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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
On and under the water
20 October 2007
The Globe and Mail


The Canadian navy has sent frigates and its smaller marine coastal defence vessels to the North on exercises for the past two years, but they can't stay much beyond September because their hulls aren't reinforced against the ice. The government has announced that over the next several years it will acquire about seven patrol vessels capable of breaking one-year-old ice. Although some were disappointed, analysts point out that when the ice is thick, the marine threat to Canadian sovereignty is small. To accommodate the new patrol vessels, a refuelling facility will be built at Nanisivik, Nunavut. Once built, the vessels will have the daunting task of patrolling an area the size of continental Europe.


Canada's fleet is powered by diesel fuel, and although the country's sole operational sub did take part in this year's northern exercises, subs aren't deployed under the unpredictable ice because diesel subs need to surface to recharge their engines. Nuclear submarines, operated by Russia, the United States, France and Britain, can patrol under the ice for extended periods without surfacing.

Coast Guard

The Canadian Coast Guard deploys six vessels to the Arctic from June to November, mainly to break ice for barges bringing crucial supplies to remote communities. Two of the ships are heavy ice-breakers, capable of operating in multi-year ice, and four are medium ice-breakers. Another two ships with reinforced hulls are used primarily for scientific research in the North. The Coast Guard ships are not armed, and maintaining Canadian sovereignty is not part of their mandate.

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
Both Arctic routes open, a rarity tied to warming
8 September 2008
International Herald Tribune

Leading ice specialists in Europe and the United States have agreed for the first time that a ring of navigable waters has opened all around the fringes of the cap of sea ice drifting on the warming Arctic Ocean.

By many accounts, this is the first time in at least half a century, if not longer, that the Northwest Passage over North America and the Northern Sea Route over Europe and Asia have been open simultaneously.

While currents and winds play a role, specialists say, the expanding open water in the far north provides the latest evidence that the Arctic Ocean, long a frozen region hostile to all but nuclear submariners and seal hunters, is transforming during the summers into more of an open ocean.

Global warming from the continuing buildup of human-generated greenhouse gases is almost certainly contributing to the ice retreats, many Arctic specialists now agree, although they hold a variety of views on how much of the recent big ice retreats is caused by human activity.

Last month, news reports said that satellites showed navigable waters through both fabled Arctic shipping routes.

But those satellite findings were at first disputed by the U.S. National Ice Center, run by the navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The center said the satellites monitoring the ice were fooled by broad stretches of fresh water pooling atop ice floes, which can resemble open sea lanes.

On Friday, however, citing fresh images using sensors that can more carefully distinguish ice from water, the Ice Center concurred, issuing a statement concluding, ''This is the first recorded occurrence of the Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route both being open at the same time.''

For years, polar scientists have been predicting that warming is driving the region into a new, more watery state. With further warming, they say, broad open-water expanses will prevail in the summer followed by the formation of ice in the winter. But such ice will generally be too thin to last through the next summer.

In essence, Arctic waters may be behaving more like those around Antarctica, where a broad fringe of sea ice builds each winter and nearly disappears in the summer. Reflecting the complexity of the global climate, the extent of winter sea ice in Antarctica has been expanding of late.

Shippers have dreamed for centuries of sending cargo along Arctic routes - a huge shortcut compared with other long-distance sea routes - but Pablo Clemente-Colón, chief scientist at the National Ice Center, said the open water in the passages over Russia, particularly, remains clotted with thick, dangerous floes and can also close up in a matter of hours.

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Thaw of polar regions may need new UN laws -experts

OSLO, Sept 7 (Reuters) - A new set of United Nations laws may be needed to regulate new Arctic industries such as shipping and oil exploration as climate change melts the ice around the North Pole, legal experts said on Sunday.

They said existing laws governing everything from fish stocks to bio-prospecting by pharmaceutical companies were inadequate for the polar regions, especially the Arctic, where the area of summer sea ice is now close to a 2007 record low.

"Many experts believe this new rush to the polar regions is not manageable within existing international law," said A.H. Zakri, Director of the U.N. University's Yokohama-based Institute of Advanced Studies.

Fabled shipping passages along the north coast of Russia and Canada, normally clogged by thick ice, have both thawed this summer, raising the possibility of short-cut routes between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Dozens of legal experts are meeting in Iceland from Sept. 7-9 to debate the legal needs of the polar regions. Other threats include a surge in tourism, with 40,000 vistors to Antarctica in 2007 against just 1,000 in 1987.

Many legal specialists believe there is a lack of clarity in existing laws about shipping, mining, sharing of fish stocks drawn northwards by the melting of ice, and standards for clearing up any oil spills far from land.

"Oil in particular and risks of shipping in the Arctic are big issues. It's incredibly difficult to clean up an oil spill on ice," said conference chairman David Leary of the Institute of Advanced Studies, which is organising the conference with Iceland's University of Akureyri.

"The question is: do we deal with it in terms of the existing laws or move to a new, more global framework for the polar regions?" he told Reuters.


Some experts say the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea is unclear, for instance, when it speaks of the rights of states to impose restrictions -- such as compulsory pilots for ships -- off their coasts in "particularly severe climatic conditions" or when ice covers the sea for "most of the year."

With the ice receding fast, defining what conditions are "particularly severe" could be a problem, said law professor Tullio Scovazzi of the University of Milano-Bicocca.

Leary said the eight nations with Arctic territories -- the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Finland -- have so far preferred to limit discussion to existing international laws.

The WWF environmental group is among those urging a new U.N. convention to protect the Arctic, partly fearing that rising industrial activity will increase the risk of oil spills like the Exxon Valdez accident off Alaska.

"We think there should be new rules, stricter rules. We are proposing a new convention for the protection of the Arctic Ocean," said Tatiana Saksina of the WWF.

Alaska's state governor Sarah Palin, Republican vice presidential candidate in Nov. 4's U.S. election, is an advocate of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

A boom in tourism in Antarctica meanwhile risks the accidental introduction of new species to an environment where the largest land creature is a flightless midge.

Bio-prospecting may also need new rules. Neural stem cells of Arctic squirrels could help treat human strokes, while some Arctic fish species have yielded enzymes that can be used in industrial processes.

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
Canada stresses Arctic maritime co-operation
24 October 2008
Lloyd's List

WHILE sovereignty issues remain alive, a Canadian government representative at an international conference in Montreal on the outlook for Arctic shipping has underlined the existing strong co-operation between the countries concerned in planning the economic future.

“We don’t have major issues with any country,” said Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade legal adviser Alan Kessel.

Speaking at the Lloyd’s List Arctic Shipping North America conference, he said: “When the Russians put a flag on the North Pole, it doesn’t mean they own it.”

He said that the US, Canada, Russia and the five Nordic nations on the Arctic Council were working “very closely”, notably on scientific research expeditions such as a recent mapping exercise that involved a large US icebreaker clearing the path for a Canadian research vessel.

Under the current Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada has emphatically voiced its claim that the Northwest Passage constitutes internal territorial waters.

James Steele, a diplomat at the US Embassy in Ottawa, reiterated the Washington view that the Northwest Passage is an international strait which should provide “unfettered access” to ships.

Mr Steele disclosed that an updated Arctic policy by Washington authorities was expected to be released before the end of this year. The document will cover, among other matters, US security interests, mechanisms for international governance and environmental protection.

Participants in the conference agreed that even more so within the context of the drastic melting ice cover of the past few years, it was crucial to maintain close dialogue with the aboriginal communities in the region. Their numbers were expected to increase from just over 50,000 today to an estimated 66,125 by 2020. “Shipping in the Far North is about people as customers and communities,” said Suzanne Paquin, president of Transport Nanuk, a division of Logistec, which operates a joint shipping venture with Inuit companies.

Fednav vice-president Tom Paterson agreed, noting “it’s their land” and that aboriginal communities were rightly concerned about response capability in the event of major incidents and oil spills.

“The underwriters need to be brought along, too,” he said. “There must be a clear set of harmonised rules for ship construction and much better charts. Many things need to be put in place before the Arctic opens up further to commercial shipping, even in summertime.”

The United States and Canada had what Mr Paterson called “a natural jurisdiction” in the Arctic. Canadian authorities should control ships entering the eastern section from Resolute Bay whereas the US authorities should be informed of all ship passages from the western section at Point Barrow, Alaska, he said.

He said Canada’s federal government had allocated substantial new resources to defending its strategic interests in the Northwest Passage, but they had not gone far enough. In addition to constructing a deepwater port, the government had announced plans to order one Polar-class icebreaker capable of driving through multi-year ice at a cost of C$720m ($573.6m) as well as six to eight armed Arctic patrol vessels with limited ice-breaking capacity.

Ms Paquin said “tens of millions of dollars” in more funding was needed from the Canadian government just for marine infrastructure.

One panel discussion revolved around the pressure put on resources and infrastructure in the region by the steady increase of cruiseship activity. US and Canadian Coast Guard officials stressed it was especially important for cruise vessels to report their presence, which was not always the case, should help be required for dealing with a mishap.

Cruise North Expeditions president Dugald Wells also singled out one safety area for improvement: “Life-saving equipment like covered life-boats should be mandatory,” he said.

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How sick is it that the thawing of the Arctic and disappearance of the polar ice caps, caused by oil and coal consumption, is being seen as an opportunity to drill for MORE oil!!

What good is an ice free Arctic when sea levels rise and inundate major cities?

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Alaska Coast Guard admiral braces for Arctic shipping made possible by global warming
6 February 2009

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Global warming hurts polar bears but could be a boon for international shipping, if vessels eventually use the Arctic Ocean to cut transit routes in half between Europe and Asia. The U.S. Coast Guard is scrambling to get ready.

Arctic shipping lanes expected to appear as more ice melts would send vessels through the Bering Strait and the Coast Guard last summer sent vessels and aircraft north to "count noses" and find out who was already there. The operation gave Rear Adm. Gene Brooks, commander of the district that oversees Alaska, a firsthand look at the lack of infrastructure along America's northernmost coast that could be used to prevent a Titanic or an Exxon Valdez disaster.

"I don't want a cruise ship sinking that people are making movies about 100 years later," Brooks said. "I don't want a tanker grounding that the Supreme Court is considering 20 years later."

The Coast Guard would be expected to rescue mariners in distress, protect the environment and provide homeland defense, but until a few years ago, the improbability of Arctic shipping meant no one even bothered compiling routine navigational data routine.

"That's some of the things that make shipping hazardous," Brooks said. "We haven't done the surveys that we've done in southeast or southcentral Alaska, just because there were no ships there. Why bother? And oh, by the way, it's hard to get up there and do bottom surveys."

The need has changed with the shrinking of Arctic ice, which has put polar bears on the threatened species list.

Summer sea ice in 2007 melted to 1.65 million square miles, nearly 40 percent less than the long-term average between 1979 and 2000. Climate model predict a continued downward spiral, possibly with an Arctic Ocean that's ice free during summer months by 2030 or sooner.

Summer melting last year nearly set a new record and for the first time in recorded history, both the Northwest Passage through Canada and a northeast route along the coast of Russia opened up -- but only for about eight days in September.

"Open is a general term," Brooks said. "They were considered ice free, which is like 10 to 20 percent sea ice." The routes remain too hazardous for international shipping companies.

"If you talk to them, they will say, 'Listen, we make our money on predetermined routes, predetermined times. Everything is time-distance for us, and this is too risky. Lloyds of London will not yet insure these routes, therefore we're not taking them.'"

That gives the Coast Guard and other U.S. agencies from science experts to the State Department a window to prepare.

When vessels come over the top of the world, they will pass through the Bering Strait, the 53-mile wide opening between Alaska and Russia, and past the Diomede Islands in the middle.

Brooks calls it the Bering "Gate," a choke point that will require a traffic separation scheme plan negotiated with Russia and approved by the International Maritime Organization.

"We have no regulations or controls in the Bering Strait for ships or ship traffic," he said.

The Coast Guard last summer counted about 100 transits through the strait, primarily vessels resupplying communities or research outposts. One was an ecotourism cruise ship, the Bremen, that took 400 tourists to Barrow, America's northernmost city. That gave Brooks pause.

"I've got nothing to deal with her right now if she has a problem and there's nobody with her," Brooks said.

Brooks calls his agency's Arctic experience has been "episodic and superficial." On the foray last year, vessels were accompanied by Canadians.

"All the ships I sent north this summer, I had Canadians on board, because Canadians have the ice experience that my people don't have," he said.

Like the Aleutian Islands and western Alaska, the Arctic coast lacks an integrated network of marine radio coverage.

"I rely on satellite phone calls and electronic beacons to tell me when people are in distress or when something happens," he said.

The agency sent 37 people to Barrow last summer. They took up much of the community's hotel space, borrowed office space from a science consortium and dined at a cafeteria set up for an Air Force contractor.

"We consumed their infrastructure with 37 people. If I was going to move 100 or 200 people, there's no infrastructure anywhere that could handle that," he said.

As for equipment, "Our boat were too big and our helos were too small," Brooks said.

The helicopters were H-65, French-designed Dauphins helicopters with a range of about 120 miles.

"The problem with the North Slope, flying from Barrow, is that everything is more than 100 miles away," he said. That requires helicopter hopping and refueling, a potentially fatal delay for someone in the water.

The 370-foot high endurance cutter, the Hamilton, helped extend the range of the helicopters but the agency's 25-foot "safe" boats, launched from heavy trailers, were not the best fit.

"This is essentially a beach operation. You're launching on sand. While we were able to do it, it's just really hard."

Brooks also found out that "ice free" really is not.

"When the wind blows hard from the north for a week, the sea ice will come down and jam the beach in Barrow," Brooks said. "There was a week when we couldn't launch the boat because the beach was iced in. In August. The native Alaskans knew all about this but it was news to me."

Brooks also is aware that the changing Arctic could mean drilling rigs or undersea mining in his jurisdiction. He's is looking for direction for a "hard, faraway, fragile place" before global warming creates shipping lanes.

"Essentially we've asked the Coast Guard to ask the American people, 'How much Coast Guard to you want?"

A Coast Guard buildup must be balanced with consideration for Alaska's indigenous people, who have plied the icy waters for centuries hunting whales, walrus and seals, Brooks said.

Ten days before leaving office, President George W. Bush signed a new Arctic policy that noted increased human activity, and therefore, a requirement by the United States to "assert a more active and influential national presence to protect its Arctic interests and to project sea power throughout the region." Brooks is waiting for direction from President Barack Obama.

"My attitude is, 'Boss, tell me what you want to do,'" Brooks said.

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
Russia sending more ships, scientists to Arctic
12 February 2009

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia will modernize its icebreaker fleet and station more researchers in the Arctic as part of its push to stake its claim to the vast resources of the disputed polar region, a presidential envoy said Thursday.

Artur Chilingarov, a famed polar scientist who was recently appointed to the post, said that Russia's sizable icebreaker fleet gives the nation a strong edge in Arctic exploration. He said that Russia would build a new Arctic research ship to supplement the Akademik Fyodorov, which conducted a 2007 expedition in which Russian mini-submarines put a capsule with Russian flag on the Arctic seabed.

Chilingarov told reporters that Russia is also preparing to send a team of some 50 polar scientists to the island of Spitsbergen, where Norway claims exclusive rights. He said an advance team will leave Saturday to chose the place for the station.

"The Arctic has a special geopolitical importance for Russia," Chilingarov said at a news conference.

Chilingarov said that the government's policy guidelines on the Arctic envisage "expanding the Russian presence there, intensifying research and rebuilding a network of polar stations."

In 2007, Chilingarov led two Russian mini-submarines on a mission to stake Russia's claim to the region that is believed to contain huge oil and gas reserves. The two subs descended some 2.5 miles (4 kilometers ) to the Arctic seabed, where they collected geologic and water samples, and dropped a titanium canister containing the Russian flag.

The Russian mission exacerbated the controversy over an area which is believed to contain as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas.

Russia, the United States, Canada and other northern countries are trying to assert jurisdiction over the Arctic, whose oil, gas and minerals until recently have been considered too difficult to recover. The dispute has intensified with growing evidence that global warming is shrinking polar ice, opening up new shipping lanes and resource development possibilities.

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev said last fall that Russia's long-term development and competitive place in world markets is dependent on developing Arctic resources.

Chilingarov said that Russia is preparing to resubmit its claim that an underwater mountain range crossing the polar region is part of Russia's continental shelf. Moscow first submitted the claim in 2001 to the United Nations, but it was rejected for lack of evidence.

Chilingarov said that Russia took notice of NATO officials' meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, last month at which they said the alliance will need a military presence in the Arctic as major powers rush to lay claim to lucrative energy reserves.

"We aren't going to wage a new Cold War in the Arctic," Chilingarov said, adding, however, that Russia will look to protect its interests.

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
Former icebreaker captain calls for better Arctic regulations
1 July 2009

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - A multi-national council this spring recommended northern countries, including the United States, adopt uniform and mandatory rules for construction of ships that access the Arctic Ocean, where thinning ice and increasing resource development should accelerate commercial shipping.

Shipping through the ice-covered ocean -- a basin ringed by major fisheries, bookended by land-based mining projects, and host to high-profile oil and gas leasing -- has risen, but rules and guidelines for shipbuilders and Arctic countries vary or, where standardized, remain voluntary, the council reported in a major assessment of arctic shipping.

The call for harmonized standards and laws, made through an Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment led by the eight-nation Arctic Council, comes as researchers consistently find signs that Arctic ice has thinned drastically and analysts mull the potential ramifications. The group cites scientific indications the Arctic's year-round ice cover could contain melting spots and channels within a few years.

But Lawson Brigham, a former icebreaker captain now serving as professor of geography and arctic policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said Wednesday that despite that melting, the ocean remains -- and will remain -- ice-covered for most of the year, justifying calls for comprehensive standards uniform enough for shipbuilders, shipping companies, national governments and others to follow regardless of home port or location.

"It is highly plausible there will be greater marine access and longer seasons of navigation, except perhaps during winter, but not necessarily less difficult ice conditions for marine operations," the assessment's summary states.

Brigham, who outlined the assessment project's April report at a Wednesday presentation in Fairbanks, served as chairman of the five-year assessment project. Led by Canada, Finland and the United States, the project aimed to weigh regional, local and circumpolar perspectives, focusing on shipping activity past, current and future in Arctic waters.

The United Nations-affiliated International Maritime Organization has drafted voluntary standards covering many aspects of marine policy for Arctic States to follow, according to the assessment report. But such measures, Brigham said, would be more effective in protecting the Arctic environment and improving safety if the standards were mandatory and uniform across national boundaries.

Since the report's release in late April, the IMO has begun to weigh such a proposal, Brigham said, and it looks poised to adopt the plan.

The assessment included input from a wide range of groups, including shipbuilders, northern states, insurers and shipping companies, Brigham said. The final report also recommends countries and private industry work together on legislation aimed at protecting the Arctic environment from the prospect of a major oil spill. It further suggests nations address a shortage of infrastructure such as deep-water ports, icebreakers and navigational charts, and that they work to improve traffic awareness systems.

"There is a general lack of marine infrastructure in the Arctic, except for areas along the Norwegian coast and northwest Russia, compared to other marine regions of the world with high concentrations of ship traffic," the assessment reads.

The assessment project was called for by the Arctic Council, a multinational partnership, after previous reports found "reduced sea ice is very likely to increase marine transport and access to resources." The group recommended Arctic states weigh the need to designate areas for international environmental protection. Brigham said such regions already exist in parts of the world, including one off the coast of South Africa.

Brigham's presentation was part of an ongoing lecture series hosted by the UAF-based Alaska Center for Climate Assessment & Policy.

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Direct Arctic passages likely to remain cost prohibitive
23 June 2009
Lloyd's List

SHIPOWNERS wishing to make use of the shorter Arctic routes to send vessels between Europe and Asia will still find it unfeasible even when the year-round ice melts, writes Craig Eason.

Norwegian Classification Society Det Norske Veritas has published a study that evaluated the use of these shorter routes rather than the Suez Canal.

Currently, the fees paid to Russian authorities for ice passage and icebreaker escort through the northeast passage are prohibitively high.

One Canadian operator recently inquired about sending an ice-class vessel through the waters when it looked like opening up for the summer months, but withdrew the plan after assessing the costs.

Even if in future years the ice recedes far enough for owners to contemplate a more direct route across the Arctic Sea while remaining outside Russian territorial waters, trade constraints will remain, said DNV programme director for Arctic shipping Morten Mejlænder-Larsen.

He said that if one takes the same climate change model as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there would still be concentrations of thick ice and ridging in winter and spring in 2050, which would be an impediment.

“If containerships are to be strengthened and upgraded to meet these challenges, the disadvantage of a hull optimised for icebreaking is that its efficiency is significantly reduced in open water.

“Transit in open water will be a main part of the shorter route, and this will lessen the gains achieved by taking this route.”

He said the situation could change if the Russian fees were adjusted to make the coastal routes more economically viable, but he believes that the majority of trade in the region will be bound for northern Russian ports or offshore installations.

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
Wanted: mid-sized icebreakers, long-range choppers, perspective
11 June 2009
The Globe and Mail

The North Pole is closer to Paris than it is to Ottawa. Russia's northernmost Arctic island is more than 1,500 kilometres from Alert, Nunavut.

Providing security in Canada's Arctic requires a sense of perspective – and a willingness to co-operate. The most significant security threats are found along the Arctic's southern fringes and involve non-state actors, such as drug smugglers, not other nation-states.

Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci has warned that terrorists might use an ice-free Northwest Passage to traffic in weapons of mass destruction. It could also serve as an entry point for illegal immigrants. Gravel airstrips are scattered along the Passage, a legacy of the Cold War and countless research and prospecting expeditions.

Foreign cruise ships put hundreds of passengers on shore at Inuit communities that have scheduled air service but no immigration controls.

In 2006, a Romanian man sailed from Greenland to Grise Fjord, after having been deported from Toronto. He was arrested by the RCMP. In 2007, five Norwegians set out to challenge Canada's Northwest Passage claim. The RCMP intervened, with the help of the Coast Guard icebreaker Wilfred Laurier.

These incidents demonstrate that the RCMP can deal with non-state threats – if they have the support of other government agencies.

As is the case in the rest of Canada, this leaves the Canadian Forces with the principal task of search and rescue. Unfortunately, four old, slow Twin Otter aircraft based in Yellowknife constitute the entirety of the Canadian Forces Arctic fleet.

Hercules aircraft based in Southern Canada are frequently called upon but take six hours to reach the Northwest Passage. No long-range Cormorant helicopters are based in the Arctic, not even in summer, because it's considered inefficient to locate search-and-rescue assets where a sparse population creates a statistically low risk.

Accidents in the Arctic tend to be serious. Each summer, thousands of older tourists visit the Canadian Arctic on cruise ships. In November of 2007, a Canadian-owned vessel sank during an Antarctic voyage. Fortunately, the sea was calm and two other ships were close by.

More than 100,000 people fly over the Canadian Arctic each day on high-latitude routes to Europe and Asia. Retired colonel Pierre Leblanc says the prospect of a crash was the one thing that kept him awake at night when commanding Canadian Forces Northern Area.

Basing two Cormorant helicopters in Iqaluit and Inuvik during the summertime would be a good start. From there, they could cover the areas of greatest maritime activity in the Canadian Arctic – Baffin Bay and the Beaufort Sea – as well as the Northwest Passage. Improving search-and-rescue capabilities would also facilitate the enforcement of our domestic laws, and thus our sovereignty claims. A long-range helicopter is the perfect platform for boarding foreign vessels. Much better, indeed, than the “Arctic offshore patrol ships” that the Canadian Forces are due to acquire beginning in 2015. The patrols ships will not be designed to break ice and, for this reason, will not be sent into the Northwest Passage.

The new ships are best thought of as replacements for the appallingly slow Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel, with some additional ice-strengthening that will enable them to be used in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in winter, and Baffin Bay in summer.

Building naval vessels specifically for the Arctic would be inefficient, as the federal government seemed to realize when it announced plans for the Diefenbaker: a $720-million icebreaker intended for the Coast Guard. The procurement process has already been suspended, and for good reason. The Diefenbaker was intended to be much larger and more powerful than sea-ice projections warrant, given the accelerating effects of climate change.

The money should now be redirected to the acquisition of two or three mid-sized icebreakers, which would do the job well and provide much greater coverage. While the ships are being built, it would make sense to add a light machine gun and long-range helicopter to each of our existing icebreakers. Their Coast Guard crews could be trained in forcible interdictions, equipped with small arms, and made members of the Naval Reserve.

They would then be of more assistance to the Canadian Forces with search-and-rescue, and to the RCMP with law enforcement. All this while fulfilling their existing, essential functions of breaking ice for commercial vessels, maintaining navigation devices and supporting Arctic research.

Instead of militarizing the Canadian Arctic at great cost and little effect, we should build on our strengths –and co-operate.

Michael Byers holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia.

This article is an edited version of a presentation to the House of Commons standing committee on national defence.

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
Thinning ice already allowing more commercial shipping in Northwest Passage
14 June 2009
The Canadian Press

The thinning Arctic ice pack is already producing the much-anticipated surge in commercial shipping through the Northwest Passage.

And as the pace of ice loss accelerates, experts say the federal government is not keeping up to ensure Canadians control it.

Three companies are now planning to send commercial vessels deep into the Passage's once ice-choked waters this season _ triple the number from 2007. There are now more solely commercial vessels in the Passage than there were ships of all kinds just a few years ago.

``The ice is more favourable than in past decades,'' said Capt. Georges Tousignant, who is scheduled to take a cargo ship from Montreal almost to the western gates of the fabled waterway this September _ the first such passage for Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping.

``It's navigable,'' Tousignant said. ``It's not that high-risk.''

With that run, which will land supplies at communities all along the Arctic coast, NEAS joins two other shippers plying the same waters.

DesGagnes Transarctik sent its first cargo vessel into the Passage last season. Northern Transportation Company Limited has shipped to those communities for years, sailing from west to east.

Experts have long predicted that shrinking Arctic ice cover would lead to an increase in use of those waters. The increase, they said, would be created by demand from local communities and growing northern industrial development.

That's exactly what's happening.

Coast Guard figures show there were 62 commercial and re-supply ships and three ore carriers in the Passage last year. That's more than all 54 of the ships that entered those waters just four years earlier, which includes research and recreational vessels.

Although the Coast Guard expects the number of research and tourist ships to decline slightly, commercial shipping is still expected to increase.

``The demand is increasing steadily,'' said Waguih Rayes, DesGagnes' general manager.

That demand comes not only from Nunavut's growing population, but from the federal government's increasing spending on northern infrastructure. Northerners rely on sealifts for everything from bulk supplies of dog food to concrete and lumber.

``Ten years ago, how much money was spent on infrastructure building schools and hospitals in the North compared to today, the difference is huge,'' said Rayes.

Shippers also have their eyes on the mining industry. While the current economic slump has delayed development of the several resource projects slated for the Arctic, Rayes said it's not too soon to start preparing for them.

``The mines one day will become active. We're going to see years when what we talk about today will be doubled and even tripled.''

Ice conditions are likely to encourage that increase.

The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre reported last week that the pace of ice melting throughout the Arctic over the month of May was about 54,000 square kilometres per day _ well above the long-term average.

And every May, there's less ice. The long-term trend shows an average decline of 34,000 square kilometres of ice per year.

That means that thick, multi-year ice that impedes navigation could soon be a thing of the past, said Michael Byers, international law professor and Arctic expert.

``From that point, the Arctic becomes comparable to the St. Lawrence,'' he said.

International shippers are already making increasing use of the Passage. A cable-laying ship sailed through last year from Hong Kong to a project in the North Atlantic, Byers said.

Canada hasn't kept up, he said.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared last fall that all ships in the Passage would be required to report to the Coast Guard, those regulations still haven't been passed into law.

Nor does Canada have a reliable way to enforce its rules or provide search and rescue in Arctic waters. A few long-range helicopters stationed at existing facilities in Inuvik, Northwest Territories and Iqaluit, Nunavut, would go a long way toward answering those needs, Byers said.

``We need to step up our enforcement capability,'' he said.

Meanwhile, shippers are welcoming the emerging routes and markets. ``For the last 10 years, this route was practicable seven times out of 10,'' said Rayes. ``The fact that the last three years were the years where (this route) was ice-free is very encouraging.''

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
On the trail of the Arctic's most enduring mystery
An Alberta archeologist feels certain he can locate the lost ships of the Franklin expedition

15 July 2009
The Globe and Mail

EDMONTON -- A marine archeologist from landlocked Alberta has set his sights on finding two of the world's most coveted shipwrecks: the long-lost Royal Navy vessels from the doomed 19th-century Franklin expedition.

Rob Rondeau and his small team plan to travel to the central Arctic archipelago later this summer to launch a privately funded underwater search.

The race to find the fabled shipwrecks has been continuing for more than 160 years, but Mr. Rondeau is confident his group's research and use of state-of-the-art sonar will solve the vexing mystery.

Parks Canada was supposed to dispatch its own marine archeologists to the Arctic later this summer as part of a high-profile, three-year search for the ships that began last year. It scrubbed this year's effort because no government vessel was available.

While most modern-day Franklin hunters, including Parks Canada, have focused their attention on areas southwest of King William Island, Mr. Rondeau is confident the shipwrecks are in fact located north of the island, in the waters of Larsen Sound.

The missing ships, HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, were part of an 1845 British expedition led by Sir John Franklin to map the Arctic and locate the fabled Northwest Passage to Asia.

The vessels and their crews never returned, and since the late 1840s, dozens of search efforts, both public and private, have been mounted to answer one of the Arctic's greatest riddles. Graves of some of the crew and wreckage from the expedition are all that have been recovered.

The search for the Franklin expedition over the decades has become a lifelong obsession for many people around the world, but Mr. Rondeau, who is head of Alberta-based ProCom Diving Services, said he picked the project primarily to test newly developed sonar equipment in the Arctic.

“That was the first priority. I'm not a Franklin-phile,” he said during a telephone interview from his home in Coronation, about 290 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.

Mr. Rondeau said the plan is to find the ships, which have already been designated national historic sites, this year and return next summer, possibly with a mini-submarine, to photograph and research them further.

“All the work we are doing is non-intrusive – it's look but don't touch,” said Mr. Rondeau, who has worked on locating and recovering shipwrecks around the world.

“This isn't a salvage mission. This is full-on archeology – and philanthropy, to a certain extent.”

The expedition is being backed by several sponsors, including Canadian North Airlines, Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping Inc. and Discovery Channel Canada, which is sending a documentary crew along on the search. Mr. Rondeau also invited the head of Parks Canada's underwater archaeology service to join them this summer. Parks Canada declined the invitation yesterday.

The search will be launched in early September from Taloyoak, Nunavut, a small, mainly Inuit community located on the Boothia Peninsula.

Jayko Neeveacheak, a 39-year-old Taloyoak resident, has been hired to help Mr. Rondeau's team and to find an Inuit guide. He said this is only the second time that a search for the expedition has been launched from his community, and that most head out from Gjoa Haven, at the southeastern tip of King William Island.

Most Inuit in his community grew up hearing about the lost Franklin expedition but few spend any time looking for signs of it, Mr. Neeveacheak said.

“We know the stories, but it doesn't really matter to people around here. They like to go out on the land and that kind of stuff.”


Lost in the ice

The first attempts to find Franklin's ships were rescue missions, and began within three years of the expedition leaving England.

1848-1859 - Numerous expeditions were launched, including the first, which was paid for by the British government and led by Arctic explorer Sir James Clark Ross . During this period, human remains and relics were found. Stories that some of the crew resorted to cannibalism also began to surface. In the late 1850s, an expedition funded by Franklin's widow, Lady Jane Franklin, and led by Leopold McClintock found a note left by crew members on King William Island. They wrote that Franklin had died in 1847, the ships were abandoned a year later and the remaining crew were attempting to walk overland for help.

1860-1869 - American explorer Charles Francis Hall led two searches after receiving a tip, which later turned out to be wrong, that survivors existed.

1878-1880 - The American Geographical Society sponsored an expedition led by U.S. Army Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka.

1967 - Canadian soldiers took part in "Project Franklin" to mark Canada's centennial. They conducted air, land and sea searches.

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Arctic losing thick sea ice, U.S. data show
7 April 2009
The Globe and Mail

HALIFAX, WASHINGTON -- The amount of thick sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk sharply, according to new U.S. surveillance data, adding urgency to Canada's push to exert sovereignty in the North.

But Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said yesterday it could be decades before the Northwest Passage is open for shipping.

“Some experts predict that the entire Arctic could be ice free by 2013, others say that this will happen by 2050,” Mr. Cannon told the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

“Our own Canadian Ice Service, however, believes the various internal waterways known as the Northwest Passage will not likely be a reliable commercial shipping route for decades owing to extreme ice variability.”

NASA and the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center reported yesterday that Arctic sea ice more than two years old made up only about 10 per cent of the total this winter. That's a drop from 14 per cent last year and at least 20 per cent two years ago.

There's an increasing presence of thin, new, first-year sea ice, which is more likely to melt during the summer. A decade ago, this type of sea ice, which is also less likely to impede the types of ships several countries are planning to use, made up half of the Arctic total. It now accounts for 70 per cent.

Tom Wagner, cryosphere program manager with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, acknowledged yesterday that diminishing ice has “very big implications” for northern shipping and resource exploitation.

“[It] opens up issues of who owns the Arctic,” he said in a conference call presenting the new data.

Canada claims sovereignty over the Northwest Passage. The United States regards it as an international strait no different from other vital sea lanes such as the Strait of Hormuz, and thus open to international maritime traffic.

Although nuclear-powered submarines from the U.S., British, French and Russian navies routinely were deployed in the Arctic during the Cold War and continue to make less frequent forays, Canada remains largely in the dark about those operations.

Yesterday, Mr. Cannon suggested that the U.S. Navy – in what would be a departure from previous practice – would notify Canada in future through joint military channels about its submerged patrols.

Although successive governments in Ottawa and Washington have sought to smooth over the dispute, the prospect of an ice-free, and thus commercially viable, summer passage through the strait threading Canada's Arctic archipelago has raised the possibility of a new showdown.

“What the anticipation of an opening Arctic has created is a lot of countries [investing] in technology to help them get through first-year ice,” said Rob Huebert, an associate professor of political science at the University of Calgary and an expert in circumpolar relations. “Even if it gets colder again, we're going to have new traffic and new actors in the Arctic.”

The Canadian military – which three years ago renamed the Northwest Passage “Canadian Internal Waters” – is running a sovereignty exercise in the Far North. Inuit reservists are patrolling on Ellesmere Island and air surveillance and parachute-borne search and rescue exercises are planned there.

But Dr. Huebert warned that exercises on land do little to bolster Canada's claim to control the areas covered by thinning sea ice. He noted that Russia has an active maritime presence promoting its claim to the Northern Sea Route, and that Canada needs to act to protect its interests.

He said Canada should not delay in mounting a major diplomatic campaign promoting its claim and should accelerate the purchase of icebreakers, even if it means buying them from foreign shipyards.

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Thinking about the Arctic's Future: Scenarios for 2040
1 September 2007

The warming of the Arctic could mean more circumpolar transportation and access for the rest of the world-but also an increased likelihood of overexploited natural resources and surges of environmental refugees.

The Arctic is undergoing an extraordinary transformation early in the twenty-first century-a transformation that will have global impacts. Temperatures in the Arctic are rising at unprecedented rates and are likely to continue increasing throughout the century.

Significant environmental changes in the region include retreating sea ice, melting glaciers, thawing permafrost, increasing coastal erosion, and shifting vegetation zones. The Arctic Ocean could even be temporarily ice-free during summer 2040, predicts one recent study.

These changes have profound consequences for the indigenous people, for all Arctic species and ecosystems, and for any anticipated economic development. The Arctic is also understood to be a large storehouse of yet-untapped natural resources, a situation that is changing rapidly as exploration and development accelerate in places like the Russian Arctic.

The combination of these two major forces-intense climate change and increasing natural-resource development-can transform this onceremote area into a new region of importance to the global economy. To evaluate the potential impacts of such rapid changes, we turn to the scenario-development process, the creation of plausible futures to enhance a dialogue among a multitude of stakeholders and decision makers.

The key themes providing the framework for the four Arctic scenarios posed for 2040 include:

* Global climate change, which results in significant regional warming in each of the four scenarios.

* Transportation systems, especially increases in marine and air access.

* Resource development-for example, oil and gas, minerals, fisheries, freshwater, and forestry.

* Indigenous Arctic peoples-their economic status and the impacts of change on their well-being.

* Regional environmental degradation and environmental protection schemes.

* The Arctic Council and other cooperative arrangements of the Arctic states and those of the regional and local governments.

* Overall geopolitical issues facing the region, such as the Law of the Sea and boundary disputes.

Scenario One: Globalized Frontier

In this first scenario, the Arctic in 2040 has become an integral component of the global economic system. Formerly a hinterland, the region has rapidly been drawn into the globalization age. Abundant natural resources, a less-harsh climate, mostly sparse populations, and a geography permitting shorter global air and sea routes between North America and Eurasia have been critical factors influencing the Arctic's development.

The Arctic remains a bellwether for global environmental change, because the manifestations of global warming are amplified in the high latitudes. The Arctic's dramatic environmental changes include the shrinking and thinning of sea ice and significant thawing of permafrost in the Russian Arctic, Alaska, and northern regions of Canada. Arctic sea ice disappeared completely for a two-week period during summer 2040. Such climatic change has had profound and largely unfavorable consequences for a majority of the Arctic's indigenous peoples. Several coastal communities in Alaska and Canada have simply washed away.

The age of polar transportation has arrived, as the Arctic now offers greater access than at any other period in circumpolar history. The opening of Russian airspace over the Arctic early in the twenty-first century shortened flights between North America and Asia and have relieved congestion on trans-Pacific routes.

Greater marine access-earlier and longer navigation seasons-has been achieved throughout the Arctic Ocean, and commercial shipping has steadily increased in Hudson Bay, northwest Russia (Barents and Kara seas), and around coastal Alaska. Sensitive nuclear cargoes have been transported in summer across the Northern Sea Route between Europe and Jap a n , t h e reby avoiding traditional navigation straits and coastal waters where political opposition has been intense. The sum of these transportation activities has placed unprecedented environmental pressures on the entire Arctic.

Rising global prices for oil and natural gas, as well as for key commodities such as nickel, copper, zinc, coal, and freshwater, have made Arctic natural resource exploitation economically viable. Oil and gas developments in western Siberia, including offshore in the Pechora and Kara seas, have been extensive.

The region's boreal forests, especially those in subarctic Russia, have experienced intense harvesting pressure. Since 2030, freshwater from the Canadian north has been transported by ship from Hudson Bay to warmer climates throughout the world. Tourism is flourishing, and everyone now has access by sea or air to the remotest Arctic regions.

Overfishing has plagued several Arctic seas since early in the twentyfirst century. The fish stocks of the Bering and Barents seas have already been seriously depleted. The Greenland west coast fishery has been stabilized, but current fishery revenues are far too low to sustain the local communities. Thus, the Greenland Home Rule Government has pushed for increased tourism and further increased royalties by extending mineral rights to commercial firms for seabed tracts in Greenland's exclusive economic zone.

With growing industrial activity in the Arctic has come the specter of a major environmental disaster or emergency situation. Well-worn oil and gas pipelines in western Siberia and Alaska have experienced recurring, serious spills, and new pipelines have been built. No large marine spills have occurred, but serious ice damage to many ships operating in the Arctic has reawakened public interest in an enforceable Arctic marine environmental protection regime.

By 2020, five Arctic coastal states (Canada, Denmark [Greenland], Norway, Russia, and the United States) have asserted their sovereignty over resources of the seabed beyond 200 nautical miles. Only two small regions in the central Arctic Ocean remain under international jurisdiction.

Long-term sustainable development initiatives of the Arctic Council have come under considerable strain with the onslaught of recent Arctic industrialization. Environmental concerns that once fostered circumpolar cooperation have been superseded by economic and social interests, often driven by the private sector. Issues involving the freedom of navigation and commercial access throughout the Arctic Ocean remain highly contentious. The eight permanent member states of the Arctic Council have increasingly excluded outside participation in the Council's deliberations.

The protection, development, and governance of Svalbard have been a particularly vexing problem, as other nations (many outside the Svalbard Treaty) and several international consortiums believe they have a stake in the islands' potential resource exploitation. Russia continues to complicate the politics of Svalbard by not recognizing Norway's claim of a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone around the islands.

Scenario Two: Adaptive Frontier

In this scenario, the Arctic in 2040 is being drawn into the globalization era much more slowly than might be anticipated. However, there is substantial international cooperation and harmony among many actors and stakeholders, principally because the circumpolar nations realize they have significant environmental, social, and economic interests and responsibilities in the Arctic. The indigenous organizations around the Arctic have a much higher profile and significant influence over decisions related to regional environmental protection and economic development.

The Arctic continues as a key indicator of global climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions have remained relatively high, and the resulting impacts on the Arctic by 2040 are widespread and serious. Visible effects of decades of warming-on land and sea-are observed over large expanses of the Arctic.

A full-scale assault on Arctic oil and gas has not yet materialized. World prices have risen, but not enough for all regions of the Arctic to be competitive. New developments in the Caspian Sea, offshore Sakhalin Island, and in deep waters have generally met global energy demand. While northwest Russia and the Alaskan Arctic have witnessed expanded oil and gas development, the Canadian Arctic and offshore Barents Sea have experienced only minimal investment. European Union funding has helped Russia repair its Siberian pipeline infrastructure and fix its serious spill problems.

Transportation systems are more robust in the Arctic than ever before. Polar air routes are thriving, as in the Globalized Frontier scenario, but international accords have controlled aircraft emissions, limiting their impacts on the Arctic atmosphere.

Warming climates have fostered development of an aquaculture industry in Arctic coastal areas. Commercially viable fishing has continued in the Arctic marginal seas, and a total collapse of any single fishery has been averted using stringent harvesting quotas and other bilateral agreements.

Arctic tourism has flourished, and effective regulations have been issued by Nunavut, Svalbard, Iceland, and Greenland for managing the thousands of Arctic tourists who now travel north in all seasons.

The Arctic Council has proven to be a proactive forum resolving several disputes regarding Svalbard and effectively engaging Arctic indigenous peoples in all deliberations. Much has been accomplished, despite intense pressure from outside governments (who believe the United Nations should have a greater role in Arctic affairs) and from several nongovernmental organizations (who want much of the Arctic to be a wilderness area with a moratorium on further development).

Arctic contingency planning for environmental (man-made) and natural emergencies is advanced and well coordinated. Multinational response teams, jointly funded by private and public sources, have been established and operational exercises conducted in sea ice and permafrost.

Arctic Council and Northern Forum initiatives have also positioned the Arctic as a model region for habitat protection. Policies and funding mechanisms have been designed to support joint, private-public sponsorship of unique natural reserves. Despite significant transportation and resources development pressures, Arctic national parks have expanded modestly and been adapted to deal with increased tourism.

Scenario Three: Fortress Frontier

Widespread resource exploitation and increased international tension exist throughout the Arctic in this scenario. The Arctic is viewed by much of the global community as a storehouse of natural riches that is being jealously guarded and developed by a handful of wealthy circumpolar nations. Preventing uncontrolled access to these vital resources, especially oil and natural gas, has become an obsession for all Arctic stakeholders. The Arctic is a part of the global economic system, but any linkage is orchestrated or dictated by the most powerful Arctic states.

The Arctic is undergoing extreme environmental stress as global warming continues unabated. Greenhouse gas emissions have been unleashed globally at unprecedented rates; the result has been massive permafrost thawing (and disappearance), rapid glacial retreat in Greenland and Canada, extensive coastal shore erosion, and a historic retreat of Arctic sea ice in all marginal seas and the central Arctic Ocean. Multiyear sea ice-that is, ice that survives the summer melt season-has disappeared, as no Arctic sea ice has been observed anywhere in the Arctic Ocean during September of the past two years.

Many Arctic indigenous populations have been displaced from their traditional homelands due to extreme environmental events. Although many people living in the Arctic have gained a measure of economic independence, their existence has nonetheless become unstable. For the first time in history, illegal immigration into many subarctic regions is a reality. Border law enforcement officials in the eight Arctic states acknowledge that their northern territories are very vulnerable to massive influxes of environmental refugees and economic migrants.

Air and marine transportation routes in the Arctic remain open to world fleets in 2040, but foreign aircraft and ship access has been periodically suspended. Russia has denied polar access to its airspace as retaliation against states' actions elsewhere in the world; global air cargo flows have been seriously disrupted without a polar network. Russia and Canada continue to tightly control marine access through the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage. Both countries have allowed non-Arctic class tankers to make open water transits for the export of oil and gas to world markets. This newfound flexibility in the navigation and environmental safety regulations has been applied when significant economic gain is anticipated from major exports.

World access to the Arctic region's resources is tightly controlled. Fishing rights have been suspended to all but the Arctic states: Japan, for example, has been excluded from fishing in the Bering Sea for the first time in 70 years and seeks redress. Since 2020, oil and gas exploration and production efforts have intensified in the Barents, Kara, and Canadian Beaufort seas. These new flows will meet increased U.S. and European demands as decreased imports are coming from the Middle East. Hard rock mineral production from mines in Arctic Canada and Greenland has also been rejuvenated. Technological advances have made offshore Arctic drilling safer and more efficient, and significant new drilling is being conducted off Alaska.

Svalbard has become a source of potential conflict over access to living and nonliving resources. A majority of states believe the 1920 Treaty of Spitsbergen is no longer operative. Norway, with assistance from the United States and Russia, has increased military forces in the region.

The Arctic Council remains, but it is an entirely different forum than originally envisioned. Any notion of sustainable development has disappeared, and environmental issues have taken a backseat to economic and security concerns. The United States and Russia, thought to be leaving the group in 2020, have found the Council useful in arguing collective security, combating mass migration, and orchestrating the flow of exports from the Arctic consortium. The Council's avowed longterm strategy has been to make the circumpolar states less dependent on natural resources from outside the Arctic. Few in the global community have directly challenged this exclusionary strategy because of the collective economic and military strength of the United States, Canada, and Russia.

Arctic tourism continues to grow, since many other traditional tourist destinations are experiencing turmoil and a shortage of the necessities of life. The view is that the Arctic is a safe place with a more hospitable climate and with ready access to all the region's natural wonders. Tourism has become an economic boon to local communities, particularly those in Arctic Russia, and has alleviated some pressure on regional fisheries.

Early in the twenty-first century the five Arctic coastal states declared their sovereignty over resources of the Arctic seabed beyond 200 nautical miles to the edge of the continental shelf extensions. In 2030, the two small regions that remained within international jurisdiction were unilaterally placed by the Arctic Council under strict Arctic environmental protection measures, with marine access tightly controlled. Total dominance over the Arctic Ocean has thus been achieved by a handful of Arctic states-the epitome of fortress mentality!

Scenario Four: Equitable Frontier

In this scenario, the Arctic remains integrated with the global economic system in 2040, but the evolving international sustainability paradigm has altered the region's development strategy to one emphasizing gradualism. Resource exploitation such as fishing is a given (not an option) in much of the Arctic, but such commercial activities are being tempered by greater consideration of broad social and environmental concerns. Mutual respect and cooperation among the circumpolar nations are the norm. The Arctic governance system is viewed as a model for resolving complex sustainable development issues and regional disputes.

While the International Global Climate Treaty has resulted in sizable and continuing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, these changes have had little immediate impact on the Arctic. Eight decades of unprecedented regional warming have taken their toll on the cryosphere. Thus, a comprehensive set of adaptive strategies has evolved to take into account such regional changes as thinner permafrost layers, an elevated sea level, and longer seasons of open water normally covered by Arctic sea ice. Transport user fees and other eco-taxes have funded the implementation of these strategies in cases where change has seriously impacted indigenous communities.

Transportation (air and sea) is a key Arctic industry that not only links the region with global trade, but also generates considerable revenues for the Arctic states. Since 2030, there has been a modest reduction in air freight on polar routes, and a fivefold increase in shipping around the Arctic basin. The extensive seven-month summer navigation season made possible by environmental changes has enabled the growth of international transits on the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage. This has enabled great savings in ship time and fuel for select cargoes. Canada and Russia have maintained their stringent marine regulatory regimes that emphasize environmental protection.

Despite differences over freedom of navigation issues, the United States, Canada, and Russia have negotiated an agreement that allows ships a seamless voyage around Alaska and through the routes under a uniform set of operational procedures. Regional (multinational) disaster teams have been created under the Arctic Council to respond to maritime or other emergencies.

Boundary disputes in the Barents (between Norway and Russia) and Beaufort (between the United States and Canada) seas have been resolved. The Treaty of Spitsbergen (1920) has been reaffirmed by the International Court of Justice and its terms accepted by the global community. Fishing rights off Svalbard and in specific areas of the Barents and Bering seas have been allocated to a group of developing nations.

Social well-being and quality of life in the Arctic has been transformed: Poverty has been reduced thanks to revenue sharing from tourism, transport, and minerals extraction (fees mostly from transnational corporations), which has created sustainable incomes and helped develop affordable housing. By 2040, only a few pockets of poverty remain in the remotest regions of the Russian north.

The University of the Arctic, pioneered using the Internet in 2001, has brought quality education to within easy reach of all northern citizens. The Arctic Council has brokered an agreement among Canada, Russia, and the UN High Commission for Refugees to allow settlement of 30,000 environmental refugees in subarctic territories. Future Arctic relocation programs are being studied by a human rights team headed by the president of Iceland.

Arctic and subarctic fishing, forestry, and reindeer herding have been conducted using successful sustainable practices for nearly two decades. Reindeer herding has also benefited (and grown) as the warmer climate results in more robust and larger grazing lands. Oil production in the Arctic has plummeted, but natural gas continues to flow from western Siberia to Europe. The Barents Euro-Arctic Council, exhibiting regional solidarity, has funded environmental cleanup in much of the old oil-gas pipeline corridor through northwest Russia.

Clean freshwater has become a valuable global commodity due to its scarcity and chronic shortage in many regions of the world. How to distribute and market the vast quantities of freshwater from the Arctic and subarctic has been a consuming vision for many. Russia and Canada have developed plans for pipelines to carry water south from their northern territories. In several experimental voyages, tankers have carried water from ports in Greenland and Canada to the Middle East, Japan, and the Mediterranean.

A steady growth in Arctic tourism continues, prompting national and regional parliaments to establish additional wilderness lands and scientific (biodiversity) reserves and to add areas to existing Arctic national parks. To enhance environmental protections, the international Arctic Tourism Commission has developed access guidelines, established an Arctic surcharge or fee structure, and advocated a moratorium on wilderness adventures.

Although the Arctic is no utopia in the Equitable Frontier scenario, the Arctic Council can take much credit for fostering a vision and focus on social equity and environmental well-being. There is a low military presence in the region, and tension among the eight Arctic states is almost nonexistent. The Arctic Council has shown regional solidarity and foresight in engaging the rest of the planet on vexing problems such as refugees, transborder pollution, and access to living and nonliving resources by developing nations.

Conclusion: Arctic Prospects

The above four scenarios offer a structure for thinking about the Arctic's future and its global impacts. There are also many intriguing wildc a rd issues that should be anticipated, such as:

* The continued enclosure of the Arctic Ocean seabed by the five Arctic coastal states (Canada, Denmark [Greenland], Norway, Russia, and the United States)-a trend that will surely drive regional geopolitics.

* Key boundary disputes between the Arctic states-between the United States and Canada, between Canada and Denmark, and between Russia and Norway-continue to be unresolved, vexing issues.

* Future ships voyaging into the Arctic Ocean could bring alien species in their ballast water and increase air emissions into the cooler surface atmosphere of the Arctic.

* A future "Global Climate Treaty" might slow climate warming, but by how much? It is plausible that the relentless loss of Arctic sea ice and glacial ice, observed during recent decades, might continue and possibly accelerate.

The Arctic is a complex but relatively small region of Planet Earth. Impacted heavily by global climate change and being viewed by many as a region of vast and now accessible natural resources, there can be little doubt that extraordinary change is coming to the entire region and its people. These four scenarios of the Arctic in 2040 are designed to be provocative but plausible. Hopefully, they will stimulate strategic thought and rational discussion about how the Arctic region should evolve throughout the twenty-first century.

Siberian lakes shrink as the Arctic permafrost beneath them melts.

Satellite images showing minimum levels of Arctic sea ice in the summers of 1979 (left) and 2005 demonstrate warming trend. One result has been increased accessibility of the Arctic for marine transportation.

The Arctic Express breaks through ice. The Arctic-going container ship was built by Finland's Aker Arctic Technology Inc. for the Russian mineral company MMC Norilsk Nickel Group. Both transportation and resource exploitation could increase in the future as climate change opens up the Arctic to increased development.

Russian man walks past a bust of Lenin in Svalbard. Though the islands are governed by Norway, Svalbard is largely settled by Russians, who dispute Norway's claims of exclusive fishing rights.

Scientists with U.S. Office of Naval Research study Arctic Ocean currents and their potential effects on the Arctic ice pack.

Arctic hunter in Alaska. The future well-being of indigenous Arctic peoples and cultures may be affected by changes in the region's relationship with the rest of the world, suggests author Brigham.

Assessing the Impacts of Arctic Climate Change

A major report on Arctic climate change was released in 2004 by the eight-nation Arctic Council. The report, Impacts of a Warming Arctic: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), captured global attention and wide media coverage, as it was the world's first comprehensive, regional review of the impacts of climate change.

Several hundred Arctic researchers worked for four years to produce this fully referenced and independently reviewed scientific evaluation of Arctic climate change and its impacts that affect not only the Arctic region, but the entire planet. Important to ACIA was the inclusion of special knowledge of the indigenous people throughout the Arctic.

Among the key findings of the report:

* Climate change intensely affects the Arctic, where the average temperature has risen at about twice the rate of the rest of the planet.

* The Arctic is experiencing widespread melting of glaciers and sea ice and rising temperatures of the permafrost (frozen ground). During the past 30 years, the annual sea ice extent has decreased by about 8%-nearly 385,100 square miles.

* Severe coastal erosion is being observed around the entire Arctic basin, and Arctic coastal communities are literally eroding into the sea.

* Arctic warming increases glacial melt and river runoff, adding freshwater to the oceans and potentially influencing global ocean circulation.

* Melting of the Arctic's highly reflective snow and sea ice uncovers darker land and ocean surfaces. This change perversely increases absorption of the sun's heat and further warms the Arctic and the planet.

* Reductions in Arctic sea ice will drastically shrink marine habitats for polar bears, ice seals, and some seabirds, potentially pushing some species toward extinction.

* Arctic warming is very likely to alter the release and uptake of greenhouse gases (such as methane and carbon dioxide) from Arctic soils and sediments. Boreal forests and arctic tundra contain some of the world's largest land-based stores of carbon.

More information about this compelling and historic study of the Arctic may be obtained from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, .

-Lawson W. Brigham

FEEDBACK: Send your comments about this article to [email protected].

The Arctic is undergoing an extraordinary transformation early in the twenty-first century -- a transformation that will have global impacts. To evaluate the potential impacts of such rapid changes, this paper turns to the scenario-development process, the creation of plausible futures to enhance a dialogue among a multitude of stakeholders and decision makers. In this first scenario, the Arctic in 2040 has become an integral component of the global economic system. Long-term sustainable development initiatives of the Arctic Council have come under considerable strain with the onslaught of recent Arctic industrialization. To enhance environmental protections, the international Arctic Tourism Commission has developed access guidelines, established an Arctic surcharge or fee structure, and advocated a moratorium on wilderness adventures. Impacted heavily by global climate change and being viewed by many as a region of vast and now accessible natural resources, there can be little doubt that extraordinary change is coming to the entire region and its people.

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Arctic ice melts to third-smallest area on record

LOS ANGELES, Sept 17 (Reuters) - The Arctic's sea ice pack thawed to its third-lowest summer level on record, up slightly from the seasonal melt of the past two years but continuing an overall decline symptomatic of climate change, U.S. scientists said on Thursday.

The range of ocean remaining frozen over the northern polar region reached its minimum extent for 2009 on Sept. 12, when it covered 1.97 million square miles (5.1 million square km), and now appears to be growing again as the Arctic starts its annual cool-down, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported.

That level falls 20 percent below the 30-year average minimum ice cover for the Arctic summer since satellites began measuring it in 1979, and 24 percent less than the 1979-2000 average, the Colorado-based government agency said.

This summer's minimum represents a loss about about two-thirds of the sea ice measured at the height of Arctic winter in March. By comparison, the Arctic ice shelf typically shrank by a little more than half each summer during the 1980s and 1990s, ice scientist Walt Meier said.

The lowest point on record was reached in September 2007, and the 2009 minimum ranks as the third smallest behind last year's level. But scientists said they do not consider the slight upward fluctuation again this summer to be a recovery.

The difference was attributed to relatively cooler temperatures this summer compared with the two previous years. Winds also tended to disperse the ice pack over a larger region, scientists said.

"The long-term decline in summer extent is expected to continue in future years," the report said.

The U.S. government findings were in line with measurements reported separately by the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center in Norway, which reported this summer's minimum ice extent at just under 5 million square km (1.93 million square miles).

Scientists regard the Arctic and its sea ice as among the most sensitive barometers of global warming because even small temperature changes make a huge difference.

"If you go from a degree below freezing to 2 degrees above freezing, that's a completely different environment in the polar region," Meier said. "You're going from ice skating to swimming. Whereas if you're on a tropical beach and it's 3 degrees warmer, you probably wouldn't even notice it."

World leaders will meet at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday to discuss a climate treaty due to be agreed on in December.


The shrinking polar cap poses a loss of crucial habitat for polar bears and has implications for maritime shipping, opening up new routes to navigation.

Once again this year, the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic Ocean along the coast of Siberia opened, enabling two German ships to navigate the passage with Russian icebreaker escorts.

Russian vessels have traversed the passage many times over the years, but the maritime fleets of other nations are showing more interest in the route as the summer thaw expands.

This year, the Amundsen's Channel through the Northwest Passage also opened briefly, as it did in 2008, but the deeper Parry's Channel did not. Both opened in 2007.

Scientists have voiced concern for years about the alarming decline in the size of the Arctic ice cap, which functions as a giant air conditioner for the planet's climate system as it reflects sunlight back into space.

As a greater portion of the ice melts, larger expanses of darker sea water are exposed, absorbing more sunlight and adding to the global warming effect attributed to rising levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere by human activity.

Scientists also have measured a thinning of the frozen seas, as older, thicker ice more resilient to warming temperatures gives way to younger, thinner layers that melt more easily in summer.

Scientists monitor Antarctic sea ice as well, but the Arctic is considered a more critical gauge of climate change because more of the northern sea ice remains frozen through the summer, playing a bigger role in cooling the planet.

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I believe under international maritime rules, if a passageway is unpatrolled, then it becomes international waters after a number of years, even if it's within a country. I remember getting that from a CBC report. They did a series on the Arctic not long ago.
The Canadian government is spending billions of dollars to militarize and patrol this area for good reason it seems. Use it or lose it. Looks like Canada is prepared to use it.

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
The Canadian government is spending billions of dollars to militarize and patrol this area for good reason it seems. Use it or lose it. Looks like Canada is prepared to use it.
So they can reclaim Hans Island as well from the Danish? :)

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
Arctic short-cut still perilous
23 September 2009
The Shipping Times

This is despite the much-reduced extent of the ice there during summer

THIS week's column is about the Arctic Sea. However, I must disappoint those who may I assume I am about to reveal exclusive insights about the strange saga of the cargo ship of that name, apparently hijacked a month ago and still languishing somewhere near Las Palmas.

I am afraid I don't have clue about what has gone on and your guess is as good as mine. But this is the first time I can remember a shipping journalist having to flee his home country in fear of his life for reporting a maritime story.

Rather, this column is about the great expanse of water at the top of the world that is largely covered by ice. In fact, the aspect that is attracting interest and concern in probably equal amounts is just how large, or small, that covering of ice has become.

Ice cap melting

Attention has been drawn to the much-reduced extent of the ice during summer by what are being claimed as the first successful commercial transits of the Northeast Passage recently by two Beluga Shipping-owned ships that sailed from South Korea to Siberia. The two vessels then continued north about to Rotterdam. The German shipping company says it is looking to make more trips next summer.

The long-standing attraction of the Northeast Passage is that it can substantially cut the distance that ships have to travel to get between Asia and northern Europe.

Arctic navigation, even in summer, is not without its risk. That was underlined by the presence of two ice-breaking tugs accompanying the two Beluga ships.

The dangers have certainly not been lost on marine insurers. 'The remoteness of the area and the lack of salvage facilities is a real concern for underwriters,' says Mike Thompson, chairman of the Navigating Limits Committee for the Lloyd's Market Association, in a special feature on the Lloyd's of London's website.

The condition of vessels looking to undertake the perilous voyage and their crews' experience of navigating through ice would also be crucial considerations for insurers, according to Mr Thompson.

Nevertheless, it appears that climate change is having a profound effect on the Arctic. The Lloyd's article states: 'The polar ice cap is melting fast, which may open the fabled Northwest Passage to commercial shipping and make it easier to explore the vast mineral wealth below the North Pole.'

It is perhaps that last comment which is most relevant. Navigation along the northern coasts of Russia, Canada and Alaska is never (unless climate change is incredibly rapid) going to be like sailing through the Singapore Strait. It is going to be riskier and more difficult. Nevertheless, summer navigation of previously ice-covered areas in support of exploitation of natural resources is likely to become much more common.

While that is good news for countries and companies wishing to expand mineral and oil and gas extraction from Arctic areas, for many people, certainly environmental campaign groups, the increased summer melting of sea ice is a disaster and a rapid consequence of global warming.

Negative trend

Interestingly, the latest news from the US-based National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) is, however, that the ice covering the Arctic Sea has melted a bit less this year than in the previous two. The NSIDC says that Arctic sea ice appears to now have reached its minimum extent for this year, the third-lowest extent since the start of satellite measurements in 1979.

Although this would appear to be a reversal of the long-term trend, the NSIDC says: 'While this year's minimum extent is above the record and near-record minimums of the last two years, it further reinforces the strong negative trend in summertime ice extent observed over the past 30 years.'

I, for one, will certainly be awaiting with interest this time next year the NSIDC's report. And I don't expect to see massive convoys of containerships taking the 'short cut to Europe' anytime soon.

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Discussion Starter · #40 ·
Canada's rights of passage; Climate change and international security converge on the melting ice floes of the Arctic
21 August 2010
Vancouver Sun

In the summer of 2009, a disparate group of individuals was aboard the Louis St. Laurent icebreaker sailing through the Northwest Passage. Among them were scientists from Canada, the United States and the European Union, a Dene senator from Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories, an Inuk woman from northern Quebec, two young Rhodes scholars and the legal adviser for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

On the third day of the journey, Peter Harrison, the newly appointed director of Queen's University's School of Policy Studies, was talking about the Northwest Passage and what it meant to the people of southern Canada, to the trading world and to the Inuit we had left behind in Resolute Bay.

Harrison is a big bear of a man who hasn't lost his ability to tell a good story, even after having been in the upper echelons of the civil service for the past 30 years guiding the development of Canada's Arctic strategy and implementing the largest court-ordered, out-of-court settlement of the Indian residential schools claims. When he has something to say, people generally listen.

But even he couldn't keep the attention of the audience when the chief officer on-board announced that the ship was approaching two polar bears on the sea ice.

A fire couldn't have cleared the room any faster. Up on the foredeck, all talk of science, sovereignty, the status of the Northwest Passage and the future of the Arctic gave way to rapt silence as the ship slowly sliced its way through the ice. The bears -- a mother and her cub -- were blood-soaked after finishing off a seal they had just killed.

This was the fourth time we had been alerted to bears on the sea ice that day, and it wouldn't be the last. By the time dinner was served that night, we had spotted 16 bears in about eight hours.

For oceanographer Eddy Carmack, the architect of this weeklong Arctic boot camp, the day couldn't have been scripted any better. Now that changes in the climate and the inflow of ocean currents are warming the Arctic Ocean, the future of the region appears to be as uncertain as the longevity of the ice those polar bears walk on.

As head of Canada's Three Oceans (C3O) project, Carmack is leading a multidisciplinary scientific effort to figure out how the many channels that make up the Northwest Passage and the Arctic archipelago draw and flush out warm and cold, as well as fresh and salty sea water from the Atlantic and the Pacific. In time, the data should help public policy decision-makers find ways of adapting to and perhaps mitigating the many threats the region is facing.

What Carmack wanted to get from those he invited was advice on how to bridge the wide gap between Arctic science and public policy.

While most Canadians are well aware of the various threats to the Arctic, what to do about them is largely unresolved. So far, the government of Canada has responded largely by making Arctic sovereignty a priority.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper laid it all on the table in the summer of 2007 when he announced plans for a new icebreaker, up to eight ice-capable patrol boats, a deepsea port at Nanisivik on Baffin Island and a world-class scientific research station to be located somewhere along the Northwest Passage.

The biggest threat to Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, he seemed to suggest, were illegal aliens, terrorists and rogue ships that might try to make the voyage without asking for permission or complying with Canadian regulations.

"Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty in the Arctic; either we use it or we lose it," Harper said. "And make no mistake, this government intends to use it, because Canada's Arctic is central to our identity as a northern nation. It is part of our history and it represents the tremendous potential of our future."

The remarks were curious in some ways. Legal experts have been pointing out for years that outside of Hans Island, a sliver of territory in the Lincoln Sea near Greenland, and an energy-rich triangle in the Beaufort Sea, no one is disputing Canada's sovereignty over the Arctic.

In legal terms, the dispute over the Northwest Passage is not really a sovereignty issue; it is a dispute over the extent of control that Canada has over these waters. Neither the United States nor any other country challenges Canada's ownership of resources in the water, on the sea floor or below it anywhere in the Arctic archipelago. The United States merely asserts that the Northwest Passage is an international strait, not the inland waters that Canada claims it to be.

Should the U.S. or some other country prevail in asserting that the passage is an international strait, then any ship planning to make the voyage would not need Canada's consent as long as the transits were continuous. Theoretically, these ships could harbour illegal aliens, terrorists or other undesirables.

So why is Harper proposing to defend sovereignty when it isn't being threatened?

Political scientist Franklyn Griffiths has been writing about Arctic sovereignty for 40 years. He suggests a ban on the phrase "use it or lose it." He believes that this government, like those before it, is exploiting public ignorance to push agendas that have little to do with sovereignty.

While Canada's sovereignty over the Arctic is fairly clear in law, the issue is fuzzy in the eyes of most Canadians.

Many people in Canada continue to be obsessed with the idea that control over the Northwest Passage lies at the heart of the Arctic sovereignty debate. They fear the U.S., or possibly some other country, will take away what rightfully belongs to Canadians.

Few realize that the bigger threat to sovereignty and security in the region is climate change, energy development and shipping that has the potential to wipe out or seriously hurt Arctic fish, beluga, narwhal, walrus and polar bear populations, which, in turn, would devastate Inuit, Inuvialuit and Gwich'in cultures.
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