GreenPolicy360 Arctic Watch
What happens in the North doesn't stay in the North
Melting Arctic ice lets world's biggest shipping firm complete first voyage through previously impenetrable Northeast Passage
- Maersk sent a new ship across the polar sea for the first time
- The route has historically been difficult to traverse because of thick sea ice
- Global warming has melted much of the route, opening it up to trade ships
The Northern Sea Route could be a shorter route for journeys from East Asia to Europe than the Northwest Passage over Canada because it will likely be free of ice sooner due to climate change.
The container vessel, Venta Maersk, traveled from Vladivostok to St Petersburg over the northern top of Russia.
Experts say the new passage reduces the most commonly used East Asia-Europe route via the Suez Canal from 13,000 miles (21,000 kilometres) to 8,000 miles (12,800 kilometres), cutting transit time by 10-15 days.
Typically vessels taking this icy route have required an ice-breaker escort, but rising global temperatures are making the passage easier to traverse.
The Northern Sea Route is becoming appealing to the shipping industry, especially to the oil and gas sector, as it is much shorter than the Suez Canal.
The reduction of ice in the Arctic and design of new ice-breaking commercial vessels make the transportation of abundant Arctic natural energy resources commercially viable.
- By Kieran Mulvaney / Washington Post Magazine
September / August 2018
Via The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer.
This phenomenon – which has never been recorded before – has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and a climate-change driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere.
One meteorologist described the loss of ice as “scary”. Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest.
The sea off the north coast of Greenland is normally so frozen that it was referred to, until recently, as “the last ice area” because it was assumed that this would be the final northern holdout against the melting effects of a hotter planet...
July / June / May 2018
Peruse scientifically ...
- Arctic Sea-ice retreat
- Short-, Mid-, Long-term
In an interview with Yale Environment 360, polar scientist Mark Serreze talks about the rapid changes he has witnessed over more than three decades of working in the Arctic and the future stability of the region if temperatures continue to climb.
- We’re going to have an Arctic that, except for winter, you look at it from satellite and it’s going to be a blue ocean. It will have lost its ice. Not just its sea ice, but a lot of the permafrost will be thawed, the snow cover season will be much shorter. The thing is, when you’re thinking about the Arctic, the Arctic’s soul is its ice. When you lose that ice, the Arctic loses its soul.
"It was bigger than sending a man to the moon" -- Russia-US drilling in a Warming Arctic (2011)
- The big story, the 'follow the money' story, the story of oil/gas profits and global environmental costs
- Rosneft/Exxon's $500 billion deal, Rex Tillerson appointment as US Secretary of State, political-economic reality
Exxon is abandoning Russian projects
Via the Wall Street Journal -- Exxon-Russian Plans for drilling in Arctic ocean oil fields end -- temporarily.
- Withdrawal from joint venture brokered by Tillerson for now marks end of energy giant’s hopes of drilling in Arctic ocean oil fields
The Texas oil giant said in a regulatory filing late Wednesday that it would walk away from the joint venture with state-controlled PAO Rosneft to seek oil in the ice-choked waters of the Kara Sea, a hard-fought deal signed in 2012 by the company’s former chief executive, Rex Tillerson, now U.S. secretary of state.
Mr. Tillerson had touted the agreement as a breakthrough giving Exxon access to one of the world’s great unexplored oil and gas basins. The company reportedly spent about $700 million to drill the first well, likely making it the most expensive ever. It struck oil, according to Rosneft...
Exxon declined to comment on the reasons for its decision. The company said it would formally begin to withdraw from the Rosneft joint ventures this year, taking a $200 million loss after taxes.
Rosneft said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that it would support the return of Exxon to the projects in the future if it were legally possible.
Via Medium / "Follow the Money from the Rosneft/Exxon $500 billion deal"
- Igor Sechin described the ambition of the (2011 announced) Rosneft/Exxon project as “bigger than sending man to outer space or flying to the moon.”
- “Experts say that this project, in terms of its ambitions, exceeds sending man into outer space or flying to the moon,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, an architect of the partnership, told a briefing for analysts in New York.
How's the Weather?
Arctic temperatures are soaring
by Joe Romm
It was the warmest December on record in the Arctic, and 2018 has already set a string of records for lowest Arctic sea ice.
Unfortunately for America and the rest of the planet, the best science makes clear that what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. “We long ago anticipated that warming would be greatest in the Arctic owing to the vicious cycle of melting ice and warming oceans,” climate scientist Mike Mann told ThinkProgress via email.
“But what we didn’t anticipate is the way that changing wind patterns could accelerate that process — and along with it, a host of nasty associated surprises.”
Surprises include “including slowing down of ocean currents, and whacky weather patterns in North America associated with weather extremes like droughts, wildfires, floods, and superstorms.”
And those are in addition to the “nasty” associated impacts that scientists have long predicted would result from Arctic warming, such as faster melting of the land-based Greenland ice sheet, which in turn drives the speed up in sea level rise that scientists reported last week (Feb. 12, 2018)....
- John Abraham, professor of thermal sciences: “The temperatures in the Arctic are off the chart. This matters for the rest of us because this is the time of year when the Arctic ice should be growing. But it isn’t growing like it should. So, this summer, there will be less ice and more open waters that will lead to more warming. We've started a feedback loop that we cannot stop.”
A photographer’s work with Greenpeace has given him a front-row seat to twenty years of drastic change
The Northwest Passage Opens: The Future of Ice-Free Arctic Commercialization Comes into View
The Arctic as we once knew it is no more
Scientists Thought an Alaskan Weather Station Was Broken...
It Was Just Climate Change
As the Ice Retreats -- Oil/Gas Pressures in the North Accelerate
New Risks and Volatile Change
Listen to the serving Commandant of the US Coast Guard:
- Adm. Paul Zukunft, U.S. Coast Guard commandant / July 25, 2017: (WGBH Boston / National Public Radio Interview)
- ~ Arctic Militarization?
- ~ Surface ships in the Arctic, the US/Russian future on oil/gas resources...
- ~ The US is only Arctic nation that has not ratified the Convention of the Law of the Sea
- ~ EEZs / Exclusive Economic Zones / Off-shore extended continent shelf -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exclusive_economic_zone
- ~ Territorial Waters -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Territorial_waters
September / August 2017
Trump 'Reluctantly' Signs Sanctions Bill, US/Russia Arctic Gas/Oil Ventures Blocked
July / June 2017
Time to Drill?
- In effect, action by the US Congress to continue/extend sanctions has the effect of blocking ExxonMobile-Rosneft Arctic drilling
- Exxon and Rosneft offshore exploration partnership plans to invest as much as $500 billion in developing Russia's vast energy reserves in the Arctic and Black seas
Head of the US House Committee on Science: Climate Change is "Beneficial"
Lamar Smith's New Line: It's time to Celebrate
WASHINGTON / HuffPost / July 24, 2017 — Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) — who has spent his career cozying up to fossil fuel interests, dismissing the threat of climate change and harassing federal climate scientists — is now arguing that pumping the atmosphere full of carbon dioxide is “beneficial” to global trade, crop production and the lushness of the planet.
Rather than buying into “hysteria,” Americans should be celebrating the plus sides of a changing climate, Smith argues in an op-ed published July 24th in The Daily Signal, a news website published by the conservative Heritage Foundation.
“Roast the Arctic and you create a mess everywhere on Earth...”
- -- Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer
Why Care About Black Carbon?
Rex Tillerson speaks of 'how the Trump administration will approach the issue of climate change'
Tillerson’s appearance in Alaska at the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting comes two days after the White House said Trump would postpone a decision over whether to pull out of the landmark Paris climate accord until after he meets world leaders at the Group of Seven summit later this month.
“We are currently reviewing several important policies, including how the Trump administration will approach the issue of climate change,” Tillerson said Thursday during his remarks to the Arctic Council, which also includes Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. “We’re going to work to make the right decision for the United States.”
Tillerson called for vigilance in protecting the Arctic’s “fragile environment.” The U.S. will continue to be an active member of the council," he said. “The Arctic region has been facing unprecedented change and challenges.”
Initially (in their joint "Fairbanks Declaration" statement that accompanied the Council's meeting,) the U.S. objected to references to climate change, renewable energy and United Nations sustainability goals in an early draft of the joint statement, said Rene Soderman, senior adviser for Arctic cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. The council reworked the wording and convinced the U.S. to accept the changes.
“We were able to push the U.S. back as much as possible,” Soderman said.
Dollars & the Arctic
Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic: Summary for Policy-makers
The Arctic Transformed
The Arctic is warming faster than any other region on Earth. Over the past 50 years, the Arctic’s temperature has risen by more than twice the global average.
The Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic indigenous peoples, and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of environmental protection and sustainable development in the Arctic. Established in 1996, the Arctic Council is composed of eight Member States (Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States). It also includes six organizations representing Arctic indigenous peoples.
- Pushed by Currents, Billions of Pieces of Plastic Pollution from World's Oceans End Up in the Arctic
On a tour on the Franz Josef Land archipelago, a sprawling collection of islands where the Russian military has recently built a new runway and worked to open a permanent base, Putin emphasised on Wednesday (March 29) the need to protect Russia's economic and security interests in the Arctic.
"Natural resources, which are of paramount importance for the Russian economy, are concentrated in this region," Putin said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.
Putin said current estimates put the value of the Arctic's mineral riches at $30 trillion.
NASA's Earth Science News Team / Arctic sea ice appears to have reached on March 7 a record low wintertime maximum extent, according to scientists at NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. And on the opposite side of the planet, on March 3 sea ice around Antarctica hit its lowest extent ever recorded by satellites at the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere...
February 11, 2017 via CS Monitor — Records are shattering left and right across the Arctic, much like the ever-dwindling sea ice that once covered the entire Arctic Ocean.
First, the facts. January sea ice area has never been so small. In November, the coverage fell short of average by an area the size of the eastern half of the United States. Northeast Greenland had its warmest February day ever (by almost four degrees). The current heat wave brought temperatures near the North Pole to 50 degrees above average...
“We’re still trying to figure out what is happening here,” Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist with the Colorado-based Snow and Ice Data Center that compiles and reports the history of Arctic ice conditions.
“The ridiculously warm temperatures in the Arctic during October and November this year are off the charts over our 68 years of measurements,” Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University...
Everyone agrees that "something is very, very wrong with the Arctic climate"...
“[A]fter studying the Arctic and its climate for three and a half decades, I have concluded that what has happened over the last year goes beyond even the extreme,” wrote Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., in an "Crazy times in the Arctic" article for Earth magazine.
The number of freezing degree days is far lower than any other period on record.
Between 1980 and 2016 the amount of summer ice in cubic kilometers has decreased by an estimated 72 percent...
- January 19, 2017
 Northern Routes Open as Ice Retreats
- Former Exxon CEO and new US Sec of State Rex Tillerson meets with Russian President Putin
- during 2012 negotiations to move forward with joint oil/gas ventures described as historic
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
Ex-Chief of ExxonMobil Testifies Before US Congress
- President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said he believes the risks of climate change "could be serious enough that action should be taken,” but he did not elaborate on what that action should be.
Tillerson testified that he formed his views “over about 20 years as an engineer and a scientist, understanding the evolution of the science.” Ultimately, he said, he concluded that increasing greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere are having an effect on the earth’s climate. But he added, “Our ability to predict that effect is very limited,” and precisely what actions nations should take “seems to be the largest area of debate existing in the public discourse.”
- US Department of Defense Report to Congress on Strategy to Protect United States National Security Interests in the Arctic Region
Geopolitics in the Arctic
- Russia and the United States are moving with force to claim fossil fuel exploration and production rights
- Canada, China, Norway and additional countries are look to join into the Arctic resource exploration
- A 'gas/oil' resource rush is imminent despite inherent dangers and impacts on global climate
- The critical, strategic demand continues for New Definitions of National and Global Security
- A preliminary assessment by the US Geological Survey suggests the Arctic seabed may hold as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves.
- By one USGS reported estimate, 400 billion barrels of oil might lie beneath the Arctic seabed.
A Final Presidential Decision Re: Arctic Oil/Gas
December 19, 2016 / President Barack Obama prepares to leave office and prepares to block the sale of new offshore drilling rights in most of the U.S. Arctic and parts of the Atlantic. The executive order that could indefinitely restrict oil production there, according to people familiar with the decision.
Arctic Sea Ice at Record Lows / December 2016
- Not Good News, Arctic Sea Ice News
First Cruise Ship Crossing the Ice-Free Arctic Passage
- http://www.ktva.com/shows/frontiers/episode-74-crystal-serenitys-historic-voyage-951/ Arrival (September 16, 2016) in New York City ...
The beginning of cruise ships plying the formerly isolated, ice-bound region... prompting calls for a clamp-down to prevent Titanic-style accidents and the pollution of fragile eco-systems resulting from accidents -- and new gas/oil production.
Arctic nations begin to consider limiting the size of vessels and banning the use of heavy fuel oil in the region after first luxury cruise ship, Crystal Serenity, sailed through the Arctic from Alaska, across Canada's newly navigable Northwest Passage, to New York in the summer of 2016.
Next up, commercial shipping traffic, container ships ...
Shipping industry report:
Sea-ice is in a committed, long-term decline as the polar north warms.
This year looks on course to be the second lowest in the satellite record. Researchers do not see this trend being reversed anytime soon.
“If we experience a 2-degree increase in global temperatures, we will get close to an Arctic that is effectively ice-free for part of the year; that’s less than a million sq km of ice cover,” said Reading University's Dr. Ed Hawkins.
“So, even if future emissions are consistent with the Paris agreement, it will of course mean shipping routes will be more open. Not every year, but more regularly than they are now.”
“Open water vessels won’t be hugging the Russian coast quite so much, and ice-strengthened ships will be going right over the pole,” he told BBC News.
The incentives are clear: if vessels can transit the Arctic, they will shave many days off their journey times between the Pacific and North Atlantic ports, and save fuel.
In addition, by plotting a more central course, they can avoid the fees they would otherwise be charged for going through Siberian waters.
The team has been looking at how the opportunities might evolve in the decades ahead.
The group used five prominent climate computer models and essentially trained them to better reflect the distribution of Arctic sea-ice as seen in current observations.
They then ran those models forward through the century under different emissions scenarios, to gauge where and how frequently shipping routes would become navigable.
Oil major ExxonMobil (XOM.N) and Russia's Rosneft ROSN.M unveiled an offshore exploration partnership on Wednesday that could invest upward of $500 billion in developing Russia's vast energy reserves in the Arctic and Black Sea.
The deal, between the world's largest listed oil firm and the world's top oil producing nation, was the product of nearly a year of talks and came about despite a history of mutual distrust between Washington and Moscow dating back to the Cold War and recent difficulties for other Western firms in Russia.
"Experts say that this project, in terms of its ambitions, exceeds sending man into outer space or flying to the moon," Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, a key architect of the partnership, told a briefing for analysts in New York.
Under the deal, signed in Moscow on Monday, Exxon and state-controlled Rosneft will seek to develop three fields in the Arctic with recoverable hydrocarbon reserves estimated at 85 billion barrels in oil-equivalent terms.
A final investment decision on the projects in the Kara Sea, in the centre of Russia's north coast, is expected in 2016-17, Rosneft said in a video presentation at the event, which was hosted by Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson and Rosneft President Eduard Khudainatov.
More on the Future of the Arctic:
Arctic News -- http://www.arcticnow.com/section/arctic-news/
Arctic Geopolitics, Multiplying Global Risks
Geopolitical Issues (via GreenPolicy's associated site, Strategic Demands)
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