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Posted on on April 14th, 2018
by Pincas Jawetz (

This month, the Trump administration gave oil companies the chance to identify spots they’d like to drill in the Beaufort Sea – a region predominantly off-limits to development. This request is another massive step towards new oil and gas drilling in Arctic waters full of beluga and bowhead whales, Arctic seals and walrus.

The good news is, you can speak up too! Please oppose new lease sales in the Arctic Ocean today.

Risky Arctic Ocean drilling isn’t about needing new oil. It is about sacrificing our Arctic Ocean and damaging our climate to bolster a struggling administration shackled to its oil allies. We should not rush forward with new leasing when a single spill would devastate wildlife and local communities, and take us further down a path of climate disaster.

Please speak out against new drilling leases in the wildlife-rich Beaufort Sea.

No lease sales should take place in the Arctic Ocean. Time and time again, millions of people across the country have determined that it’s too risky and dirty to take any chances with these fragile waters.

Thank you,
Arctic Campaign Manager



Posted on on April 3rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

NEWSWEEK — Tech & Science

Scientists Plan to Freeze a Ship into the Arctic Icepack

By Zoë Schlanger On 4/2/16 at 10:22 PM

Multi-year sea ice with drainage channels is seen on August 23, 2012 in a photo taken at Nunavut, Canada. Ice floes are in Larsen Sound, part of the Northwest Passage. (Pat and Rosemarie Keough/Corbis)

Winter in the Arctic is changing rapidly—scientists recently broke the news that the sea ice in the far north covered the puniest area of ocean ever recorded this winter. But it’s still unclear how, exactly, these changes are taking place. That’s partly because most research voyages can only be made in the summer, when waters are navigable and temperatures bearable. But the long, dark days of winter, when weather is erratic and temperatures can drop to -50 degrees Fahrenheit, and massive ice floes make navigation dangerous, are exactly when Matthew Shupe wants to be there most.

So Shupe, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and a team of experts from several countries and multiple disciplines are working on a plan to freeze a ship full of researchers into the winter ice itself. They’ll arrive at a spot in the northern latitudes in a warmer month and let the winter ice freeze around them. Then they’ll float with the ice pack for an entire year, taking a wide range of measurements from within, beneath and above the ice block as they go. They hope to assemble a comprehensive set of data that would be impossible to collect from anywhere but within the ice itself.

There are dozens of questions for which the scientific world still doesn’t have answers about what’s going on in the Arctic now, Shupe says. “We know very little about clouds, about aerosols in the atmosphere, and the biological activity that’s happening in winter,” all elements that have the potential to change the way models about sea ice are built. Plus there’s the question of the changing ice itself: “If the ice pack is thinner, does it crack in the same way? Does it move in the same way? And does it transfer more heat down to the ocean?”

Shupe hopes to study the impact of clouds on the ice from aboard the frozen-in ship, dubbed the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC). “Clouds are one of the huge uncertainties we have, because they’re a very strong control on what energy [from the sun] reaches the surface,” he says. In one respect, more cloud cover could act as a shield, preventing sun from reaching the ice. But on the other hand, it might act as a blanket, keeping the heat trapped closer to the ice. The bright white surface of Arctic ice is “very reflective,” he says, which helps the ice stay colder; but if the sun’s energy bounces off the ice and then gets trapped below the clouds, that cooling mechanism could be sabotaged.

The team is currently planning the trip, slated for 2019, and securing the approximately $65 million in funding it will take to deploy a ship full of 90 people in the hostile Arctic for 13 months. Some pieces are already coming together; The Alfred Wegener Institute, a German research institute, has already committed their icebreaker vessel to the mission, with a medical team and a kitchen staff. (“We’ll be eating some good German food,” Shupe says.)
Plus the U.S. Department of Energy plans to provide a suite of instruments to take measurements.

Another research team, from Norway, froze a converted fishing vessel in the Arctic Ocean’s sea last year, but MOSAiC will be involve the largest research vessel to embark on a mission like this, and be the most comprehensive in terms of the scope of information it hopes to collect. MOSAiC will have everyone from oceanographers, to physicists, to biogeochemists, to sea ice scientists on board. “There’s a lot of different people with different perspectives,” he says, and it might just help solve the long list of mysteries about an Arctic in flux.



Posted on on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

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.

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.


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.

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.


Posted on on January 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

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?


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.


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.


Posted on on January 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

from: Martin Indyk
please reply to:  foreign_policy at

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


Dear Colleague,

We hope you can help spread the word about an exciting career opportunity at The Brookings Institution. We are currently searching for a new director of our Energy Security and Climate Initiative, who will also serve as a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Program at Brookings. The candidate should have expertise in energy security, energy economics or climate policy, as well as a detailed knowledge of U.S. and international energy markets. An expertise in the geopolitics of energy, energy sustainability and/or climate change are essential, and regional expertise in Asia or the Middle East is preferred. Outstanding written and oral communication skills in English are required; fluency in relevant regional languages is desirable.

Applicants must apply online, submitting a full resume complete with a list of publications plus a description of research interests and priorities. For more information about this position, go to:….

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


Posted on on June 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


In the run-up to the 2014 June 4th celebration of Earth Day – which is also the UNEP birthday, the UN Information Service Vienna (UNIS) showed last night the documentary film “CHASING ICE” – by Jeff Orlowski who worked with material supplied to him by The National Geographic.

It was in the spring of 2005 when acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed with a team of heroes to capture visual evidence that the Arctic and an assortment of  glaciers are melting as Planet Earth’s Climate is changing – this as the biggest human effect on the physical aspects of the planet.

They did this by setting up cameras to capture on film – on single shots once a month – and on video cameras ongoing calving of the ice.  These are actual scenes of mountains of ice disappearing under our eyes and visual evidence of the receding glaciers. The pictures were shown to country delegates at the Climate Convention in Copenhagen – UNFCCC 15.

At the end of the showing, the best panel Austria could offer – discussed the meaning of what we saw, and from the audience the subject was enlarged with observations that in real life today there are factors within the Arctic Circle Council that view positively the melting of the ice caps, as this allows for access to riches of oil, gas, minerals … and the opening up of important navigation channels. On the other hand, Small Island States in the Pacific might just vanish like the glaciers do. All this as the water that originates from the melting ice swells the seas and changes patterns of rains and storms affecting the whole planet.

The members of the panel chaired by Mr. Martin Nesirky, Acting Director of  the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna – that discussed the movie – included:

Mr. Harald Egerer, UNEP Vienna – Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention ,
Mr. Helmut Hojesky, Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management,
Prof. Helga Kromp-Kolb, University of Natural Resources and  Applied Life Sciences (BOKU).




Posted on on February 8th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


Call for papers, The legal issues associated with the development and use of Arctic energy resources, Tromsø, September 2014.

from:  Nigel Bankes

 February 7, 2014


25-26 September 2014

Call for Papers


The legal issues associated with the development and use of Arctic energy resources



The Faculty of Law, at the University of Tromsø in conjunction with the K.G. Jebsen Centre for the Law of the Sea is pleased to announce the call for papers for the energy law conference on “The legal issues associated with the development and use of energy resources in the Arctic”.


You are invited to submit proposals to present a paper addressing the conference theme, broadly construed.

Without intending to be prescriptive, examples of topics that would fall within the scope of the conference include legal issues (domestic and international law) related to any of the following in an Arctic context:

the role of strategic and project-specific environmental assessments;

energy markets;

energy security in an Arctic context;

energy relations between the EU and Russia;

the energy relations of Nordic States;

energy relations between the EU and Arctic states;

the role of renewables in the Arctic including wind, geothermal, tidal; non-conventional energy resources such as gas hydrates;

the oil and gas leasing regimes of Arctic states; infrastructure issues (transmission lines and pipelines);

navigation and other law of the sea issues associated with getting Arctic resources to market; liability issues and liability regimes for energy projects; insurance issues; project financing issues;

delimitation of maritime zones and the management of transboundary hydrocarbon resources;

extended continental shelf claims;

energy resource projects on indigenous lands; social licence to operate;

climate change issues (e.g. regulation of black carbon); Arctic energy resources and endangered species;

energy as a human right;

energy efficiency;

regional governance issues (e.g. the role of the Arctic Council, OSPAR etc).


Proposals will be considered by the conference convenors on the basis of academic merit and policy significance and fit with the conference theme. Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be submitted to the convenors by April 30, 2014. Abstracts should be sent to


We anticipate (depending on numbers) being able to cover the costs of hotel accommodation and meals for those selected to present papers.


For more information on the conference please visit our website or contact


Posted on on January 8th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


Colder Winters Caused by a Warmer Planet

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

08 January 14


“Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

et’s play a game – it’s called “How long can CNN talk about a freak wave of arctic weather across more than half the country without saying the words ‘climate change?'” I watched for 30 minutes today without hearing one mention of it, but I’m not sure if that means I win or the rest of the world loses as we continue to neglect the one thing that may do us in before anything else.

Not Just a Fluke

As I write this, it’s warmer in Siberia than it is in Chicago. It’s warmer in Anchorage, Alaska, than in Atlanta, Georgia. Sixty-eight percent of the continental US is covered by a wave of arctic temperatures that normally don’t travel below Northern Canada. The official explanation for this is a bizarre “polar vortex” that’s causing arctic temperatures to be pushed south.

The polar vortex is always present in the Arctic, but strengthens in the winter and grows weaker in the summer. The vortex itself is a natural occurrence, but occasionally the jet stream pushes it further south than normal. And as the arctic grows warmer at a rapid rate, cold snaps like the one sweeping half the country will become more frequent. The jet stream pushing the polar vortex south in the winter may be more than just a fluke if rapid climate change continues.

Rapid Arctic Ice Melts

Odd patterns from the jet stream were also responsible for the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan during its already wet monsoon season in 2010, displacing millions of people and requiring a massive global relief effort. That same year, the jet stream was also responsible for the unusually dry conditions in Russia that caused a swath of wildfires to erupt across the country prompting them to temporarily ban grain exports.

In this graphic, the left side shows wind patterns in the Russia/Pakistan area under normal jetstream conditions. From 1968 to 1996, these conditions remained largely the same. There’s a polar jetstream on the northern side, and a tropical jetstream on the southern side. But in the 2010 graph, a very oddly strong polar wind blew north of Russia around Moscow, going directly south into Pakistan. So how did those jetstreams affect weather patterns?

The northern polar jetstream usually brings extratropical lows and cyclones that make up the bulk of the precipitation in that geographical region of the world, and serves as the boundary between cold northern air and hot southern air. When it went suddenly northward as in July of 2010, it left those exposed areas unusally hot and dry and prevented necessary rain, making the area ripe for conditions like the wildfires that ravaged the forests near Moscow. The right side of the graphic showing the 2010 jet stream illustrates what happened to the precipitation that missed Russia. After blowing far northward, the rains suddenly headed southward toward Pakistan, causing heavy rainfall and widespread flooding.

The extreme cold snap covering 68 percent of the country is a direct result of the rapid melting of arctic ice, making the jet stream more unpredictable. In 2012 alone, ice sheets larger than Canada and Texas combined melted, setting an all-time record for the fastest-melting polar ice in recorded history. Just in August of 2012, arctic ice melted at a rate of 35,400 miles per day. If this pattern continues, sea levels are expected to rise by 23 feet by 2020. And such a rapid change in sea levels will not only cause cities built at sea level, like Miami, to be completely uninhabitable, but will cause an exodus of millions of climate refugees from coastal cities all over the world. And freak weather events like Hurricane Sandy rocking New York City will happen even more frequently. If you think this current cold snap is bad, wait until it takes hold for an entire winter and happens every year.

The Wrong Way

Acknowledging climate change is real and threatening isn’t a controversial issue. Even scientists funded by the Koch Brothers to refute the climate science making the case for man-made climate change admit that climate change is real, and that it has been accelerating since the industrial age. The science that showed carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere and channels heat has been around for centuries. The only people who disagree with the scientists studying the climate and telling us that we need to pay attention to climate change are the shills paid by the oil industry to spout nonsense on cable news channels (that depend on ad revenue from ExxonMobil). And 75 percent of Americans agree that climate change is real.

Unfortunately, our government seems to be heading in the opposite direction when it comes to climate policy. Like a true capitalist country, the US government is seeking to help corporations enrich short-term profits rather than thinking about the long-term future of the next generations of citizens. Oil has already begun to flow through the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, the construction of which President Obama fast-tracked.

As investigative journalist Steve Horn has reported, tar sands oil continues to get dredged from Alberta, and trains carrying the toxic substance have been on an alarming path of derailment and explosion, harming the communities surrounding the rail lines. And the recent tar sands oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, was a sobering premonition of what would happen if the Keystone XL pipeline were built and ruptured near a crucial water source like the Ogallala Aquifer.

Economic Benefits of Tackling Climate Change

We of course need to be mindful of our economy in this era of high unemployment and record numbers of people living under or on the cusp of the federal poverty line. But the minor economic impact from a few hundred new pipeline construction jobs would be exponentially negated by all the economic damage from climate change-influenced weather events. Hurricane Sandy cost the NYC metro area $50 billion. The impacts from the cold snap enveloping half the continental US are likely to be staggering, given all of the roads, schools, and businesses that have had to be shut down due to the blistering cold temperatures and wind chills.

But we can help our economy while also preserving our planet for future generations. By making massive investments in building a new sustainable energy grid across the country, we could create millions of new jobs in the construction, installation, transportation and maintenance of wind turbines, solar panels, and infrastructure to enable geothermal and biomass-based energy resources. The argument that we don’t have the money is silly – we’ve already spent $392 billion on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program that’s still malfunctioning today. Discontinuing that project and investing in clean energy infrastructure could be the fix to unemployment and climate change that would benefit not just America, but the rest of the world as well. Wall Street is already betting big on renewables, projecting that 69 to 74 percent of new energy development through 2030 will be in green energy.

We need to get serious about addressing what we’re doing to our climate in our reckless consumption of fossil fuels, or we’ll have many more cold winters, hot summers, and climate-related weather disasters in our future. This cold snap is a harsh, constant lesson taught to us by our planet, and if we fail this test, the next one will be even harder.

Keep up with US Uncut!


Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary “We’re Not Broke,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at, and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.



Climate Change Might Just Be Driving the Historic Cold Snap

Climate change skeptics are pointing to the record cold weather as evidence that the globe isn’t warming. But it could be that melting Arctic ice is making sudden cold snaps more likely—not less

It’s polar bear weather today for much of the Midwest. Temperatures are in the -20sº F (-28º C) and -30sº F (-35º C) in eastern Montana, North Dakota, northeast South Dakota, Minnesota and northern Iowa. With the stiff wind, it’s even worse—wind chills in the -40sº F (-40º C) and -50sº F (-45º C) are common across Minnesota and North Dakota, cold enough for exposed skin to suffer frostbite in just five minutes. By tonight, the freeze will reach the East Coast, where temperatures from Florida to Maine are expected to be 30º F to 40º F (16º C to 22º C) degrees below normal, extremes that haven’t been seen in decades. The National Weather Service isn’t kidding when it calls the cold “life-threatening.”

Unsurprisingly, the extreme cold has brought out the climate change skeptics, who point to the freeze and the recent snowstorms and say, essentially, “nyah-nyah.” Now this is where I would usually point to the fact that the occasional cold snap—even one as extreme as much of the U.S. is experiencing now—doesn’t change the overall trajectory of a warming planet. Weather is what happens in the atmosphere day to day; climate is how the atmosphere behaves over long periods of time. Winters in the U.S. have been warming steadily over the past century, and even faster in recent decades, so it would take more than a few sub-zero days to cancel that out.


(MORE: Arctic Blast: The Northern Air Mass Bringing Record-Breaking Cold to the U.S.)

But not only does the cold spell not disprove climate change, it may well be that global warming could be making the occasional bout of extreme cold weather in the U.S. even more likely. Right now much of the U.S. is in the grip of a polar vortex, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a whirlwind of extremely cold, extremely dense air that forms near the poles. Usually the fast winds in the vortex—which can top 100 mph (161 k/h)—keep that cold air locked up in the Arctic. But when the winds weaken, the vortex can begin to wobble like a drunk on his fourth martini, and the Arctic air can escape and spill southward, bringing Arctic weather with it. In this case, nearly the entire polar vortex has tumbled southward, leading to record-breaking cold, as you can see in this graphic:

Graphic showing a simulation of the polar vortex over the Great Lakes on Monday night (]

That disruption to the polar vortex may have been triggered by a sudden stratospheric warming event, a phenomenon Rick Grow explained at the Washington Post a few days ago:

Large atmospheric waves move upward from the troposphere — where most weather occurs — into the stratosphere, which is the layer of air above the troposphere. These waves, which are called Rossby waves, transport energy and momentum from the troposphere to the stratosphere. This energy and momentum transfer generates a circulation in the stratosphere, which features sinking air in the polar latitudes and rising air in the lowest latitudes. As air sinks, it warms. If the stratospheric air warms rapidly in the Arctic, it will throw the circulation off balance. This can cause a major disruption to the polar vortex, stretching it and — sometimes — splitting it apart.

(MORE: November Was Cold, But the Climate Keeps Warming)

What does that have to do with climate change? Sea ice is vanishing from the Arctic thanks to climate change, which leaves behind dark open ocean water, which absorbs more of the heat from the sun than reflective ice. That in turn is helping to cause the Arctic to warm faster than the rest of the planet, almost twice the global average. The jet stream—the belt of fast-flowing, westerly winds that essentially serves as the boundary between cold northern air and warmer southern air—is driven by temperature difference between the northerly latitudes and the tropical ones. Some scientists theorize that as that temperature difference narrows, it may weaken the jet stream, which in turns makes it more likely that cold Arctic air will escape the polar vortex and flow southward. Right now, an unusually large kink in the jet stream has that Arctic air flowing much further south than it usually would.

Still, this research is fairly preliminary, in part because extreme Arctic sea ice loss is a fairly recent phenomenon, so scientists don’t have the long data sets they need to draw more robust conclusions about the interaction between Arctic warming and cold snaps. In fact, the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that it was likely that the jet stream would shift towards the north as the climate warmed, and that the polar vortex would actually contract, even as a 2009 study found that sudden stratospheric warming events are becoming more frequent, which in turn seems to be driven by the rapid loss in Arctic sea ice.

And while a muddle like that would seem to make the science less rather than more reliable, it’s actually one more bit of proof that climate change is real. Global warming is sometimes thought of more as “global weirding,” with all manner of complex disruptions occurring over time. This week’s events show that climate change is almost certainly screwing with weather patterns ways that go beyond mere increases in temperature—meaning that you’d be smart to hold onto those winter coats for a while longer.

(MORE: November Was Cold, But the Climate Keeps Warming)




The global warming/climate change grift is a scam by the LEFTISTS to justify and exact massive new controls and taxes over our energy economy in order to put this sector of GIGANTIC economic activity under their control.

The dream of the LEFTISTS (DEMOCRATS) is to gain more and more control, extending to all aspects of society. Witness the Obama Care fiasco, which was designed not so much to better our medical system, than it was to control our medical system. Remember, when the government gains control of  a sector of the economy, or gains regulatory authority over our lives in any way, it gives government and the political left ( it is the leftists who are generally manning the bureaucracy of government agencies) new powers to control money and jobs, all of which are plums for them to pass out to their constituents.

The climate change / global warming scam is intended for government to control all aspects of energy production and distribution. Already we have seen massive amounts of money  WASTED on so called green energy companies which failed. They were given hundreds of millions of dollars of American taxpayer money, and these people who ran these green companies were sympathizers with the leftist democrats, and made big pay outs to the democrats and stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the public. 

The LEFTISTS (DEMOCRATS) don’t like the coal industry, so they shut it down, destroying thousands upon thousands of jobs of hard working people in coal areas. They don’t care about these working Americans, because they want alternative energy, regardless of how much more it costs to produce. Justification for increasing our energy costs AND throwing people out of good paying jobs?…the “threat” of global warming.

The LEFT (DEMOCRATS) are always marching “forward”. The meaning of their battle cry of “forward” simply means that they intend to take more and more control over all of society, economics and all Americans lives. They never stop moving “forward”. There is always more control for them to get over our country.

For those of you Americans who still vote for democrats out of tradition and belief that the democrats are for the little guy, understand that the LEFTISTS so called elites who run that party lock stock and barrel regard you as little bugs, just to be pushed and moved in whatever direction they want. The republicans are meanwhile vilified by the democrats allies, the media, Hollywood, the education establishment, etc. They vilify the republicans as being the party of old white men, who (deservedly) will soon die off, leaving democrats in complete control, as the new immigrants from Latin America, as well as the Blacks, women, gays, etc, all support democrats overwhelmingly. Leftist bloggers all crow about these demographic “facts”, writing with glee about the looming extinction of old white men of the current generation.

However, it is possible that more and more people will wake up to true nature of the democrat party, that they are simply professional leftists, the same type of people that took over Russia in 1917. The true fact that the communist take over of Russia and later, after WWII, of all of Eastern Europe, ended in dismal failure of these economies means nothing to these leftists who run the democrat party. Don’t bother them with the facts that communism has failed everywhere, yet capitalism (free enterprise) and the rule of law, which was developed to it’s greatest degree in the American nation over a span of time which is now approaching 400 years (starting with the Pilgrims), has been the most spectacular success in mankind’s history. The democrats simply ignore this, and cry “forward!”. But they mean forward to a communist type of society, the antithesis of the proven successful, traditional American society.

So, Americans, whether they be Black, Brown, White, etc., still do have the opportunity to join together under the republican banner, and turn the republican party into the BIG TENT party to restore America to it’s vaunted traditions. The republican party is not perfect. However, it DOES respond to the initiatives of sincere Americans who want to turn our nation away from the brink of destruction, and back to the traditional values we have had for centuries (witness the Tea Party wing which works within the republican party to restore America). We Americans of whatever background do not have to be destined to live under a new, leftist democrat totalitarian state where we are TOLD what to do, with little remaining freedom for each of us.”


Posted on on November 1st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Europe's largest coal-fired utility plant is in Belchatow, Poland.              Poland, Wedded to Coal, Spurns Europe on Clean Energy Targets.


A fossil-fuels holdout, Poland has actively worked to block the European Union’s effort to more tightly control greenhouse gas emissions.

WE HOPE THAT POLAND SENDS ITS OFFICIALS TO LISTEN IN TO THE FOLLOWING – Finally we found a reason to hold the upcoming COP19 in Wasrsaw:


From: Climate Action registration@climateactionprogramme.

Sustainable Innovation Forum opens with ‘leaders in energy transition’ debate.

Energy transition will be the first issue debated at the Sustainable Innovation Forum in Warsaw on 20 November as a panel of leaders on energy transition explore feasible and practical measures to improve the viability of low carbon infrastructure.
The panel features Dirk Forrister, President and Chief Executive of International Emissions Trading Association; Jochen Flasbarth, President of German Federal Environment Agency; Professor Karl Rose, Senior Director of Policies and Scenarios at World Energy Council; Philippe Joubert, Chairman of EU Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change and Senior Advisor at Alstom; and Kersten-Karl Barth, Chair of ICC Commission on Environment and Energy, and Sustainability Director at Siemens. The panel will be moderated by Jane Burston, Head, Centre for Carbon Measurement, National Physical Laboratory.There is availability for a Corporate Partner to join the distinguished panel. Please submit expressions of interest please click here.Interested in attending the Leaders in Energy Transition discussion? You may also wish to drop in to the Breakfast Workshop hosted by the International Chamber of Commerce, contemplating “The key to scaling-up energy efficiency investments”. The workshop will precede registration at 8.30am.

Breakfast Workshop

A global voice for business, the ICC is hosting our Breakfast Workshop.
Best known for facilitating a platform for businesses and other organisations to digest and explore the major shifts occurring within the world economy, the ICC offers a channel of business leadership to aid governments managing such shifts through collaboration of global benefit.
This opportunity is one not to be missed.
UNEP and  glaciologist, Dr Pfeffer,
will  host an exclusive evening screening of   “Chasing Ice”
following the Sustainable Innovation Forum.

New Holland

New Holland Agriculture, the acknowledged Clean Energy Leader®, is a key sponsor of the Sustainable Innovation Forum 2013. New Holland’s participation will focus on partnerships and strategic alliances that are aimed at maximising energy production on farms and they will be looking to leverage agriculture’s role in developing a sustainable future.


Reputable Speaker line up

The Sustainable Innovation Forum will bring together more than thirty reputable world leaders from business, government and international NGOs to provide insight and share best practice on issues associated with low carbon infrastructures, clean technology innovation, the green economy and sustainable urban development.


Posted on on October 31st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Activists Feel Powerful Wrath as Russia Guards Its Arctic Claims.

Dmitri Sharomov/Greenpeace, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Alexandra Harris, one of 30 people from a Greenpeace ship who are being detained by Russia.

MOSCOW — Gizem Akhan, 24, was about to begin her final year studying the culinary arts at Yeditepe University in Istanbul. Tomasz Dziemianczuk, 36, took a vacation from his job as a cultural adviser at the University of Gdansk in Poland that has now unexpectedly turned into an unpaid leave of absence.

Related:  Lens Blog: In Russia, Conflating Journalism and ‘Hooliganism’ (October 30, 2013)


   Ozan Kose/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Greenpeace activists with photos of a detained colleague, Gizem Akhan, outside the Russian Consulate in Istanbul.

Alex Von Kleydorff/The Hour Newspapers, via Associated Press

Maggy Willcox’s husband, Peter, a Greenpeace captain, is a prisoner.

Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

Alina Giganova, whose husband, Denis Sinyakov, is being held.


Dmitri Litvinov, 51, is a veteran activist who as a child spent four years in Siberian exile after his father, Pavel, took part in the Red Square protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

“I didn’t expect my son to get in their clutch,” the elder Mr. Litvinov said in a telephone interview from Irvington, N.Y., where he settled to teach physics in nearby Tarrytown after being expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974.

Dmitri Litvinov and the others are just three of the 30 people aboard a Greenpeace International ship, the Arctic Sunrise, who are now confined in separate cells in the far northern city of Murmansk after staging a high-seas protest last month against oil exploration in the Arctic. All face criminal charges that could result in years in prison as a result of having grossly underestimated Russia’s readiness to assert — and even expand — its sovereignty in a region potentially rich with natural resources.

The vigorous legal response by the authorities, including the seizure of the ship itself, appears to have caught Greenpeace off guard and left the crew’s families and friends worried that the consequences of what the activists considered a peaceful protest could prove much graver than any expected when they set out.

“Naturally, every time Gizem sets out on a protest I feel anxious,” Ms. Akhan’s mother, Tulay, said in written responses delivered through Greenpeace. “I’m a mother, and most of the time she doesn’t even tell us she is participating. I’ve known the risks but couldn’t have foreseen that we would come face to face with such injustice.”

Critics of the government of President Vladimir V. Putin have added the crew of the Arctic Sunrise to a catalog of prisoners here who have faced politically motivated or disproportionate punishment for challenging the state. Among them are the former oil tycoon Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the punk performers of Pussy Riot and the protesters awaiting trial more than a year after violence broke out on the day of Mr. Putin’s inauguration last year.

But there is one crucial difference: Most of those who were aboard the Arctic Sunrise are foreigners.

They hail from 18 nations. Two of them, Denis Sinyakov of Russia and Kieron Bryan of Britain, are freelance journalists who joined the crew to chronicle the ship’s voyage, which began in Amsterdam and ended on Sept. 19 when Russian border guards borne by helicopters descended on the ship in the Pechora Sea.

Alexandra Harris of Britain, 27, was on her first trip to the Arctic. Camila Speziale, 21, of Argentina, was on her first trip at sea. Others were veteran Greenpeace activists, including the American captain, Peter Willcox, who was skipper of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 when French secret service agents bombed it at dockside in Auckland, New Zealand, leading to the drowning of a photographer, Fernando Pereira.

The activists knew the protest was risky. Two of them, Sini Saarela of Finland and Marco Weber of Switzerland, tried to scale the offshore oil platform in the Pechora Sea owned by Russia’s state energy giant, Gazprom.

They plunged into the icy waters after guards sprayed water from fire hoses and fired warning shots, and they were plucked from the sea by a Russian coast guard ship and held as “guests.”  The next day, Sept. 19, however, the Arctic Sunrise was seized by border guards in international waters.

Greenpeace staged a similar but more successful protest in the summer of 2012. In that instance, activists, including Greenpeace’s executive director, Kumi Naidoo, scaled the same platform and unfurled a banner. After several hours, they departed, and the Russian authorities did not pursue any charges.

The authorities have shown little sign of leniency since the ship’s seizure, despite an international campaign by Greenpeace to draw attention to the prosecutions and even an appeal from Italy’s oil giant Eni, a partner of Gazprom, to show clemency for the crew, which includes an Italian, Cristian D’Alessandro.

The prosecution of the Arctic Sunrise crew has punctuated Mr. Putin’s warnings that he would not tolerate any infringement on Russia’s development in the Arctic. The region has become a focus of political and economic strategy for the Kremlin as its natural resources have become more accessible because of the warming climate.

When the government of the Netherlands, where Greenpeace International is based, filed an appeal to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to have the ship and crew released, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it would not recognize the tribunal’s jurisdiction, citing the country’s sovereignty. The tribunal has scheduled a hearing on the Dutch claim anyway, but unless Russia seeks a compromise that would free the prisoners, the crew could be detained for months awaiting trial.

Greenpeace’s activists and their cause have not found much sympathy in Russia, their fate shaped in part by hostile coverage on state-owned or state-controlled television. The main state network, Channel One, recently broadcast an analysis that suggested that Greenpeace’s protest had been orchestrated by powerful backers with economic incentives to undermine Gazprom.

After their formal arrest on Sept. 24, the crew members appeared one by one in court and were charged with piracy and ordered held at least until Nov. 24. One by one their appeals for bail were denied. Last week, the regional investigative committee reduced the charges to hooliganism, a crime that nonetheless carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

The committee raised the possibility of new charges against some crew members that could result in longer sentences upon conviction.

According to Greenpeace and relatives, the prisoners have not been mistreated in the detention center where they are now held, next to Murmansk’s morgue. They have had access to lawyers and diplomats from their respective countries. They are allowed care packages delivered by Greenpeace, occasional phone calls and sporadic visits from those relatives who can make it to Murmansk. The captain and chief engineer were taken to visit and inspect the Arctic Sunrise, now moored in Murmansk’s port.

Conditions, though, are grim.

In letters or phone calls to their families, they have described small, unheated cells, unappetizing meals and Russian cellmates who smoke relentlessly. They spend 23 hours a day in their cells, with only an hour of exercise a day in an enclosed courtyard and the periodic visits with lawyers or trips to court for a hearing. “It’s very cold now,” Ms. Harris, the activist from Britain on her first Greenpeace operation in the Arctic, wrote in a letter to her parents and brother that was widely cited in the British press: “It snowed last night. The blizzard blew my very poorly insulated window open and I had to sleep wearing my hat.”

She went on to express a measure of resolve, saying she practiced yoga in her cell and tapped on the wall to the music piped in, but she also wrote of uncertainty in a confinement that she compared to slowly dying.

“I heard that from December Murmansk is dark for six weeks,” she wrote. “God, I hope I’m out by then.”

Reporting was contributed by Andrew Roth and Patrick Reevell from Moscow, Ceylan Yeginsu from Istanbul, and Joanna Berendt from Warsaw.



Russia Denies Reports It Spied on Group of 20 Officials.

By JIM YARDLEY – same issue of the New York Times.

It rejected an Italian newspaper’s report that Russian spy agencies distributed special USB thumb drives to eavesdrop on participants at last month’s meeting in St. Petersburg.

“We don’t know the sources of the information,” said Dmitri S. Peskov, the spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, according to RIA Novosti, the state news agency. “However, this is undoubtedly nothing but an attempt to shift the focus from issues that truly exist in relations between European capitals and Washington to unsubstantiated, nonexistent issues.”

European leaders have been outraged by reports that the National Security Agency spied on allies in Europe, including Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. The American spying operation has created a diplomatic crisis for the Obama administration, stirring fury in France, Spain and Germany, while intensifying criticism in Washington about the scope and methods of American espionage.

On Wednesday, the focus shifted to Russia, as Corriere della Sera, a leading Italian newspaper, published allegations that the Group of 20 meeting was the scene of a major effort in Russian espionage. According to the paper, Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, had a debriefing with security officials after returning from St. Petersburg. The report was swiftly picked up by news agencies and newspapers in other countries.

The security team then conducted an examination of the thumb drives, which the Russians distributed as gifts to the 300 foreign delegates, who also received stuffed teddy bears, cups, diaries and cables to connect smartphones with computers, the Italian paper reported. Later, the European Council’s security office sent a report to Group of 20 participants, warning that some of the USB drives, as well as the cables, appeared to have been tampered with, Corriere della Sera said.

The European officials then handed the devices to German intelligence services, which conducted more tests and concluded that the sabotaged electronic equipment could be used to intercept data from computers and mobile phones. Corriere della Sera also reported that Italian secret service agents were still examining some of the devices distributed to Italy’s delegation.

In Brussels, a media official in Mr. Rompuy’s office declined to comment on Wednesday. “There are always measures in place to protect the infrastructure of the council and, as a rule, there is a cooperation with member states,” said the official, Nicolas Kerleroux. “But we won’t comment on any specific matter.”



Posted on on March 31st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


YAHOO NEWS: Europe’s Freezing Easter a Global Warming Outcome.

By KARL RITTER | Associated Press – Fri, Mar 29, 2013

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Is it Easter or Christmas? Many Europeans would be forgiven for being confused by winter’s icy grip on lands that should be thawing in springtime temperatures by now.

Britain is on track for the coldest March since 1962, according to national weather service the Met Office, which also says daily low temperatures in London are going to remain below freezing through the Easter holiday. The mean temperature in Britain from March 1-26 was 2.5 C (36.5 F) — three degrees below the long-term average.

In Berlin, Good Friday saw a new round of snowfall and temperatures just above freezing. The city’s popular lakeside beach opened for the season as planned, though it wasn’t exactly beach weather. Some visitors built a snowman and few ventured into the freezing water.


What’s going on?

As always when you talk about weather, natural variability is a big factor. But an increasing body of research suggests that cold spells like the one that has lingered in northern and central Europe for much of March could become more common as a result of global warming melting the Arctic ice cap.

Q: Why is it so cold in much of Europe right now?

A: Normally, European winters are kept relatively mild by wet, westerly winds from the Atlantic. But in March, the wind has been blowing mostly from the northeast, bringing freezing Arctic air down over much of Europe.

Q: So why are the winds coming from the northeast?

A: The winds are driven by atmospheric circulation patterns which in turn are affected by differences in air pressure between northern and southern latitudes. For much of March this circulation has been in a negative state, meaning the pressure difference is small. That weakens the westerly Atlantic winds and paves the way for cold air to sweep down over Europe from the Arctic and Siberia.

Q: What does that have to do with Arctic sea ice?

A: Global warming is melting the ice cap over the Arctic Ocean. Last September, it reached its lowest extent on record. Climate models show that the loss of sea ice — which acts as a lid on the ocean, preventing it from giving off heat — triggers feedback mechanisms that shake up the climate system further. A series of studies in recent years have shown that one such effect could be changes in atmospheric circulation, resulting in more frequent cold snaps in Europe.

Q: How would melting Arctic ice lead to cold snaps?

A: The theory is the loss of sea ice means more heat is released from the open ocean, warming the layer of polar air over the water. That reduces the temperature and air pressure differentials with more southern latitudes, increasing the likelihood of a negative state in the atmospheric circulation. Experts stress that winter weather is affected by many other factors, but several studies have shown the Arctic melt loads the dice in favor of colder and snowier winters in Europe. One study by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany showed European cold snaps could become three times more likely because of shrinking sea ice.

Q: What’s the impact on the jet stream?

A: Some studies suggest that the shrinking sea ice also shifts the polar jet stream, a high-altitude air current that flows from west to east. Bigger waves in the meandering jet stream allow frigid air to spill southward from the Arctic, they say. Other climate experts are uncertain about this effect, saying more research is needed. {This effect is important for US climate conditions – lower temperatures and storms. our addition}


Associated Press writer Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this story.


Posted on on March 17th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Op-Ed Columnist

It’s Lose-Lose vs. Win-Win-Win-Win-Win

by Thomas L. Friedman

Published by New York Times on-line: March 16, 2013
    Oliver Munday

 This Painted Graph catches our attention but we wonder what it means – given content, potentially some new shape, and potentially new colors, it could be the publicity weapon for new campaigns.   A majority of Americans, we are sure, by now understand that the good life in the future will be a life based on sustainability, and will be paid for by the citizenry as a whole.


ONE of my favorite quotes, writes Thomas Friedman, about the state of U.S. politics was offered a couple years ago by Gerald Seib, a Wall Street Journal columnist, when he observed that “America and its political leaders, after two decades of failing to come together to solve big problems, seem to have lost faith in their ability to do so. A political system that expects failure doesn’t try very hard to produce anything else.” That’s us today — our entire political system is guilty of the “soft bigotry of low expectations” for ourselves.

Readers shared their thoughts on this article. —— Read All Comments (7) »

I raise this now because it strikes me as crazy that one of the obvious solutions to our budget, energy and environmental problems — the one that would be the least painful and have the best long-term impact (a carbon tax) — is off the table. Meanwhile, the solution that is as dumb as the day is long — a budget sequester that slashes spending indiscriminately — is on the table.

Shrinking the tax deduction for charity is on the table. Shrinking Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for the poor are on the table. But a carbon tax that could close the deficit and clean the air, weaken petro-dictators, strengthen the dollar, drive clean-tech innovation and still leave some money to lower corporate and income taxes is off the table. So the solutions that are lose-lose and divisive are on the table, while the solution that is win-win-win-win-win — and has both liberal and conservative supporters — is off the table.

Writing in this newspaper in support of a carbon tax back in 2007, N. Gregory Mankiw, the Harvard economist, who was a senior adviser to President George W. Bush and to Mitt Romney, argued that “the idea of using taxes to fix problems, rather than merely raise government revenue, has a long history.

The British economist Arthur Pigou advocated such corrective taxes to deal with pollution in the early 20th century. In his honor, economics textbooks now call them ‘Pigovian taxes.’ Using a Pigovian tax to address global warming is also an old idea.
It was proposed as far back as 1992 by Martin S. Feldstein on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal.

… Those vying for elected office, however, are reluctant to sign on to this agenda. Their political consultants are no fans of taxes, Pigovian or otherwise.

Republican consultants advise using the word ‘tax’ only if followed immediately by the word ‘cut.’

Democratic consultants recommend the word ‘tax’ be followed by ‘on the rich.’ ”

Yes, to win passage of any carbon tax, Republicans would insist that it be revenue neutral — to be offset entirely by cuts in corporate taxes and taxes on personal income. But maybe they could be persuaded otherwise.

In an ideal world, you would have 45 percent go to pay down the deficit so that we don’t have to cut entitlements as much — appealing to liberals and greens — and have 45 percent go to reducing corporate and income taxes — to encourage work and investment and appeal to conservatives. The remaining 10 percent could be rebated to low-income households for whom such a tax would be a burden.

According to the Center for Climate and Electricity Policy at the nonpartisan Resources for the Future, a tax of $25 per ton of carbon-dioxide emitted — through the combustion of fossil fuels used in electricity production, commercial and residential heating and transportation — “would raise approximately $125 billion annually.” This $125 billion “could allow federal personal income tax reductions of about 15 percent or corporate income tax reductions of about 70 percent, if all carbon tax revenues were used to replace current tax revenues. Alternatively, the federal deficit could be reduced by approximately $1.25 trillion over 10 years” — roughly what we are trying to do through the foolish sequester. Such a tax would add about 21 cents per gallon of gasoline and about 1.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity. It could be phased in gradually as the economy improves.

Experts believe that the mere signal of a carbon tax would get companies to become more energy efficient. And that’s the point. As part of any grand bargain — which will have to include spending cuts and tax increases — introducing a carbon tax into the mix makes all kinds of options easier and smarter.

Alas, right now both sides are trying to inflict maximum pain on the other, rather than framing the debate as: “Here’s the world we’re living in; here’s what we need to thrive; and, if we cut and tax here, we can invest in these 21st-century growth engines over here.” Our goal is not to balance the budget. It’s to make America great.

SO how come the best ideas are off the table? (Blessedly, Representative Henry Waxman, a Democrat of California, is now working to get some kind of carbon tax on the table.) Several reasons, argues Adam Garfinkle, editor of The American Interest and author of a smart new e-book, “Broken: American Political Dysfunction and What to Do About It.”

First, because our democracy today is perverted more than ever by deep-pocketed lobbies and oligopolies. So, “in order to get and stay elected today, you have to raise huge sums of money from corporations, wealthy individuals and dues-laden unions,” Garfinkle notes, and all that money leads to “twisted decision-making at the high-politics level” and “regulatory capture” at the bureaucratic-administrative level.

The fossil fuel, auto and power companies have bought a lot of politicians to block a carbon tax.

The only way around them, argues Garfinkle, would be for leaders to galvanize the public, but that requires building “governing coalitions” in the center rather than “political coalitions” that can get you elected but little else after that. Obama is belatedly trying to do that; the Republican Party hasn’t even tried. “This is what real leaders do,” said Garfinkle. “They change the conversation.” They don’t just read the polls; they shape the polls.

But we can’t put this all on lobbyists. It’s also our generation. “We’re the most self-indulgent generation in American history,” argues Garfinkle, always demanding more services than we’re ready to pay for. “Too many of us want to be unbound by broader social obligations, but the network of those obligations creates the moral ballast that makes good governance possible.” 

As Nathan Gardels and Nicolas Berggruen note in their insightful book, “Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way Between West and East,” we prefer a “Diet Coke culture — sweetness without calories, consumption without savings and safety nets without taxes.” No wonder anything hard or smart is off the table. We pushed it there.


Posted on on November 26th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

The following article is written as if nothing was learned from the outcome of the June 2012 meeting in Rio de Janeiro and continues the old line of calls of transfer of funds without calling for joint projects that address increased efficiency in use of energy in order to decrease CO2 emissions.

The Huffington Post on-line today has also articles about New York City and New Jersey State following Hurricane Sandy’s visit, that should have brought home the issue of Climate Change. Those articles, and information about climate events in China, India, Brazil, Mexico, besides common information rolling out for years from Bangladesh and the Island-States, ought to be a joint inter-National starting point to the Doha deliberations.
If the subject does not start from a common basis for all of mankind – the old-rich and the new-rich as well – simply said – New York and New Jersey will just waste their resources in building separation walls from the rest of the world, and nobody will be better off by the end of this century. It is just a pipe-dream that an impoverished EU can carry the world on the shoulders of their fiscal managers.

2012 UN Climate Talks In Doha, Qatar, Face Multiple Challenges.

AP |  By Posted: 11/25/2012     Doha Climate Conference

In this Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2012 file photo, conference flags are displayed ahead of the Doha Climate Change Conference, in Doha, Qatar that starts 11/26/2012.

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — As nearly 200 countries meet in oil-and-gas-rich Qatar for annual talks starting Monday, November 26, 2016, on slowing global warming, one of the main challenges will be raising climate aid for poor countries at a time when budgets are strained by financial turmoil.

Rich countries have delivered nearly $30 billion in grants and loans promised in 2009, but those commitments expire this year. And a Green Climate Fund designed to channel up to $100 billion annually to poor countries has yet to begin operating.

Borrowing a buzzword from the U.S. budget debate, Tim Gore of the British charity Oxfam said developing countries, including island nations for whom rising sea levels pose a threat to their existence, stand before a “climate fiscal cliff.”

“So what we need for those countries in the next two weeks are firm commitments from rich countries to keep giving money to help them to adapt to climate change,” he told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Creating a structure for climate financing has so far been one of the few tangible outcomes of the two-decade-old U.N. climate talks, which have failed in their main purpose: reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet, melting ice caps, glaciers and permafrost, shifting weather patterns and raising sea levels.

The only binding treaty to limit such emissions, the Kyoto Protocol, expires this year, so agreeing on an extension is seen as the most urgent task by environment ministers and climate officials meeting in the Qatari capital.

However, only the European Union and a few other countries are willing to join a second commitment period with new emissions targets. And the EU’s chief negotiator, Artur Runge-Metzger, admitted that such a small group is not going to make a big difference in the fight against climate change.

“I think we cover at most 14 percent of global emissions,” he said.

The U.S. rejected Kyoto because it didn’t cover rapidly growing economies such as China and India. Some hope for stronger commitments from U.S. delegates in Doha as work begins on drafting a new global treaty that would also apply to developing countries including China, the world’s top carbon emitter. That treaty is supposed to be adopted in 2015 and take effect five years later.

Climate financing is a side issue but a controversial one that often deepens the rich-poor divide that has hampered the U.N. climate talks since their launch in 1992. Critics of the U.N. process see the climate negotiations as a cover for attempts to redistribute wealth.

Runge-Metzger said the EU is prepared to continue supporting poorer nations in converting to cleaner energy sources and in adapting to a shifting climate, despite the debt crisis roiling Europe. But he couldn’t promise that the EU would present any new pledges in Doha and said developing countries must present detailed “bankable programs” before they can expect any money.

Sometimes, developing countries seem to be saying, “OK give us a blank check,” he told AP.

Climate aid activists bristled at that statement, saying many developing countries have already indicated what type of programs and projects need funding.

“They need the financial and technical support from the EU and others. Yet they continue to promise ‘jam tomorrow’ whilst millions suffer today,” said Meena Raman of the Third World Network, a nonprofit group.

Countries agreed in Copenhagen in 2009 to set up the Green Climate Fund with the aim of raising $100 billion annually by 2020. They also pledged to raise $30 billion in “fast-start” climate financing by 2012.

While that short-term goal has nearly been met by countries including the EU, Japan, Australia and the U.S., Oxfam estimates that only one-third of it was new money; the rest was previously pledged aid money repackaged as climate financing.

Oxfam also found that more than half of the financing was in the form of loans rather than grants, and that financing levels are set to fall in 2013 as rich countries rein in aid budgets amid debt problems and financial instability.

Meanwhile, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keeps going up. It has jumped 20 percent since 2000, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, according to a U.N. report released last week.

A recent projection by the World Bank showed temperatures are on track to increase by up to 4 degrees C (7.2 F) this century, compared with pre-industrial times, overshooting the 2-degree target on which the U.N. talks are based.


NJ Rebuilding Efforts ‘Throwing Money Out To Sea’?

Will NYC Build A Barrier To Protect From Surges?


UN Climate Change Conference Opens In Doha, Qatar.

AP |  By Posted: 11/26/2012 2:37
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Anticipating an onslaught of criticism from poor nations, the United States claimed “enormous” strides in reducing greenhouse emissions at the opening of U.N. climate talks Monday, despite failing to join other industrialized nations in committing to binding cuts.

The pre-emptive U.S. approach underscores one of the major showdowns expected at the two-week conference as China pushes developed countries to take an even greater role in tackling global warming.

Speaking for a coalition of developing nations known as the G77, China’s delegate, Su Wei, said rich nations should become party to an extended Kyoto Protocol — an emissions deal for some industrialized countries that the Americans long ago rejected — or at least make “comparable mitigation commitments.”

The United States rejected Kyoto because it didn’t impose any binding commitments on major developing countries such as India and China, which is now the world’s No. 1 carbon emitter.

American delegate Jonathan Pershing offered no new sweeteners to the poor countries, only reiterating what the United States has done to tackle global warming: investing heavily in clean energy, doubling fuel efficiency standards and reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants. Pershing also said the United States would not increase its earlier commitment of cutting emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. It is half way to that target.

“I would suggest those who don’t follow what the U.S. is doing may not be informed of the scale and extent of the effort, but it’s enormous,” Pershing said.

“It doesn’t mean enough is being done. It’s clear the global community, and that includes us, has to do more if we are going to succeed at avoiding the damages projected in a warming world,” Pershing added. “It is not to say we haven’t acted. We have and we have acted with enormous urgency and singular purpose.”

The battles between rich and poor nations have often undermined talks in the past decade and stymied efforts to reach a deal to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C (3.6 F), compared to pre-industrial times. Efforts taken in the absence of a deal to rein in emissions, reduce deforestation and promote clean technology are not getting the job done. A recent projection by the World Bank showed temperatures are expected to increase by up to 4 degrees C (7.2 F) by 2100.

Countries are hoping to build on the momentum of last year’s talks in Durban, South Africa, where nearly 200 nations agreed to restart stalled negotiations with a deadline of 2015 to adopt a new treaty and extend Kyoto between five and eight years. The problem is that only the European Union and a handful of other nations — which together account for less than 15 percent of global emissions — are willing to commit to that.

Delegates in the Qatari capital of Doha are also hoping to raise billions of dollars to help developing countries adapt to a shifting climate.

“We owe it to our people, the global citizenry. We owe it to our children to give them a safer future than what they are currently facing,” said South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who led last year’s talks in Durban.

Environmentalists fear holding the talks in Qatar — the world’s biggest per capita emitter — could slow progress. They argue that the Persian Gulf emirate has shown little interest in climate talks and has failed to reign in its lavish lifestyle and big-spending ways.

There was hope among activists that Qatar might use Monday’s opening speech to set the tone of the conference. But Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, the president of the conference and a former Qatari oil minister, didn’t offer any voluntary emission targets or climate funding for poor nations.

“Some countries, especially the one where we are sitting, have the potential to decrease their carbon emissions. They have the highest per capita emissions, so they can do a lot,” said Wael Hmaidan, a Lebanese activist and director of the Climate Action Network.

“If nations that are poorer than Qatar, like India and Mexico, can make pledges to reduce their carbon emissions, then countries in the region, especially Qatar, should easily be able to do it. … They still haven’t proven they are serious about climate change.”

Al-Attiyah defended Qatar’s environmental record at a later news conference, insisting it was working to reduce emissions from gas flaring and its oil fields. Qatar is already doing plenty to help poor countries with financing, he said, adding that it was unfair to focus on per capita emissions.

“We should not concentrate on per capita. We should concentrate on the amount and quantity that each country produces individually,” al-Attiyah said. “The quantity is the biggest challenge, not per capita.”

The concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide has jumped 20 percent since 2000, according to a U.N. report released last week. The report also showed that there is a growing gap between what governments are doing to curb emissions and what needs to be done to protect the world from potentially dangerous levels of warming.

At the same time, many scientists say extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy’s onslaught on the U.S. East Coast, will become more frequent as the Earth warms, although it is impossible to attribute any individual event to climate change. The rash of violent weather in the U.S., including widespread droughts and a record number of wildfires this summer, has again put climate change on the radar.

“While none of these individual events are necessarily because of climate change, they are certainly consistent with what we anticipate will happen in a warming world,” Pershing said. “The combination of these events is certainly changing minds of Americans and making clear to people at home the consequences of increased growth in emissions.”

In Washington, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., urged the U.S. delegation at the talks to “heed the warnings from Sandy and other extreme weather supercharged by climate change.”

“If the United States does not aggressively pursue sharp reductions in carbon pollution following the droughts, storms and other extreme weather events we have endured, the rest of the world will doubt our sincerity to address climate change,” Markey said. “It’s time to attack the carbon problem head on, and adapt to a climate already changed for the worse.”

Many countries referenced Hurricane Sandy as a rallying cry for tough action to cap emissions, including a group of small island nations that said the monster storm may have jolted the world to recognize “that we are all in this together.”

“When the tragedies occur far away from the media spotlight, they are too often ignored or forgotten,” the island nations said in a statement.


Posted on on October 31st, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

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October 31st, 2012

What Sandy says about government

By Edward Alden, CFR

Editor’s Note: Edward Alden is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. This entry of Renewing America was originally published here. The views expressed are the author’s own.

Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, is famously believed to have said that he has no wish to eliminate government, but only to “shrink it to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.” Americans up and down the east coast can be grateful in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that he has not yet succeeded, or they might well have drowned in their own homes.

For those who wonder just what it is our tax dollars pay for, consider just a small list of government actions before and during the storm that made it far less catastrophic than it might have been:

– The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is responsible for tracking the path of hurricanes and other storms, predicted days in advance – and with astonishing accuracy – both the path and strength of Hurricane Sandy. That gave governments throughout the region time to plan a response.

– New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of nearly 400,000 people from low-lying areas of the city, and set up emergency shelters. That order probably saved countless lives given the heavy flooding in Lower Manhattan that came at the peak of the storm.

– New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shut the city’s subway, rail, and commuter buses. The record storm surge led to severe flooding in seven subway stations, the worst in the system’s 100-year history. But no one was hurt in the empty stations.

– New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered the evacuation of Atlantic City and shut the region’s casinos to keep people away from the dangerous coastline.

– In neighborhoods everywhere, like my own in Maryland, county and city governments provided constant updates on road conditions, dangerous wires, downed trees, and other hazards, and advertised available shelters for those who lost power or had storm damage to their homes.

– In the aftermath, the Obama administration quickly declared the hardest hit areas of New York and New Jersey to be disaster areas, freeing up millions of federal dollars for temporary housing and repairs to homes and businesses.

This list could be much longer, but each represents a success born of planning and coordinated action to improve outcomes for large numbers of people – exactly what governments can and should be doing.

More from CNN: Is Sandy a taste of things to come?

The contrast with the failed preparation and response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is striking. In the years prior to Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Army Corps of Engineers had identified some $18 billion in projects necessary to shore up the levees in New Orleans against hurricanes and flooding. Instead, Army Corps funding in the state was cut in half in the four years before the 2005 hurricane, with predictable consequences. Both federal and state governments failed to preposition supplies as the storm barreled in, there was little pressure on local residents to evacuate, and emergency responders took days to get to the scene after the storm to rescue the tens of thousands stranded in the city.

The vastly improved response this time around shows that governments – like private businesses – can learn from past mistakes. Governor Christie of New Jersey praised the federal government’s response to Hurricane Sandy, calling it “outstanding.”

There are some basic lessons in all this. First, we should invest in government services because we want them to be there when we are in a time of need.  Whether it’s a natural disaster that affects millions or a company closure that leaves hundreds out of work, government has the resources to help people get back on their feet and start over. Second, governments – like businesses or individuals – can learn to do things better. The preparations for Hurricane Sandy would likely have been much poorer if not for the lessons from Katrina, from Irene, and from this past summer’s “derecho” storms in Washington. Third, the effort to pit state and local governments against the federal government is mistaken; when a genuine crisis hits, we need all three working effectively and in concert.

As with all such disasters, human memory is short. Most of us will quickly forget Hurricane Sandy, move on with our lives, and grumble about high taxes. But if we keep letting them do their jobs – rather than continuing to cut them down — our governments will be busy preparing for the next time we really need them.



Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy; Sandy’s Strength Due to Climate Change?

Aired October 31, 2012 – 16:00:00 ET – On CNN program AMANPOUR.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, welcome to the program. I’m Christiane Amanpour.

The devastating superstorm Sandy has finally cleared the East Coast, but the crisis she left behind is spreading fast. Here in New York City another hospital is right now in the process of being evacuated. It’s Bellevue, the city’s main public hospital. It has no power and its generator isn’t working. Seven hundred patients, including a number in critical condition, are being moved to other hospitals.

This after another major hospital, NYU, also had to evacuate during the early hours of the storm. It had no working generator at all. The city that never sleeps is heavily stressed out. All day it’s been in the grip of an epic traffic snarl.

Approximately 5 million people ride the New York City subway every day, and with that system flooded and closed, most of the people are now driving or forming huge lines for buses and ferries. At least half of New York City has no power and many people won’t get that power back for days.

How bad is it?

The U.S. Navy is now moving three amphibious landing ships toward the coast of New York and New Jersey. The Navy says it’s in case local officials need more assistance.

New York’s LaGuardia Airport remains closed. JFK and Newark have reopened, but very few flights have taken off so far.

And across the river from New York, the National Guard has arrived to help in flooded Hoboken, New Jersey. Rescue efforts have been going on there since yesterday, but there are still people trapped in their homes. President Obama is in New Jersey today. He and the Republican governor of that state, Chris Christie boarded Marine One to tour the devastated areas.

Tonight, we’ll be exploring just how it got this bad. What officials knew or should have known. But first, a look at the other stories we’re covering.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): Get used to it. Sandy is the new normal.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Scientists warn denying climate change is hazardous to your health.

And underwater, the town that gave the world Frank Sinatra, the town that was the setting for Marlon Brando “On the Waterfront.”

“TERRY MALLOY”: I could have been a contender.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Today, Hoboken, New Jersey, fights for its life.



AMANPOUR: We’ll get to that in a bit. But first, for many years, scientists have been warning of just this sort of disaster.

Eliot Spitzer was governor of New York, and he knows as well as anyone the problems associated with taking all the necessary action to prevent this kind of thing.

So, first let me ask you, Governor, you obviously had been briefed; you were prepared in your time.

Did Sandy shape up as bad as you thought? Or was it about what you thought? Was it worse?

ELIOT SPITZER, FORMER NY GOVERNOR: Worse in terms of the aftereffects. I think during the storm itself, people kind of heaved a sigh of relief and said, oh, my goodness; it was not as devastating at the moment.

But then when we could step back and look at the scope of the harm, the magnitude of the damage to the infrastructure, and it has highlighted exactly what you just said, the preparations have not been made, were not made, were not properly — investments that should have been made years ago simply have not occurred.

AMANPOUR: Well, you were governor.

SPITZER: That’s right.

AMANPOUR: Why have these investments not been made? You were warned, presumably, along with all the governors.

SPITZER: Well, there are issues that have a timeframe of one year, five years and then 20 years. And when you are told sometime in the next hundred years we will get a storm of this magnitude, it doesn’t get you to the point of decision that needs to — where you need to get in terms of investing in the infrastructure to protect the subway, the hospitals, the energy system.

We have not had a mass transit investment system in nationally out of Washington for 20 years. And so at so many levels, our politics are failing us; global warming was not mentioned in the presidential debates. And so, at many levels, there’s a crisis. As a governor of a state, should we have done more? Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me get to that. Governor Cuomo, your successor, is being — having his daily briefings. And he has talked about an antiquated infrastructure, the never anticipated this kind of thing, and that needs to be rebuilt faster. But I’m going to play you something he said. And I was struck. And I’ll tell you what struck me. I’ll see if it struck you as well.


ANDREW CUOMO, GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: I’m hopeful that not only we’ll – – we rebuild this city and metropolitan area, but we use this as an opportunity to build it back smarter. There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. Anyone — that’s not a political statement; that is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality.


AMANPOUR: So, Governor, even in the direst need of New York, the governor is feeling the heat. He feels defensive, even talking about these weather patterns, even talking about this climate shift and swing.


AMANPOUR: I mean, what does that say about the atmosphere here in the United States?

SPITZER: Well, look, let me state a few things that are also facts. There was, as I said, no question about global warming during the presidential debates. There are still people — and I don’t want to make this partisan, but still people in the Republican Party who deny the existence of climate change.

The president, several years ago, President Obama did make a — take a first step in the direction of either a carbon tax or some sort of emissions policy that would have been smart, and yet it went nowhere in Congress. When he went internationally, he could not get the coalition together. We have a long way to go.

Al Gore, whom I respect enormously, he is a colleague of mine now, but where I work, he has done more to galvanize public opinion about that, but still we have so far to go before we can get tax dollars invested in the sorts of measures to save us from these consequences.

AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, you are the politician. How do you galvanize people? Is it a storm like this? Or will people just forget about it, once the clearup has happened? I mean, it’s not just the carbon tax, which obviously is needed, but this big infrastructure, you know, big storm barrage gates.

SPITZER: Look, we have Mitt Romney. And, again, I don’t want to be partisan, even though it is just a week before the presidential race — Mitt Romney and the Republican Party denying the need for government to invest in infrastructure because government didn’t build that. They want to deny that government is a necessary partner.

Now a storm like this can have sort of — can provide a metastasizing effect in terms of public opinion. So people will say, yes, this is critically necessary. Whether it is the relatively small issue of the subway system — small in the context of global issues we need to think about — or issue of a carbon tax, which is a very conservative idea in terms of economics.

We need to go to both extremes. We need to reinforce our subway system and the hospitals and the energy system and do a global tax, a carbon tax of some sort.

AMANPOUR: You had the balance books in front of you as governor of the state. How painful would it be in terms of dollars and cents, in terms of years spent, in terms of political capital spent, to get this kind of infrastructure done?

SPITZER: Here’s the problem. When I was governor, the imperative — and perhaps rightly so — was our educational system. The educational system ate up every penny of spare cash we had, because we are languishing. Folks overseas should appreciate we in the United States feel that we are not educating our kids properly.

So every spare penny we had went into improving our educational system. If you say to parents, we want to increase your taxes and then use those dollars to deal with the one in 50 possibly of a storm as opposed to putting more teachers in the classrooms; you can see the political — now I’m not justifying it. I’m explaining the dynamic that makes it so hard.

AMANPOUR: Right. But you’re also a communicator and you know that it’s no longer just one in 50. These once-in-a-lifetime, one-in-a-hundred- years storms are coming up every couple of years.

SPITZER: That’s exactly right.

AMANPOUR: And not only that, physically, the water around New York is rising faster than it has ever done.

SPITZER: That’s right.

AMANPOUR: Is there a way of communicating that to people so that they understand it?

Can you survive another one of these?

SPITZER: Unfortunately, the best way to communicate it is this storm. In other words, when you speak of things in hypotheticals, people discount the reality. After this storm, perhaps public opinion will be galvanized. We can only hope so because, you’re right. We cannot survive a succession of these storms without saying to ourselves something (inaudible). (Inaudible) Katrina in New Orleans.

AMANPOUR: And Governor, I know you’ve not wanted to be partisan, but you have blamed the Republicans. But look, even under Democratic presidents, politically it has been very, very difficult to get a sort of tipping point momentum to concentrate people’s minds. And America is the biggest polluter in the world.

Other democracies are actually getting together with climate change and trying to figure out what to do. So again —


AMANPOUR: — (inaudible) take?

SPITZER: (Inaudible) in the first half of your comment, all I can say that you’re right. And you’re right. I want — I want to be able to point the finger at Republicans, but that’s not an answer. That is finger- pointing. The Democratic Party has been better.

I look at Ed Markey, who is a friend of mine, who has crafted the Waxman-Markey bill, very important. I look at President Obama who embraced the issue of global warming. But nobody has yet made it the imperative that it should be, other than Al Gore, back when he was —

AMANPOUR: Explain the Waxman-Markey bill.

SPITZER: It would set limits and it would create a marketplace so that you could sell or buy the right to pollute.

It is the notion of several years back, that at least if you impose a cost upon pollution, then people will either avoid it or somehow transfer the burden to consumers so they will consume fewer products that pollute. It’s sort of an old-fashioned economic concept. But it is not going to happen.

AMANPOUR: Now when you look around, I mean, New York is an international hub, not just for the financial trading, not just for tourism, but also the ports, the ports taking huge amounts of goods and materiel. These ports have been devastated, I mean, cars have been destroyed, 15,000 in one port in New Jersey alone.


AMANPOUR: Can these ports recover to be the economic hub that they need to be?

SPITZER: Look, without any question, the answer for that is yes. The resilience of a city, whether it’s New Orleans or New York in particular, look, we had 9/11, which we should not forget the devastation on 9/11, what was — it’s hard to sort of —

AMANPOUR: (Inaudible).

SPITZER: This is a broader geographic area. That one was emotionally worse, of course, in terms of lives lost. That one was much worse.

But we are resilient. We will bounce back. A month from now, people will say, oh, yes. They will begin to talk about this in the past tense. In most of the city, not in the particular communities that have been utterly destroyed and in New Jersey as well. And I feel for Chris Christie and the folks across the river.

But we will bounce back and I think we will — the question is, the one you’re posing: will we respond wisely and invest so that it does not happen again? And this is an issue for London, New York, San Francisco, any city that is proximate to water.

AMANPOUR: Do you think we will respond wisely?

SPITZER: All I can say is I hope so. And I hope, again — I don’t want to be partisan. I hope that whoever’s elected president — obviously, I’m for Barack Obama — uses this as a catalyst to say to Congress and to the public, this is something we must deal with, both in terms of investment and infrastructure and the megaissue of global warming.

AMANPOUR: Do you think it’ll make a difference if Obama is elected? And you’ve tried not to be partisan. But obviously, this election is coming up. Obama today is touring with one of the most well-known Republican governors and they’re being very nice to each other.


AMANPOUR: Is this a momentum generator for the president as he goes into the election? Or is this a momentum, you know, stopper for Mitt Romney? How does this play?

SPITZER: It’s more the latter. I think the past several weeks, the politics of this has been that Mitt Romney, for reasons that are hard to get my arms around, has been on a roll since the first debate, which he clearly won. He has captured the public’s imagination and bizarrely has been the positive, affirmative voice of change and hope. How bizarre and quixotic is that?

And Barack Obama has been playing defense. This storm, I think, stopped that and got people to focus, again, the meme in the Republican Party at their convention was mocking the notion that government had built anything that mattered. I think now the public appreciates government matters.

When you see the folks showing up to rescue the elderly, when you see the policemen going down to save people at the subway system, government matters. So I think that helps Barack Obama.

But he needs to build on that in a second term. I still think he’ll win. I still think Ohio is his firewall. He will win, but he needs to use this to say to the Republican leadership, to Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, guys, we must find a common ground.

AMANPOUR: He tried that the first time around. It didn’t work, not just because of the Republicans, but his techniques as well weren’t thoroughly successful.

SPITZER: I would go beyond that.


SPITZER: He caved on too many issues, but that’s OK. One learns as one goes forward.

AMANPOUR: All right. Will it be different in a second term?

SPITZER: Yes. He will be freed of some of the constraints. He won’t worry about reelection. He will be — he’s galvanized the public that is his base. He is firmer in his beliefs. I think November 7, when he wakes up a reelected president, he says, I’ve got four years now to stand up for the principles I believe in. And I think he will be a fundamentally stronger.

AMANPOUR: And do you believe — because he did try it in his first term, and he regretted not going for it, that he will do climate change in his second term?

SPITZER: I do indeed. I think he wants to be the historic president. He’s done health care. He will bring us back economically. There’s a slow, painful grind, but I think he sees climate change as something he can do.

AMANPOUR: Well, I think all our lives depend on it. And our children’s and our grandchildren’s.

SPITZER: I agree.

AMANPOUR: Governor, thank you very much for being with us.

SPITZER: Thank you for inviting me.

AMANPOUR: And despite Sandy, as we’ve been saying, there are people out there who still deny climate change. We’ve just been discussing it. And when we come back, we’ll meet a scientist who said those skeptics are literally whistling past the graveyard — their own.

But before we go to a break, another glimpse of this superstorm. Take a look at this view from Brooklyn looking towards Manhattan as the lights went out. We’ll be right back.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Superstorm Sandy is just a taste of things to come, both here in the United States and around the world. That is according to my next guest, climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer. He’s been studying climate change for three decades, and is currently a geoscientist professor at Princeton University.

Welcome, thank you.


AMANPOUR: Also one of the authors of the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

OPPENHEIMER: Right. That’s the U.N. agency that puts out assessments of this problem periodically.

AMANPOUR: So are you stunned by what happened? Did you, in your wildest dreams, believe that this is — this would be the result?

OPPENHEIMER: Well, sort of professionally, I knew it could happen. But until it happens to you, and hits you on the head, you don’t really fully appreciate what it’s like to be in a situation like this. I live in the area of Manhattan that’s blocked out, that’s blacked out.

I went down to the coast before the storm peaked to watch the seas rising. And even though we’ve predicted stuff like this in the past, it was a shock to me to see it.

AMANPOUR: I mean, it is a little third world, if you don’t mind me saying that, about this great city, it’s half in the dark, hundreds of thousands of people don’t have power. Did you expect that to happen?

OPPENHEIMER: Before the storm hit in its full fury, my wife asked me if we needed to worry about the electricity going out. I said, nah, you know, we don’t live in the flood zone. We’re a little higher than that. It’s not going to affect us.

Little did I realize that the utility had so many transformers and some of their substations right in the area that could be flooded. Why it’s like that, I’m not sure; possibly because the system was designed 100 years ago. That was before sea level rose by a foot, which now threatens a lot more of the city. And that’s the heart of the problem.

AMANPOUR: Well, let’s talk about this. You heard my conversation with the former governor, Eliot Spitzer, talking about what needs to be done and this sort of antiquated system, and the political will needing to be corralled to fix it and to move forward. You, though, and your fellow scientists, have been briefing and warning all sorts of officials.

OPPENHEIMER: That’s right.

AMANPOUR: What do you tell them? And then what do they tell you?

OPPENHEIMER: Well, the officials, particularly in this city, know. They’ve been hearing it for at least 20 years. We had one of these hundred-year storms in 1992, and since then, they’ve know the subway system could flood. They’ve known the power could go out.

And they — and actually laid plans for the future, which are sensitive to global warming and the threat, but they don’t have the political will to actually start moving very fast and putting anything into effect.

So they raised some of the subway station and (inaudible). But in order to make them less difficult, more difficult to flood, they made a few changes here and there, but really grappling with it, they haven’t done. But you know, in this city, we have, in the past, built infrastructure with the future in mind.

We have a glorious water supply system, which we built over the course of 150 years. People thought ahead. We can still do it.

AMANPOUR: So what does need to happen? What are the big things, big ticket items that are vital?

OPPENHEIMER: We need to make it more difficult for people to situate infrastructure right on the coast. Actually, we shouldn’t allow it unless it’s absolutely necessary.

AMANPOUR: So ban it, bring everything in from the coast?

OPPENHEIMER: (Inaudible) all new buildings should be in.

Second of all, we need to take the easy steps to prevent things like subways from getting flooded. We need to raise the entrances. We need to protect roadways and change the gratings so water doesn’t automatically go down to a low point. We need to raise the highways that are right along the coastline.

And then we need to consider the more long-term and more difficult, more expensive measures, like the possibility of doing what London did, which is build a storm barrier, which is lowered when there’s a big storm coming up and protects London from a Thames tidal surge. We got to start thinking for the long term.

AMANPOUR: How much would that cost, do you think, and how long would that take?

OPPENHEIMER: It would costs tens of billions of dollars. It would take decades to complete. But if you don’t start now, as the world warms and these storms become more frequent, we’re going to be caught out again.

So if we want to avoid having this, more of these devastating surges and having nothing to do to deal with them except run for our lives, we have to start thinking, planning and even spending right now.

AMANPOUR: Well, look at this, in our desk; we have this Arctic ice mass. This is 1980, big. It’s there still.


AMANPOUR: And now the latest picture shows, look, 2012. I mean, half if not more is gone.

OPPENHEIMER: The Arctic ice pack is very vulnerable to warming because the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the average of the planet. So this has gradually been shrinking for the last 30 years. And now it looks like Arctic ice in summer. It’ll always be there in winter, but in summer, it’s probably going to disappear during this century.

AMANPOUR: During the century?

OPPENHEIMER: During the century, maybe even during the first half of this century.

AMANPOUR: Well, so let me ask you, New York City has 520 miles of coastline. And from what I read, the sea level is rising exponentially faster.

OPPENHEIMER: Right. It’s not the Arctic ice as a whole that affects sea level, it’s just the Greenland ice sheet, this part over here. Land- based ice, as it melts, goes into the sea; it causes sea level to rise. If that happens, if this whole ice sheet goes — which we project would happen if warming exceeded a few degrees — then sea level would rise globally by about 23 feet.

This is — there’s also another chunk in Antarctica, which could contribute about 17 feet. That’s 40 feet of sea level rise. The only way New York City or many other coastal cities survive in a sea level 40 feet higher globally is if they built sea walls. That might have to happen. But this doesn’t have to necessarily occur.

We can still slow the warming and eventually stop it if we start reducing emissions today. We can prevent such catastrophes.

AMANPOUR: But we’re behind the curve.

OPPENHEIMER: We’re behind the curve. Other countries, particularly some countries in northern Europe are moving quicker than the U.S. is. But the U.S. has gradually, even quietly, starting introducing measures to cut emissions by introducing more fuel, cars with higher fuel economy and reducing, mandating reductions in emissions of the greenhouses gases from its power plants.

We need a new future, which is not based on coal and oil, but which is based on renewable energy. We have a potential bridge to that future from natural gas, which reduces carbon dioxide emissions in the short term.

AMANPOUR: I want to see if we can get that picture. It’s an animation that was actually in Al Gore’s film, in “An Inconvenient Truth,” about the worst-case scenario, Lower Manhattan being flooded.

Is that science fiction? I mean, we’ve seen the floods.


AMANPOUR: But is it science fiction to think that it will disappear? And try to tell me, try to sort of compare it to what happened in Bangladesh.

OPPENHEIMER: OK. Well, Bangladesh is kind of a worst case, because the highest point in Bangladesh at all, I think, is something like 60 feet. And most of the country is very close to sea level; storms come up there; they submerge a third of the country.

It used to be that a million people would die in a cyclone. That doesn’t happen anymore, by the way, because they’ve gotten very good at the sort of inexpensive near-term measures that we should be paying attention to.

Here in Bangladesh, they built concrete — they built concrete bunkers and they have a good early warning system. So now when a cyclone comes by that would have killed a million people, instead, it’s still terrible; a few thousands. But it’s a hundredth as many people. We can do that kind of thing here, too, and we’re not.

AMANPOUR: And does it trouble you that even the forecasting is behind the curve? I mean, they’re saying that this European model, for instance, is way more accurate than the newest forecasting. Is that true?

OPPENHEIMER: Let’s be careful. The forecasters did an amazing job on this storm. This storm followed a weird an unusual S-curve trajectory instead of the usual, from your side, coming near the coast and going out that way, it went like this. That’s very hard to predict. And the fact that the models got it almost perfectly right within a few days shows us what our science can do when we have a chance.

The problem now is that our satellites, our satellite system hasn’t been well maintained. So the models don’t have the data being input into them that they should. And we’re going to have a gap of a few years.

So the first thing that government needs to do is pay for the science, because the science (inaudible) dividends, start reducing emissions, start preparing plans to save people from these kind of disasters that are going to happen, to some extent, in any event.

AMANPOUR: Professor Oppenheimer, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

OPPENHEIMER: A pleasure to be here.

AMANPOUR: And we’ll be right back after a break.



AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as we mentioned, directly across the river from New York City, just a short drive through the Lincoln Tunnel, Hoboken, New Jersey, is struggling to keep its head above water — literally. The National Guard has been called in to rescue thousands of residents trapped in their homes by rising waters for the past few days.

But half a century ago, this riverfront town helped shape American popular country — culture, rather. Imagine a world without Frank Sinatra.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): The iconic crooner was born in Hoboken in 1915. He dropped out of the local high school and he started singing with a group called The Hoboken Four. The rest, as we know, is history.


AMANPOUR: And now imagine that same world without Marlon Brando or his memorable performance in “On the Waterfront.” The movie was shot on the docks of Hoboken back in the 1950s.

That’s it. Thank you for joining us. Goodbye from New York.


Posted on on September 20th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

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

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.



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.


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.


Posted on on September 17th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

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


Posted on on August 20th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

First Chinese ship crosses Arctic Ocean amid record melt.

First Chinese ship crosses Arctic Ocean amid record melt Photo: China Daily
A general view shows Chinese ice breaker ship ”Xuelong”, also called ”Snow Dragon”, docking at Tianjin November 3, 2011.
Photo: China Daily

An icebreaker has become the first ship from China to cross the Arctic Ocean, underscoring Beijing’s growing interest in a remote region where a record thaw caused by climate change may open new trade routes.

The voyage highlights how China, the world’s no.2 economy, is extending its reach to the Arctic which is rich in oil and gas and is a potential commercial shipping route between the north Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, arrived in Iceland this week after sailing the Northern Route along the coast of Russia.

Expedition leader Huigen Yang, head of the Polar Research Institute of China, said he had expected a lot more ice along the route at this time of year than the vessel encountered.

“To our astonishment … most part of the Northern Sea Route is open,” he told Reuters TV. The icebreaker would return to China by a route closer to the North Pole.

He said that Beijing was interested in the “monumental change” in the polar environment caused by global warming.

Sea ice floating on the Arctic Ocean is on track to beat a record low set in 2007, making the region more accessible but threatening the hunting lifestyles of indigenous peoples and wildlife such as polar bears and seals.

The thaw is slowly opening up the Arctic as a short-cut route – the German-based Beluga Group, for instance, sent a cargo vessel north from Korea to Rotterdam in 2009.


“The (Chinese) journey indicates a growing interest in the melting of the ice in the northern regions and how climate change is affecting the globe and the future of all nations,” the office of Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said.

Arctic sea ice extent on August 13 fell to 5.09 million square km (1.97 million square miles) – an area smaller than Brazil, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Sea ice reaches its smallest in September before expanding again as winter approaches. China has overtaken the United States as the top greenhouse gas emitter, mainly from burning fossil fuels, ahead of the European Union, India and Russia.

“China’s interest is a mix of business, science and geo-politics,” said Jan Gunnar Winther, director of the Norwegian Polar Institute.

For countries outside the region like China, there may be more opportunities to supply equipment to aid drilling, he said. South Korea’s Hyundai, for instance, is building a floating production unit for the Goliat oilfield in Norway’s Barents Sea.

Winther said that research into climate change in the Arctic was also relevant to China’s understanding of weather patterns that could affect its farmers.

China has applied to become an observer at the Arctic Council, made up of the United States, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

“The application will be handled in May next year,” said Nina Buvang Vaaja, head of the Arctic Council Secretariat.

Other applicants seeking to join the Council, which oversees management of the region, are Japan, South Korea, the European Union Commission and Italy. Germany, Britain, France, Poland, Spain and the Netherlands are already observers.

Date: 18-Aug-2012 – Reporting By Alister Doyle – Reuters.


Posted on on August 9th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

From: Maggie L. Fox, Climate Reality

Dear Pincas,
It’s hot. It’s too hot! For many of us, it’s one of the hottest summers ever. 2012 is so far the hottest year on record in the United States. It’s WAY too hot to ignore the role of manmade climate change.

Yet climate deniers continue spreading the same tired falsehoods we’ve heard over and over again. But, we’re fighting back and connecting the dots to show that climate change is happening now. And we need your help.

Last week, we took our “I’m Too Hot” campaign into Austin, Texas — where the temperature shot past 100 degrees each day and it was impossible to ignore the heat. We talked to the people we met about how the climate crisis is affecting their lives. We invited them to post messages on Twitter or Facebook using our “I’m Too Hot!” hashtag. Along with sharing some of our ice cream accompanied by climate messages, people in Austin were connecting the dots and sharing the truth about climate change.

This campaign was a success. We helped spark an urgent and necessary conversation about the reality of our changing climate. And now, with your help, we want to take our “I’m Too Hot!” campaign to more cities where the temperatures are soaring.

Help us take our “I’m Too Hot” campaign to reach more cities across America. Donate $5 today to support this important campaign.

The best way to engage people is to make the connection to what they experience every day — to bring the connections home. So we’ve created a simple, innovative campaign with a serious purpose: Helping more and more people understand how climate change impacts their everyday lives.

In Austin, one person after another told us that while they’re used to hot summers in Texas, this year is exceptional – and worrisome. As word of mouth spread, more and more people came up to us carrying on the conversation about climate change.

And the conversation spread online. Thousands of people posted to their social networks about the reality of climate change in their communities. That is leading to thousands more people who are sharing the truth about climate change and the need for us to take action without delay.

Climate change isn’t something that could happen in the future. It’s happening now, today. Globally, 9 of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. This fact is sobering. It’s absolutely essential for all of us to grasp the reality of climate change and share the need for action with others.

And that means we need to continue our “I’m Too Hot!” campaign beyond Austin to other cities experiencing extreme heat across America.

Help us bring our “I’m Too Hot!” campaign to more cities across the country. Donate $5 today and support The Climate Reality Project.

With your help, we can make a difference!

Thanks for all you do,

Maggie L. Fox
President and CEO
The Climate Reality Project


Posted on on August 8th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Circumpolar Leaders Gather For Arctic Imperative Summit

Summit Convenes Decision-Makers on Infrastructure Investment, Natural Resources, Policy and Security During Time of Rapid Arctic Change.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Aug. 8, 2012 /PRNewswire

— Rapid change in the Arctic due to melting sea ice brings new opportunities and challenges.

To address the complex Arctic agenda, an influential mix of international, U.S. and local leaders will convene at the second Arctic Imperative Summit, August 24–27, 2012, in Anchorage and Girdwood, Alaska.


Sharpening the world’s focus on the short-term opportunities and long-term challenges of Arctic development, the Summit features a multidisciplinary group of experts. By engaging with decision-makers from all sectors, Arctic leaders will be in a stronger position to influence responsible development decisions on their shores.


– Plenary sessions on infrastructure needs and investment opportunities in the U.S. Arctic, including a proposed Bering Sea port authority to manage traffic growth;

– Panel discussions on shipping and transportation developments, moderated by industry experts;

– Keynote speeches from military leaders on Arctic sovereignty and security;

– Perspectives and observations from indigenous residents, including “The Eskimo and the Oil Man,” a conversation with author Bob Reiss andEdward Itta, former mayor, North Slope Borough, Alaska;

– Panel discussions on sustainable development, governance and the race for resources;

– Instructive case studies, such as the recent Renda fuel delivery to Nome;

– A screening of “Project Chariot,” a documentary on the U.S. government’s ill-fated plan to use a nuclear bomb to create a deep-water Arctic port inAlaska; and much more.

The Summit schedule can be found here: A detailed agenda will be released prior to the event.


The Honorable James A. Baker III, Former U.S. Secretary of State

The Honorable Mark Begich, U.S. Senator, State of Alaska

Charles K. Ebinger, Director, Energy Security Initiative, Brookings

The Honorable Olafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland

The Honorable David J. Hayes, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior

General Charles H. Jacoby Jr., Commander, U.S. Northern Command

Marilyn Heiman, Director, U.S. Arctic Program, Pew Environment Group

The Honorable Edward Itta, Former Mayor, North Slope Borough, Alaska

Chris Matthews, Host, “Hardball with Chris Matthews” and “The Chris Matthews Show”

Scott Minerd, Chief Investment Officer, Guggenheim Partners

The Honorable Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senator, State of Alaska

General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of the Defense Staff, Canadian Forces

Thomas R. Nides, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, U.S. Department of State

General Joseph W. Ralston, Vice Chairman, The Cohen Group

David M. Rubenstein, Co-founder, The Carlyle Group

The Honorable Mead Treadwell, Lieutenant Governor, State of Alaska

Felix H. Tschudi, Chairman and Owner, Tschudi Group

The Honorable Fran Ulmer, Chair, U.S. Arctic Research Commission

A comprehensive list of speakers can be found here:

“The rapid changing of the Arctic environment demands responsible and sustainable development,” says Alice Rogoff, founder of the Arctic Imperative Summit. “Solutions to the complex needs of this region will only be reached if all stakeholders, including its residents, are at the table.”


Summit registration is available online at Please contact Nolan Frame at arcticimperative@shworldwide.comwith questions.


Media with relevant assignments will be granted access to the Summit at no charge and may register online at Gallery seating will be provided in the back of the meeting facilities to watch the Summit live. A media room will also be provided on-site. Boxed meals will be provided, along with access to receptions and dinners. Please contact Tim Fitzpatrick at for assistance in coordinating on-site interviews or with general media queries.


Following the summit, presentations can be accessed on the event’s Vimeo page at


Please follow us on Twitter at @ArcticSummit, hashtag #AIS2012, and on Facebook at for Arctic news and Summit highlights.


The Summit offers an excellent opportunity for your organization to enhance its profile among Arctic decision-makers. For further details on remaining promotional packages, contact Jenny Gilman at


Read in-depth coverage on news and politics across the circumpolar North on The Arctic Wire.


The Arctic Imperative is an independent nonpartisan organization founded by Alice Rogoff, publisher of The mission of the Summit is to sharpen the world’s focus on the policy and investment needs of the Arctic and provide a platform for local, state, national and international leaders to make measured Arctic development decisions.


Toll-Free Information:

Nolan Frame

PR Newswire (


Posted on on April 2nd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

EU Fails To Resolve Dispute Over UN Climate Fund Seats.

Date: 02-Apr-12
Author: Nina Chestney and Charlie Dunmore from Reuters.

European Union ambassadors failed to resolve a dispute over the allocation of seats on the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund (GCF) board on Friday, possibly undermining the bloc’s credibility in international climate talks.

The EU envoys were meeting for the second time in a week to decide which European nations will be represented on the governing board. This has 12 seats for developing countries and another 12 for developed countries.

“Despite willingness to compromise and adequately share board seats, it has, unfortunately, not been possible to come to an agreement within the EU,” the EU’s Danish presidency said in a statement.

As a result, the EU will miss a March 31 deadline for making a joint proposal on board membership, and EU governments and the bloc’s executive will now have to negotiate directly with other developed countries over who gets the seats.

“For this reason, respective nominations from the group of developed country parties will be withheld until these discussions have taken place,” delaying the entire process, the Danish presidency said.

U.N. climate talks in Durban last year agreed on the design of the fund, which is aimed at channelling up to $100 billion a year to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

Disputes of this kind could both slow the process towards the launch of the fund in 2013 and give other countries the impression that the EU is stalling on climate finance. “It shows that the EU unity we had in Durban has been eroded and that could damage Europe’s image in global climate change talks,” Danish presidency spokesman Jakob Alvi said.

The fund’s first board meeting is due on April 25 to 27, a U.N. spokesman said, subject to confirmation next week.

Despite the EU’s failure to reach an agreement, it should not affect the number of seats it will be allocated on the GCF board, he added.


Thirteen of the 27 EU countries had requested a board seat, to ensure they had a say in funding decisions.

A draft EU document, seen by Reuters this week, shows that EU member states and Switzerland might together be able to obtain seven full seats plus associated alternating seats between them. Denmark had proposed that Britain, Germany and France, as the likely biggest financial contributors, should hold a full seat each and share three further alternating seats with another EU country.

But an EU source involved in the discussions said Germany – backed by France – refused to share its seat with any other EU country and insisted on a permanent position on the board, ending any chance of an EU compromise.

Poland also insisted on having a full seat, and told the meeting that in the absence of a joint proposal it would put itself forward to the U.N. in a separate bid outside the EU, sources said under condition of anonymity.

Poland, which relies heavily on coal production for its energy needs, says its economy would develop much more quickly if it wasn’t for the EU’s climate policy, which aims to make coal power generation more expensive.

“(The Commission) has tried to rob us so many times before. This time around we want to wear a second jacket – just in case – and let nothing we are eligible for miss us,” a Polish government source told Reuters.