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8 November 2010

Shell

Royal Dutch Shell is beginning a public lobbying campaign, including national advertising, on Monday. The giant oil company is promising to make unprecedented preparation to prevent the kind of disaster that polluted the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year. With the turmoil and damage created by the BP spill it can be imagined that they have quit a job to do.

The plan is to drill in Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi seas is not a new venture but something that has been stalled by lawsuits and regulatory delays four years. The company was close to overcome all hurdles when the BP accident occurred. Due to the BP accident the Obama registration suspended most new offshore drilling, including within the sesitive waters of the Arctic. Since then the moratorium on gulf drilling has been lifted,Shell is pressing the Interior Departmetn to grant final approval for its Arctic projects by the end of this year so that the company has enough time to move the necessary equipment to drill next summer, when the ice clears.

following the BP accident, both individuals and official parties have become more aware of the environmental risks involved with such ventures which will hopefully lead to strenghtendend security meassures and the strengthening of response units, if such an accident is to o cure again.

8 November 2010

shipping_icebergThe International response to climate change was initiated at the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro in 1992 with the signing of the U.N Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

It is an international treaty on environmental law aiming at reducing the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

The UNFCCC does not lay down any binding limits of reduction, but divides the signatories to the convention in to three categories each category agreeing to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gas a certain amount.

First category of industrialized countries, so called Annex I countries, agree to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gasses to targets that are mainly set below their 1990 levels. These countries are Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, UK and USA.

Annex II countries, developed countries that are to pay for the costs of developing countries for their efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses, are Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA and the European Union.

Finally, in the Annex III are developing countries and countries with economy in a transition.

Today, the UNFCCC enjoys near-universal membership having 192 signatory members. The members meet annually in Conferences of the Parties (COP), in which they assess progress and negotiate binding rules on greenhouse gas emissions. One of the most significant COPs has been the COP-3 in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, where the so called Kyoto Protocol, the legally binding protocol on emission reduction, was adopted.

Kyoto Protocol

The major feature of the Kyoto Protocol where the targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European Community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions .The target is an average of five per cent against 1990 levels between 2008-2012. In addition to the limits, the Kyoto Protocol introduces three mechanisms how the targets are to be met. Primarily, the countries must reduce their emissions through national measures, meaning that they have to take action to actually diminish their greenhouse gas pollution. But since the economies of most countries are highly dependent on indutries that are high pollutors, three other mechnisms were introduced to ease the reduction scheme.

The first mechanism introduced in the Kyoto Protocol is the Emissions Trading. Emissions trading, as set out in Article 17 of the Kyoto Protocol, allows countries that have emission units to spare - emissions permitted them but not "used" - to sell this excess capacity to countries that are over their targets. This scheme is in use for example in the European Union and is one of the largest trading schemes in operation.

Second mechanism provided by the Kyoto Protocol is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), defined in Article 12 of the Protocol. The CDM is a purchase system where saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits can be earned by implementing an emission-reduction project in developing countries. This is a unique global environmental investment system and there exists now 1849 registered CDM project activities.

Third mechanism is so called „joint implementation" ,defined in Article 6 of the Kyoto Protocol. The „joint implementation" allows an Annex II country to earn emission reduction units (ERUs) from an emission-reduction or emission removal project in another Annex II country through a flexible and cost-efficient foreign investment and technology transfer.

The Kyoto Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005 and has today been ratified by 184 countries.

COP 15 – Copenhagen, 7-18 December 2009

The 15th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 15) and the 5th Meeting of the Parties (MOP 5) to the Kyoto Protocol will be held in 55 days, 7-18 December 2009, in Copenhagen, Denmark. The COP15 / MOP5 are of special significance because of the goals set forth in the Bali Road Map. In the Bali Road Map it was stated that in Copenhagen, a post-Kyoto Protocol action is to be negotiated. The fact is that the consequences of the climate change are getting increasingly apparent and in the Arctic alone it has been estimated that the sea ice will melt in ever accelerating rate the North pole being ice free over the summer time already as soon as in 2040.

Ad Hoc Working Group on Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) has been preparing the COP 15 / MOP 5 and most participants seem to agree that a positive outcome for the global community can be reach in the COP Meeting. However, it is to be seen how the global recess has influenced the ability of the major industrialized countries to act upon their commitments and how far they are willing to go to futher the legally binding commitments for the post-Kyoto era.

Uppdate 2010: Cop 15 was concluded a while ago and it can be said that it did by no means live up to the high hopes that it would be a landmark in dealing with climate change.

The Arcitc Portals coverage of COP 15 can be seen HERE.

8 November 2010

climate_snowmobileThe effects of global warming are believed to be extensive. Estimating the precise effect is not possible as there as several unknowns in the equation so this should be regarded as best available estimates rather than facts.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that global warming will continue to grow and get worse much faster than was expected. Effects of a rise in global temperature are severe.

Warm and dry countries will become even drier and warmer often severely challenging the local population and making water an even scarcer commodity than it is today. Countries within most continents are likely to be affected by this but most prominently large regions of Africa. This will add to political unrest and some scientist have estimated that large migrations of people to north may follow as regions of the globe will no longer be available to sustain its current population.

The list below includes some of the estimated effects:

 - Most places will continue to get warmer. The temperature change will benefit some regions
   while harming others. Globally mortality will rise and food supplies will be scarcer due to more
   frequent heat waves.

 - Weather patterns will continue to change and intensify. Stronger floods and droughts where
   wet regions will get wetter and dry regions dryer. Extreme weather events will become more
   frequent and worse. Glaciers and winter snow will shrink endangering many water supply systems.

 - Sea Levels will continue to rise for many centuries. Rising sea levels will endanger many
   of the worlds largest city's in the world including cities like New York to Shanghai. Thirteen
   of the world's fifteen largest cities are on coastal plains.

 - Ecosystems will be stressed. Some managed agricultural and forestry systems may experience
  a short time gain while long time effect may be drastic. Species in the Arctic, mountain areas
  and in the seas will move towards more habitable climate and species that can not move,
  like the polar bear, will face extinction. Furthermore tropical diseases and pests will spread
  to other regions. Many of these problems have been observed already in numerous places.

 - Increasing carbon dioxide levels will affect biological systems. This may affect the fertilization
   of plants. The oceans will continue to become more acidic, endangering coral reefs and
   affecting the fisheries and other marine life.

Source: Spencer R. Weart

Here below you can watch "Observations on Climate Change in the Arctic by WWF

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jak1pExql0U]

8 November 2010

greenhouse

Most of the observed temperature increase since the 1940-50's were caused by increasing concentration of greenhouse gases.

Greenhouse gases closely correlate human activity such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation.

Greenhouse gases are gases in an atmosphere that absorb and emit radiation within the thermal infrared range.

This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect.

Greenhouse gasses are in the correct amount quite necesseray and natural and without them it has been estimated that the earth surface temperature would be on average 33 degrees colder.

The main greenhouse gases in the earth atmosphere are in accordance to their abundance:

  • water vapor
  • carbon dioxide
  • atmospheric methane
  • nitrous oxide
  • ozone
  • chlorofluorocarbons


climate_polygonFrom the beginning of the Industrial revolution the release of carbon dioxide or Co2 has increased dramatically. Most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the 20th century was caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, which results from human activity such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation.

Global dimming, a result of increasing concentrations of atmospheric aerosols that block sunlight from reaching the surface, has partially countered the effects of greenhouse gas induced warming.

Climate model projections summarized in the latest IPCC report indicate that the global surface temperature is likely to rise a further 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) during the 21st century. The uncertainty in this estimate arises from the use of models with differing sensitivity to greenhouse gas concentrations and the use of differing estimates of future greenhouse gas emissions.

An increase in global temperature will cause sea levels to rise and will change the amount and pattern of precipitation, probably including expansion of subtropical deserts.

Warming is expected to be strongest in the Arctic and would be associated with continuing retreat of glaciers, permafrost and sea ice.

Other likely effects include changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, species extinction, and changes in agricultural yields.

Warming and related changes will vary from region to region around the globe, though the nature of these regional variations is uncertain.

The scientific consensus is that anthropologic global warming is occurring. Nevertheless, political and public debate continues. The Kyoto Protocol is aimed at stabilizing greenhouse gas concentration to prevent a "dangerous anthropogenic interference". As of November 2009, 187 states have signed and ratified the protocol. Source: (IPCC)

Learn more about the Kyoto Protocol HERE

 

8 November 2010

climate_houseThe Arctic Portals Climate Change and Sea Ice Portal is intended to give individuals access to material according to each ones need in connection to the subjects This will consist of recent news articles, scientific reports and other relevant material.

Climate Change or Global Warming refers to the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near surface air and oceans since the mid 20th century.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that increasing greenhouse gas concentration resulting from human activity such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation are the biggest contributors to global warming.

Climate Change is, in the eyes of many, the key issue in the Arctic and one of the key issues faced by human kind as a whole. Climate change has been highly disputed and there are those who maintain that human induced climate change does not exist and the swift warming occurring over the two last centuries is a part of the earth's natural cycle.

It can, non the less, be said that within the scientific community there is a relative consensus that global warming is indeed at least partially human induced. The scientists that conclude that human effect is marginal are all but extinct.

Since the 1880, average temperatures have climbed 0.8° Celsius (1.4 ° Fahrenheit) and the rate of warming is increasing. Much of this increase can be traced back to the last couple of decades. The 1980's and 90's were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia. IPCC reported in 2007 that 11 of the past 12 years had been among the dozen warmest since 1850. Further increase of 1.1° to 6.4° Celsius (2.0 ° to 11.5 ° Fahrenheit) have been estimated during the twenty first century.

Here below you can watch short Global Warming 101 by the National Geographic.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJAbATJCugs]

To learn more about climate change:

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Climate Change Factsheet, July 2010

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) The Climate Change Science Compendium 2009

Global Climate Observing System

Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA)

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Arctic Theme page

5 November 2010

Nor_oilNorwegian Petroleum Directorate/Barents Observer - 37 companies have applied exploration license in the 21st licensing round on the Norwegian continental shelf in the Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea areas. The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate is very pleased with the number of applications and says that company considered a competent applicant must have technical expertise and a sound understanding of geology in addition to financial strength and experience.

The Norwegian Pension Fund, in which the petroleum exploitation revenue is saved, is still growing and is now approaching NOK 3000 billion, which is more than one million NOK per each family in Norway. The total Norwegian oil production this year is estimated at 2.2 million barrels a day, which is five percent down from 2009. Gas production in 2010 is expected at 105 billion standard cubic metres, which represents approximately 45 percent of total Norwegian petroleum production.

The total recoverable resources at the shelf amount to approximately 13.4 billion standard cubic meters oil equivalents. After 40 years of production, nearly sixty percent of the expected resources remain to be produced.

4 November 2010

Arctic on the map

Barents Observer reports that Vladimir Selin, Chief Research Scientist at the Kola Science Center shares his opinion that the Agreement between Russia and Norway on the delimitation of the Barents Sea will result in Norway moving out of the Shtokman gas field and believes that it is part of the agreement.

" It is hard to understand who’s behind the Russian side in the Russian-Norwegian agreement from September 15, Selin says to Regnum.ru. – It is also hard to see why Russia needs this agreement – the pluses for Russia are unclear, but the minuses are evident"

According to Selin Russia does not possess the necessary technology needed to develop the fields covered by the agreement and will not do so for years to come. Selin theorizes that, with Shtokman as the main priority for Russia and the fact that Norway has used up all its rich resources, a side agreement was made on the two nations priorities as the gain for Russia is not nearly as visible as the gain by Norway.

He further states that Statoil will not necessarily officially withdraw from the shtokman gas field, but reduce their activities to next to nothing.

For further information about Arctic Enegry matter go to the Arctic Portal Energy Portlet

Source: Barents Observer

3 November 2010

Norway_Russia_border_agreementBarents Observer - Norway and Russia signed yesterday a milestone agreement on visa-free travel between Russia and a Schengen-member state in Oslo. The agreement between Norway and Russia on Facilitation of Mutual Travel for Border Residents establishes an Arctic cross-border zone, including the Norwegian town of Kirkenes and the two Russian towns of Nikel and Zapolyarny on the Kola Peninsula, from where the population can cross the border without valid visa by showing only a specific ID-card. The ID-card is intended for locals who have been living in the zone for more than 3 years and have either Russian or Schengen member state citizenship. The new visa-free zone will facilitate the 20 percent increase in traffic crossing the Russian-Norwegian border in the first six months of 2010 compared with the same period last year and is in line with wider European policy of increased cross-border cooperation along the eastern rim of the European Union.

European Border Dialogues conference, attended by 16 states, reseantly issued a Declaration on Cross-Border Cooperation in a Wider Europe identifying key challenges in current cross-border cooperation in Europe, among which are visa regulations and border crossing procedures. The new Norwegian-Russian agreement is thus a step towards abolishing the visa-regime which discourages cooperation between Europe and Russia and enhancing regional cooperation in the Barents region.

2 November 2010

Virtual Learning Tools

The Virtual Learning Tools project is a cooperation between the Arctic Portal, University of the Arctic, APECS, ICR, SVS and Hsvest to create a virtual learning tool specifically designed for Northern residents. During this January a pilot course led by Phillip Burgess at the ICR will commence within the system, prior to a formal launch in June 2011. Below is the Course announcement released by the University of the Arctic:

Climate variability, climate change and the societal/cultural transformations associated with globalization have been, and continue to be, responsible for major changes in the physical environment, the biota and the cultures of the indigenous and other communities in the Arctic.

Human-ecological systems in the Arctic are particularly sensitive to change, perhaps more than in virtually any other region. This is due in part to the variability of the Arctic climate and the livelihoods of Arctic peoples. Production systems of Arctic peoples in variable and unpredictable climates are based on the sequential utilization of, often, a large number of ecological or climatic niches. The essence of such systems is flexibility and the distribution of risk through diversity.

Understanding vulnerability requires assessment of systems’ ability to adapt to impact and the extent to which freedom to adapt is constrained. International law has established the right of indigenous people like reindeer herders to participate at all levels of decision making in issues that concern their rights, livelihoods and future, and it is therefore an issue to consider in discussing adaptation.

The course uses reindeer husbandry as a case based study for understanding rapid change in the Arctic. The cumulative impacts of climate change and globalisation on reindeer husbandry will be looked at and examined in terms of their impacts on the livelihood. Key drivers of change, vulnerability and adaptation will be identified and tools and barriers for adaptation for reindeer herders will assessed.

The course has been created in a joint collaboration between IPY EALÁT, the EALÁT UArctic Institute for Circumpolar Reindeer Husbandry, the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, the Sami University College, Kautokeino, Norway, the Thule Institute, the University of Oulu Finland and the UArctic.

This course is a following up of the ACIA Report to the Arctic Council and is a delivery from IPY EALAT # 399 consortium with its diverse activities from 2007 -2010 including workshops, lectures, seminars, speed talks, outreach and research activities which were all video recorded for teaching purposes.

The course development has been supported by the Nordic council of Ministers Arctic co-operation funding (2006-2009, Thematic Network on Global Change in the Arctic, 2009- 2011, Arctic Virtual Learning Tools).

Course is open for students registered in any of the University of Arctic member organizations (www.uarctic.org). There will be no pre selection to the course but 20 students will be accepted in the order of registration. Please note that for successful completion of the course, students will need to have sufficient English language reading, writing and comprehension skills.

Acceptance for the course with login and technical information will be emailed directly to students in December 2010. The course is hosted by the University of Oulu, Finland (Faculty of Humanities & Thule Institute).

The deadline for registration is December 10th, 2010 and enrollment and further information registration is only available online at www.vlt.is

1 November 2010

Vladamir Putin

Former Russian president, and current prime minister of Russia Vladimir Putin Urges Arctic nations to reach an agreement on the areas rich mineral resources. Further he states that he is confident that all such agreements will be peaceful and in accordance to international law. During last month a historic border deal between Norway and Russia was signed, which hopefully can be looked upon as a example of how these matters should be sorted out.

The Arctic nations are amongst those which are working on mapping their seabed, which in accordance with the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) determines where the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone starts.

Mr. Putin was quoted saying " Serious political and economic interests are indeed crossing over in the Arctic. But I have no doubt that problems, including the continental shelf problem, can be solved in the spirit of partnership, It is well known that it is difficult to survive in the Arctic on your own. Nature itself makes people, nations and states help each other there,"

Russia is currently the world´s top energy supplier, and it has been stated that they estimate that it's entire Arctic territory holds twice as much oil and gas reserves as Saudi Arabia today.

It will be interesting to see how the Arctic states negotiate exact territorial claims, but there seems to be a consensus from most parties that an agreement will be made under UNCLOS, which has been ratified by all the Arctic states exempt the U.S, which still admit that they will abide to UNCLOS as it has become international customary law.

29 October 2010

Narwhal

Scientists have started using thermometer- wearing narwhals to obtain temperature readings from beneath the winter pack ice in Baffin Bay. The diving mammals fill in a geographical and seasonal gap in the region's climate records, as winter temperatures have not been available from the area before.

The outcome of the temperature reading show that the ocean temperature beneath the pack ice is getting warmer , the data also confirm a warming trend visible based on sumer readings only continued in the three years to 2007.

Using marine mammals in to obtain scientific data is not a new idea and has been done by using for example elephant seals and bearded seals, but this is the first time that narwhals have undertaken such an assignment.

It will be of great benefit to the science community to have access to this type of data and will increase the understanding of climate change and help in the creation of future climate change models.

For further information about the others and a more detailed description of the work carried out pleas follow this link

Source: Naturenews

27 October 2010

Shipping Portlet

Arctic Shipping is a topic that is of great interest to both nation states as well as local Northern communities. The last four years have shown a trend of record low ice extent, and it is generally bellieved that the melt will continue to increase. This development in already leading to increased shipping within the Arctic. During this summer we saw the first high-capacity tanker go through the northern passage to Asia as well as the first non-Russian bulk carrier to go through the same route. The opening of the Northern Sea route would have immense effects on global shipping as it would shorten shipping from Asia to Europe and North America significantly.

Such a sea-route and all the benefits which it would entail are however not without concenquence as recently been published from a team of U.S and Canadian researchers, including scientists from the University of Delaware. Growing Arctic ship traffic will bring with it air pollution that has the potential to accelerate climate change in the region. Engine exhaust particles is could increase warming by some 17-78 percent.

James J. Corbett, Professor of marine science and policy at UD states " One of the most potent ' short-lived climate forces' in diesel emission is black caron, or soot. Ships operating in or near the Arctic use advanced diesel engines that release black carbon into one of the most sensitive regions for climate change.

Produced by ships from the incomplete burning of marine fuel, these tiny particles of carbon act like 'heaters' because they absorb sunlight -- both directly from the sun, and reflected from the surface of snow and ice. Other particles released by ship engines also rank high among important short-lived climate forcers, and this study estimates their combined global warming impact potential.

To better understand the potential impact of black carbon and other ship pollutants on climate, including carbon dioxide, methane and ozone, the research team produced high-resolution (5-kilometer-by-5-kilometer) scenarios that account for growth in shipping in the region through 2050, and also outline potential new Arctic shipping routes."

Among the research team's most significant findings:

  • Global warming potential in 2030 in the high-growth scenario suggests that short-lived forcing of ~4.5 gigatons of black carbon from Arctic shipping may increase the global warming potential due to ships' carbon dioxide emissions (~42,000 gigagrams) by some 17-78 percent.
  • Ship traffic diverting from current routes to new routes through the Arctic is projected to reach 2 percent of global traffic by 2030 and to 5 percent in 2050. In comparison, shipping volumes through the Suez and Panama canals currently account for about 4 percent and 8 percent of global trade volume, respectively.
  • A Northwest Passage and Northeast Passage through the Arctic Ocean would provide a distance savings of about 25 percent and 50 percent, respectively, with coincident time and fuel savings. However, the team says tradeoffs from the short-lived climate forcing impacts must be studied.
  • To calculate possible benefits of policy action, the study provides "maximum feasible reduction scenarios" that take into account the incorporation of emissions control technologies such as seawater scrubbers that absorb sulfur dioxide emitted during the burning of diesel fuel. Their scenario shows that with controls, the amount of Arctic black carbon from shipping can be reduced in the near term and held nearly constant through 2050.

What this work highligthes is that the development path that trans-arctic shipping must take is one that is environmentally friendly. That scientists cooperate closely with the Arctic Council and the eight nation states there within on climate policy in connection to trans-arctic shipping. 

The Northern Sea Routes on map