then those exposed at the Manhattan event and the general spirit that drove the organizers of the Harpa Conference Center at the Reykjavik event. These two events will bring me back to post about pure SUSTAINABILITY after having lately been focused rather on the melt-down of the United States that to me was a much more frightening perspective then the climate change induced melting of the ice-caps at the three poles.

In the present posting I will be dealing with concepts put forward by Mr. Jigar Shah, the Star speaker at the Manhattan event. This will  follow  material from the other presenters before the Green Tech Investors Forum. Then, in following postings, I will be dealing with specifics from the Reykjavik meeting, and I foresee a series of postings about what can create Sustainable Wealth and what can be seen rather as a throw-back to past mistakes.

DSCI0056

——————————————————————————-

we already posted:

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 10th, 2013

- See more at: www.sustainabilitank.info/2013/04…

 

and the full program of the Conference/meeting as provided several days before the event and which we posted October 10th so I could provide the link to the people present at the Manhattan event:

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 10th, 2013

- See more at: www.sustainabilitank.info/2013/10…

——————————————————————————–

The Manhattan meeting was about a new company that has new proprietary technology or billing purpose – “Simply Grid” – it provides a solution for on-demand access to electricity.

The company’s proprietary technology includes a custom engineered controller which is deployed either within industry standard electric charging stations or as an augmentation to standard in-wall electrical outlets, and an Internet based management and billing system which allows for the automated initiation/termination of electric service via mobile app or text message, monitoring of usage, and billing. 

Simply Grid focuses on three markets: the mobile food industry, marinas and RV parks, and personal electronics in cafes and other public spaces.

 There are over 25,000 food carts and food trucks in the US, and they are expanding rapidly. Their legacy source of energy, gas or diesel powered generators, is expensive, polluting and noisy. Simply Grid’s solution – usually a four-foot high pedestal – enables private lot managers and municipalities to provide electricity to these vendors at a significant cost savings while providing a more pleasant environment for their customers.

 

 Simply Grid has a pilot in Union Square, midtown Manhattan, – with a food-cart vendor – Rafiqi’s – on the north side of the Square – in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office, ConEd, and NYC Department of Transportation. Additionally, the company has already deployments at food truck parks in Austin, TX and Atlanta, GA.

 

 Food carts’ portable generators—used by about 60% of all food carts—emit twenty times more particulate matter and other asthma-causing pollutants than NYC’s electric supply.

Simply Grid’s technology allows lot owners and municipalities to provide grid electricity to them, which makes them cleaner, quieter, and more profitable.

Electricity is made available to these vendors via outlets in industry standard electricity pedestals which have been customized with proprietary metering controllers. The controllers connect wireless to Simply Grid’s cloud-based platform which manages customer accounts, metering, and billing.

The system allows vendors  on city streets and RV lots to initiate service with their mobile phones and connect to the electric grid with cables they already use with their generators.The food vendors will be able to sell electricity to electric vehicles – cars, bikes etc. This will help clean up the air in cities by making it more feasible to use electric vehicles. Obviously, the electricity supply is a separate topic – but the decreased dependence on diesel and gasoline is clear. In this respect it is a company that does not only owe its success to efforts to decrease effects that cause global warming i.e. the use of petroleum products, but it also provides new lines of income to vendors of other services, and economically thus creates “CLIMATE WEALTH.”

The speakers at the meeting were SIMPLY GRID officials -Mike Dubrovsky; CEO, Jeffrey Hoffman,  COO;  Samuel Abbay, Co-Founder and Co-CEO. Present, and separate speaker, was partner and initiator of the “CREATING CLIMATE WEALTH” concept Jigar Shah who made already a lot of money when he created “SunEdison” – now a very successful company with billions in sales, and which he sold so he can go on creating new ideas and companies.

Creating Climate Wealth guru, Jigar Shah, is the real focus of this posting, and his just released manual – the book that is part autobiography and part blue-print for the future is:

“CREATING CLIMATE WEALTH: UNLOCKING THE IMPACT ECONOMY” caries ISBN: 978-0-9893531-0-6 – ICOSA publishing - www.icosamedia.com/publishing. It costs $21.95 and is a true manual.

Further information at www.creatingClimateWealth.com

—————————————————————–

Carl Pope, the former Executive Director of Sierra Club, writes among those that recommend this book – “Shah shows that a new massive wealth opportunity is at our fingertips, linking sustainability and economic development.”

We completely subscribe to this and must remark that Jigar Shah was able to show that the innovative management ideas that he promotes are not dependent on new technologies but rather on the imagination that frees us to use beneficially existing technologies in novel ways – this without government subsidies and rather in a pure private enterprise way. Obviously, this can be made possible only if government does not insist in interfering by supporting existing interests opposed to change.

“Creating Climate Wealth” introduces the general idea that natural resources fail us if we do not start a development with the concept that we want to answer a need, rather then pushing the sale of an exhaustible stash of resources – i.e. found fossil fuels or minerals.

Following that, we get the example of the creation of the SunEdison Company that came about to answer the need for cheap locally produced electricity, and eventually leads to the creation of the new company, the subjet of the October 10th meeting – “SimplyGrid” – that will eventually sell Renewable Energy via a smart grid. All this to be done by private investors that all what they need is non-interference from the government.

The important thing is that Jigar Shah is an entrepreneur who grew up in a home where his parents were already steeped in the spirit of entrepreneurship. JIGAR IS OUT TO MAKE MONEY IN A CLEVER WAY – AS SAID BY INNOVATING MANAGEMENT SO HE ANSWERS A TRUE NEED EFFICIENTLY AND AT LOWER COSTS THEN THE COMPETITION. Further, he structures his business plan so that all what he needs is a good client and he does not involve the client in his building the company.

SunEdison takes advantage of the vast roof space of large companies and puts there photovoltaics built with -off-the-shelf parts.
No waiting here for improvements that might take years, and no talk here of experimentation.

The client does not invest a penny – only agrees to buy the electricity at a price well below what it costs him today. Jigar finds the investors outside the product buying company and totally without government help except that he must make sure that existing electricity production companies do not cause the government to grant them a monopoly that would not allow this upstart to sell electricity. This is not a theoretical comment – it is rather a description of the sick US economy.

To get the details of this innovative way of doing business. and to realize the deep thoughts that went into Jigar’s choice of companies which he approached first, and the financial backers which he approached so that this will be a growing company with ever increasing revenues and financing, rather then a one time shot by a wise guy – please go to the sources which I presented here.

I read the book on the plane ride to Reykjavik, so it helped me be a little more critical of what I heard there.

 

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 3rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


From the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund

Polar Bears Going Hungry as Arctic Ice Diminishes.

Don’t Let the Koch Brothers Win.

Dear Pincas,

High summer temperatures are melting away Arctic ice at alarming levels. And in response, Alaska’s polar bears are going without food for longer and longer.

Meanwhile, a recent report by American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop has uncovered that billionaire fossil fuel tycoons, Charles and David Koch, have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to block climate change legislation. {David Koch also eliminated the New York City Opera from the Lincoln Center and bought the right to rename the building for himself. Lots of things you can do with Oil-Money. Just look at the Washington Post that allowed itself – for everybody to see – to be bought by the American Petroleum Institute. That is our own comment.}

The two brothers are creating a network of climate change-denier groups of unprecedented size and scope, and are even persuading many members of Congress to sign a pledge to vote against any meaningful bill to combat climate change.

We’re running out of time to make a critical difference for polar bears’ future. Please speak up for starving polar bears today!

Despite obstacles created by the “Koch Brothers,” who have made billions off of polluting our planet, this summer marked a turning point in the fight for polar bears’ future.

In response to pressure from people like you, President Obama recently released a bold new plan to address climate change. The President’s plan includes supporting Environmental Protection Agency limits to carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants—and it is not a minute too soon for polar bears.

But, the Koch Brothers’ are using their influence in Congress to try to block limits on carbon pollution. That’s why we must act quickly to tell our members of Congress to let the Environmental Protection Agency do its job.

Arctic ice hit a record low last summer—and it is looking bad again this year. Scientists expect polar bears will once again be forced to wait long into the fall before ice returns near Alaska, where the bears so desperately need ice platforms to hunt for food.

The lengthening wait for sea ice to freeze is dire for polar bear cubs and the polar bear moms who need more time on the ice to hunt for enough seals to sustain themselves and their young.

Unless Big Polluters and their allies in Congress stop attacking the Environmental Protection Agency, the President may not be able to put his new plan into action—and it could be too late for our polar bears.

From:
Andy Buchsbaum
Interim Executive Director, NWF Action Fund
 info at nwa.org

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 18th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A lot has happened in the last week. The Earth hit the 400 parts per million CO2 threshold for the first time in human history. Scientists tell us this is bad news if we want to prevent runaway climate change. “If we continue to burn fossil fuels at accelerating rates, if we continue with business as usual, we will cross the 450 parts per million limit in a matter of maybe a couple decades,” scientist Michael Mann told Democracy Now! “We believe that with that amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, we commit to what can truly be described as dangerous and irreversible changes in our climate.”

 

 

 

May 17, 2013  | from Tara Lohan on AlterNet

If you didn’t know this already, we should be listening to Mann and to other scientists. I thought this was settled a long time ago, but someone keeps giving print space to climate deniers, so a new survey of 12,000 peer-reviewed studies on the climate was just completed and the not-so-shocking conclusion was this, as Mother Nature Network reports:

 

Published this week in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the analysis shows an overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that humans are a key contributor to climate change, while a “vanishingly small proportion” defy this consensus. Most of the climate papers didn’t specifically address humanity’s involvement — likely because it’s considered a given in scientific circles, the survey’s authors point out — but of the 4,014 that did, 3,896 shared the mainstream outlook that people are largely to blame.

 

In light of this news, it makes it even more infuriating to see that the Obama administration has spent the week prostrating to the fossil fuel lobby. Here are four disturbing things the administration’s been up to.

 

1. Moniz Hearts Fracking

 

Obama tapped nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz to head the Energy Department and the Senate gave a big thumbs-up to Moniz on Thursday. Many environmental groups had concerns that Moniz was too pro-fracking, and those concerns are clearly warranted. Moniz’s first order of business Friday was to clear the way for 20 years of liquified natural gas exports via Freeport LNG Terminal on Quintana Island, Texas.

 

Of course, we’ve already been sold the story that we’re suposed to frack the crap out of the country in the name of energy security, but we knew all along it was for industry profit, right? Brad Jacobson recently detailed for AlterNet about how Congress members are clamoring for export plans to be fast-tracked — although what Americans will get out of the deal
will be higher gas prices and less energy security.

 

2. Thanks for Nothing, Sally

 

While the nomination of Moniz disappointed many environmentalists, some were cheered by REI exec Sally Jewell taking over the Interior Department. Those same folks might not be cheering after Jewell announced the Bureau of Land Management’s newest regulations (or lack thereof) for fracking on our public lands.

 

As Sierra Club’s Michael Brune reported Friday:

The new rules are disappointing for many reasons: Drillers won’t be required to disclose what chemicals they’re using, there is no requirement for baseline water testing, and there are no setback requirements to govern how close to homes and schools drilling can happen. Once again, though, the policy documents an even bigger failure to grasp a fundamental principle: If we’re serious about the climate crisis, then the last thing we should be doing is opening up still more federal land to drilling and fracking for fossil fuels.

 

3. No Time for Farmers

The group Bold Nebraska reported this week that Obama turned down an invitation to hear from Nebraska farmers and ranchers about their concerns that the Keystone XL pipeline could destroy their livelihoods. Of course, the President is a busy guy, right? And besides, the White House said he was not “taking any meetings on the pipeline.”

Or is he? The group writes:

Bold Nebraska was therefore surprised the President is meeting with staff at Ellicott Dredges, a company that just testified in Congress in support of Keystone XL and makes equipment that creates the tailing ponds, which are massive bodies of polluted water and a byproduct of the tar sands mining process.

“I simply do not understand why President Obama can find the time to visit a company that helps hold 12 million liters of toxic tar sands water but cannot find the time to visit ranchers who put over $12 billion of Nebraska-grown food on Americans’ dinner tables every year,” said Meghan Hammond, a young farmer whose family land is at risk with the current route in Nebraska.

 

4. Who Needs the Arctic? (Hint: We Do)

Subhankar Banerjee, a photographer and longtime Arctic activist, was recently appalled by a new report from the Obama administration on the future of the Arctic. And the rest of us should be, too. Banerjee writes about the report:

“Our pioneering spirit is naturally drawn to this region, for the economic opportunities it presents…” President Obama hides his excitement for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean by carefully choosing the euphemism—“economic opportunities.”

In page 7 the true intent of the report is finally revealed: “The region holds sizable proved and potential oil and natural gas resources that will likely continue to provide valuable supplies to meet U.S. energy needs.”

Of course the report mentions protecting the environment, but gives no specific details.

 

We know that Obama talks a good talk about climate protection, but his second term has proven thus far that he’s completely out of touch with reality. You can’t hit 400 ppm CO2 and still think “all of the above” is a rationale energy strategy.

 ————————————-

Tara Lohan, a senior editor at AlterNet, has just launched the new project Hitting Home, chronicling extreme energy extraction. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis, including most recently, Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource.                            Follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 10th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 
The Arctic Circle, New Assembly for 
International Cooperation on Arctic Issues 
To Be Inaugurated in Reykjavík, Iceland, October 12-14, 2013
_______
 
Learn More About Arctic Challenges and Opportunities
at the National Press Club Newsmakers Luncheon
with Iceland’s President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson,
U.S. and Arctic Partners 
 

Iceland’s President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson will address 

Arctic world challenges on April 15 at 12:30 p.m. 

at the Holeman Lounge of the National Press Club, 

529 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 20045.

 

Grímsson will be joined by other distinguished initiators to announce a new assembly to promote collaboration among Arctic and international partners. The mission of the Arctic Circle is to convene a diverse group of stakeholders in an annual gathering to facilitate dialogue and build relationships to confront the Arctic’s greatest challenges.

 

As the fastest-warming place on Earth, the Arctic is moving to the center of the geopolitical stage. It is playing an increasingly important role in globalization, economic development, energy exploration, environ­mental protection and international security. Various plans for resource utilization and new sea routes linking Asia to Europe and America in a new way have led to an increased focus on the region.

 

In the past, the region did not matter to the world’s decision-makers and was largely forgotten. Now, with sea ice levels at their lowest point in recorded history, the world is waking up to the challenges and opportunities the Arctic presents for its citizens as well

as for people in other parts of the world.

 

Rapid changes in the Arctic have led to a critical need for a new and inclusive international dialogue. To that end, the Arctic Circle will convene for the first time in Iceland at Harpa Reykjavík Concert and Conference Centre on October 12-14, 2013, to discuss issues that impact the global commons, including:

 

* Sea ice melt and extreme weather

* Security implications

* Fisheries and ecosystem management

* Shipping and transportation

* Natural resources

 

The Arctic Circle will be an open venue for institutions, organizations, forums, think tanks, corporations and public associations to hold their meetings or events without surrendering their independence or decision-making abilities. The assembly will meet in a different Arctic location each year.

 

The purpose of the Arctic Circle will be to assist and further such meetings by maximizing attendance and strengthening the opportunities open to everyone to attend different meetings and conduct their own networking events. The unique arts and cultural attributes of the Arctic will also be presented through a variety of performances, exhibitions and programs.

 

To attend the public luncheon, please visit the NPC online.
______


To learn about how you can participate in the Arctic Circle, 
visit us online and join our mailing list for updates.
______
 
Visit the Arctic Wire for News from the North, sponsored 
by Alice Rogoff, co-founder of The Arctic Circle

and publisher of the Alaska Dispatch.

 

Contact the Office of the President for information about Iceland.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 30th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Protecting “America’s Fish Basket.”

Officially known as Bristol Bay, this area in Alaska–the epicenter of half of the U.S. production of seafood–is a target for oil and gas development.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is working to stop the industrial development so that the bay’s wildlife, including 15 species of whale and one of the world’s largest concentrations of seabirds, can thrive. For many Native Americans living in Alaska, the bay’s fish, wildlife and plants are a significant part of their culture and a primary source of sustenance.

It is estimated that the bay’s fishery could generate almost $215 billion over 40 years–far more than the federal government’s estimate of $7.7 billion in oil and gas revenue from the region that could be generated during the same time period.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 22nd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

World superpowers are about to get a brand new coast

The broad, open ocean of the brand new North Coast has lots of governments and companies already planning for the economic and strategic possibilities.

Read more. ————————–

‘Chasing Ice’ lets you watch the Arctic glaciers disappear before your eyes. Feel better?

A new documentary film follows an intrepid team of photographers as they set out to capture, and communicate, the awesome violence of climate change.

Read more. ———————————–

Hawaii is overflowing with solar power because it’s obnoxiously perfect

This is why everyone hates Hawaii. Things like this.

Read more.

——————————————————————————————————–

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 10th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Justices to Revisit Voting Act in View of a Changing South

By
The New York Times – Published: November 9, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would take a fresh look at the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the signature legacies of the civil rights movement.

——————–

Related in Opinion  - Editorial: A Supreme Test on the Right to Vote (November 10, 2012)

——————–

Three years ago, the court signaled that part of the law may no longer be needed, and the law’s challengers said the re-election of the nation’s first black president is proof that the nation has moved beyond the racial divisions that gave rise to efforts to protect the integrity of elections in the South.

The law “is stuck in a Jim Crow-era time warp,” said Edward P. Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, a small legal foundation that helped organize the suit.

Civil rights leaders, on the other hand, pointed to the role the law played in the recent election, with courts relying on it to block voter identification requirements and cutbacks on early voting.

“In the midst of the recent assault on voter access, the Voting Rights Act is playing a pivotal role beating back discriminatory voting measures,” said Debo P. Adegbile, the acting president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on the law, expected by June, could reshape how elections are conducted.

The case concerns Section 5 of the law, which requires many state and local governments, mostly in the South, to obtain permission, or “preclearance,” from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes that affect voting. Critics of the law call the preclearance requirement a unique federal intrusion on state sovereignty and a badge of shame for the affected jurisdictions that is no longer justified.

The preclearance requirement, originally set to expire in five years, was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1966 as a rational response to the often flagrantly lawless conduct of some Southern officials then.

Congress has repeatedly extended the requirement: for 5 years in 1970, 7 years in 1975, and 25 years in 1982. Congress renewed the act in 2006 after holding extensive hearings on the persistence of racial discrimination at the polls, again extending the preclearance requirement for 25 years.

But it made no changes to the list of jurisdictions covered by Section 5, relying instead on a formula based on historical practices and voting data from elections held decades ago. It applies to nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states.

Should the court rule that Congress was not entitled to rely on outdated data to decide which jurisdictions should be covered, lawmakers could in theory go back to the drawing board and re-enact the law using fresher information. In practice, given the political realities, a decision striking down the coverage formula would probably amount to the end of Section 5.

In May, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a challenge to the law filed by Shelby County, Ala. Judge David S. Tatel, writing for the majority, acknowledged that “the extraordinary federalism costs imposed by Section 5 raise substantial constitutional concerns,” and he added that the record compiled by Congress to justify the law’s renewal was “by no means unambiguous.”

“But Congress drew reasonable conclusions from the extensive evidence it gathered,” he went on. The constitutional amendments ratified after the Civil War, he said, “entrust Congress with ensuring that the right to vote — surely among the most important guarantees of political liberty in the Constitution — is not abridged on account of race. In this context, we owe much deference to the considered judgment of the people’s elected representatives.”

The dissenting member of the panel, Judge Stephen F. Williams, surveyed recent evidence concerning registration and turnout, the election of black officials, the use of federal election observers and suits under another part of the law.

Some of that evidence, he said, “suggests that the coverage formula completely lacks any rational connection to current levels of voter discrimination,” while other evidence indicates that the formula, “though not completely perverse, is a remarkably bad fit with Congress’s concerns.”

“Given the drastic remedy imposed on covered jurisdictions by Section 5,” he wrote, “I do not believe that such equivocal evidence can sustain the scheme.”

The Supreme Court has already once considered the constitutionality of the 2006 extension of the law in a 2009 decision, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. But it avoided answering the central question, and it seemed to give Congress an opportunity to make adjustments. Congress did not respond.

At the argument of the 2009 case, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy questioned whether the distinctions drawn in the 2006 law reflect contemporary realities.

“Congress has made a finding that the sovereignty of Georgia is less than the sovereign dignity of Ohio,” Justice Kennedy said. “The sovereignty of Alabama is less than the sovereign dignity of Michigan. And the governments in one are to be trusted less than the governments in the other.”

“No one questions the validity, the urgency, the essentiality of the Voting Rights Act,” he added. “The question is whether or not it should be continued with this differentiation between the states. And that is for Congress to show.”

In the end, the court, in an 8-to-1 decision, ducked the central question and ruled instead on a narrow statutory ground, saying the utility district in Austin, Tex., that had challenged the constitutionality of the law might be eligible to “bail out” from being covered by it. Still, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, was skeptical about the continued need for Section 5.

“The historic accomplishments of the Voting Rights Act are undeniable,” he wrote. But “things have changed in the South.

“Voter turnout and registration rates now approach parity,” he wrote. “Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.

“The statute’s coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old,” he added,“and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions.”

Having said all of that, and acknowledging that the court’s alternative ruling had stretched the text of the statute, Chief Justice Roberts said the court should avoid deciding hard constitutional questions when it could. “Whether conditions continue to justify such legislation is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today,” he wrote.

On Friday, in agreeing to hear the case, Shelby County v. Holder, No. 12-96, the court indicated that it is prepared to provide an answer to the question it left open three years ago.

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The New York Times Editorial

A Supreme Test on the Right to Vote

Published: November 9, 2012

The Supreme Court decided on Friday to review Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which has been crucial in combating efforts to disenfranchise minority voters. The justices should uphold the validity of the section, which requires nine states and parts of several others with deep histories of racial discrimination to get permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to their voting rules.


The case, Shelby County v. Holder, was brought by an Alabama county, which contends that Section 5 intrudes unconstitutionally on the sovereign authority of states and that federal review of proposed voting changes, once needed to end legal segregation, is no longer required.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Just this year, Republican efforts to block the votes of minorities and the poor — which were rejected again and again by federal judges relying on the Voting Rights Act, including Section 5 — have made that utterly clear.

Judge John Bates of Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, rejected Shelby County’s challenge last year, noting that Congress, in renewing the section in 2006, found that “40 years has not been a sufficient amount of time to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination.”

In May, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld his ruling, saying that discrimination in voting is “one of the gravest evils that Congress can seek to redress” and that Congress’s painstaking research in its renewal of Section 5 (22 hearings and 15,000 pages of evidence) “deserves judicial deference.”

In another voting rights case in 2009, the Supreme Court said there were “serious constitutional questions” about whether Section 5 meets a current need. That comment left some legal experts with the impression that the court came close to striking down the provision. But the justices did not do so in that case, and they have even less reason to in this case. Overt discrimination clearly persists and remains pernicious in places like Shelby County.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 20th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low That Leads to Warnings.

By
Published by The New York Times on September 19, 2012

The drastic melting of Arctic sea ice has finally ended for the year, scientists announced Wednesday, but not before demolishing the previous record — and setting off new warnings about the rapid pace of change in the region.

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Green

A blog about energy and the environment.

NASA, via Reuters

A NASA image shows how the record-low Arctic sea ice extent compares with the average minimum extent over the past 30 years, in yellow.

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The apparent low point for 2012 was reached Sunday, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which said that sea ice that day covered about 1.32 million square miles, or 24 percent, of the surface of the Arctic Ocean. The previous low, set in 2007, was 29 percent.

When satellite tracking began in the late 1970s, sea ice at its lowest point in the summer typically covered about half the Arctic Ocean, but it has been declining in fits and starts over the decades.

“The Arctic is the earth’s air-conditioner,” said Walt Meier, a research scientist at the snow and ice center, an agency sponsored by the government. “We’re losing that. It’s not just that polar bears might go extinct, or that native communities might have to adapt, which we’re already seeing — there are larger climate effects.”

His agency waited a few days before announcing the low to be sure sea ice had started to refreeze, as it usually does at this time of year, when winter closes in rapidly in the high Arctic. A shell of ice will cover much of the Arctic Ocean in coming months, but it is likely to be thin and prone to melting when summer returns.

Scientists consider the rapid warming of the region to be a consequence of the human release of greenhouse gases, and they see the melting as an early warning of big changes to come in the rest of the world.

Some of them also think the collapse of Arctic sea ice has already started to alter atmospheric patterns in the Northern Hemisphere, contributing to greater extremes of weather in the United States and other countries, but that case is not considered proven.

The sea ice is declining much faster than had been predicted in the last big United Nations report on the state of the climate, published in 2007. The most sophisticated computer analyses for that report suggested that the ice would not disappear before the middle of this century, if then.

Now, some scientists think the Arctic Ocean could be largely free of summer ice as soon as 2020. But governments have not responded to the change with any greater urgency about limiting greenhouse emissions. To the contrary, their main response has been to plan for exploitation of newly accessible minerals in the Arctic, including drilling for more oil.

Scientists said Wednesday that the Arctic has become a prime example of the built-in conservatism of their climate forecasts. As dire as their warnings about the long-term consequences of heat-trapping emissions have been, many of them fear they may still be underestimating the speed and severity of the impending changes.

In a panel discussion on Wednesday in New York sponsored by Greenpeace, the environmental group, James E. Hansen, a prominent NASA climate scientist, said the Arctic melting should serve as a warning to the public of the risks that society is running by failing to limit emissions.

“The scientific community realizes that we have a planetary emergency,” Dr. Hansen said. “It’s hard for the public to recognize this because they stick their head out the window and don’t see that much going on.”

A prime concern is the potential for a large rise in the level of the world’s oceans. The decline of Arctic sea ice does not contribute directly to that problem, since the ice is already floating and therefore displacing its weight in water.

But the disappearance of summer ice cover replaces a white, reflective surface with a much darker ocean surface, allowing the region to trap more of the sun’s heat, which in turn melts more ice. The extra heat in the ocean appears to be contributing to an accelerating melt of the nearby Greenland ice sheet, which does contribute to the rise in sea level.

At one point this summer, surface melt was occurring across 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet, a development not seen before in the era of satellite measurements, although geological research suggests that it has happened in the past.

The sea is now rising at a rate of about a foot per century, but scientists like Dr. Hansen expect this rate to increase as the planet warms, putting coastal settlements at risk.

A scientist at the snow and ice center, Julienne C. Stroeve, took a ride on a Greenpeace ship recently to inspect the Arctic Ocean for herself. Interviewed this week after pulling into port at the island of Spitsbergen, she said one of her goals had been to debark on ice floes and measure them, but that it had been difficult to find any large enough to support her weight.

Ice floes were numerous in spots, she said, but “when we got further into the ice pack, there were just large expanses of open water.”

A version of this article appeared in print on September 20, 2012, on page A8 of the New York edition with the headline: Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low That Leads to Warnings.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 17th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Dear Pincas,

It’s been an amazing fight. And, thanks to your efforts, oil companies have abandoned drilling for oil in America’s Arctic Ocean – at least until next year.

Shell Oil announced today that it is drastically scaling back its oil drilling operation this year in the Arctic, focusing instead on preparations for next year’s drilling season. This move happened after its oil spill containment dome suffered damage during sea trials which occurred off the comparatively mild coast of Washington and not in the extreme, sea ice conditions of the Arctic.

As predicted, Shell’s untested, unproven cleanup and safety equipment failed – even outside of the Arctic’s extreme conditions.

Our partners in the Arctic are ready to fight another day, and truly appreciate all that your letters, calls, commitment and dedication have accomplished.  So please, take a moment to picture that beautiful, endless, pristine Arctic, and the wildlife and people that depend on it, and let out your own whoop of joy for a job well done.

We will continue to fight corporate giants like Shell Oil who remain intent to despoil the few natural treasures we have left. Soon, I will ask you once again to raise your voice in solidarity with our Inupiat allies on America’s Arctic coast, as we continue our multifaceted, far-reaching effort to keep the Arctic healthy and whole for future generations. And I will ask you to continue to fight until Arctic conservation eclipses any and all Arctic development.

But right now, I’m writing to ask you to join me in celebrating – we could only have accomplished this together. Thank you for making this moment possible and for reminding the corporate goliaths like Shell that the Arctic belongs to all of us.

Together for our Arctic future,

Cindy Shogan

Alaska Wilderness League

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