Scientists issue warning on future of central Arctic

Apr 17, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists have warned that world leaders are in a race against time to make key decisions about the future of international co-operation in the Arctic.

In a new policy paper researchers argue that the international community has a waning opportunity to establish the central as an area of peaceful, trans-national governance before sovereign interests and commercial activities accelerate with the disappearing .

The paper will be presented by Dr Paul Berkman from the University of Cambridge to the Aspen Commission on Arctic in Monaco this weekend. The Commission includes scientists and policy experts and will make recommendations for the future of international co-operation in the Arctic. The article also appears in the new issue of the journal Science.

The five Arctic coastal states, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Canada and the United States, are in the process of asserting their presence in the Arctic Ocean as diminishing ice opens up new opportunities for activities such as fishing and the extraction of energy resources. Many of these claims are based on legal ownership of the sea floor.

In their paper, however, academics point out that the water overlying the sea floor in the central Arctic is already an undisputed international space, both under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and customary international law.

This international region, which lies beyond the exclusive economic zones of the surrounding Arctic States, is classed as "high seas". As such, it is legally and ecologically distinct from the sea floor.

The authors warn that as current conflicts of interest become more entrenched, it will be impossible for the international community to make decisions about the central Arctic in a region of common interest. That could prohibit future transnational agreements in areas as diverse as shipping, the control of marine pollution, the management of fishing and the regulation of tourism.

"There is a window of opportunity at the moment to establish lasting, common interests in the central Arctic Ocean as an international space dedicated to peaceful uses," Dr, Head of the Arctic Ocean Geopolitics Programme at the Scott Polar Research Institute, said.

"The international community needs to act before that window closes. This is a rare opportunity - low hanging fruit - for heads of state to collectively identify their common interests and demonstrate international leadership in the central for the lasting interests of all."

The paper, written by Dr Berkman and colleague Professor Oran Young from the University of California Santa Barbara, builds on the idea of the "North Pole as a pole of peace," which was first expressed in a famous speech by Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s.

Much international attention at the moment, however, is trained on the Arctic Coastal States' ownership of the sea bed. The melting of the sea ice has galvanised these different countries' efforts to map the sea bed and extend their territories, potentially all the way to the North Pole, as spectacularly highlighted in 2007 with the planting of a Russian titanium flag on the sea floor beneath the Pole itself.

Those disputes and assertions of rights in the central Arctic will only worsen once it becomes seasonally ice-free, the paper warns, preventing international collaborative action in the region.

"Ecologically and legally distinct from the sea floor, the overlying water column and sea surface of the central Arctic can remain an undisputed international area in which the interests of Arctic and non-Arctic states alike play a role in the development of effective governance," the document adds.

The Aspen Commission on Arctic Climate Change comprises scientists, policy experts, oil company executives and representatives from Arctic native communities and environmental organisations. Its meeting in Monaco this weekend is taking place with a view to identifying paths of international co-operation for the Arctic Council to consider in its ministerial meeting in Tromso on 28-29 April, 2009.

Provided by University of Cambridge (news : web)

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GrayMouser
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 17, 2009
"once it becomes seasonally ice-free"
If it becomes ice-free or stays that way any longer than the last time (in the 1930s-1940s.)

"Ecologically and legally distinct from the sea floor, the overlying water column and sea surface of the central Arctic can remain an undisputed international area in which the interests of Arctic and non-Arctic states alike play a role in the development of effective governance,"

Who is kidding who? Any effort at oil or mineral exploitation of the sea floor will have ships and platforms on the surface.
gopher65
1 / 5 (5) Apr 18, 2009
That's patently false. The arctic has not been ice free during the time period that records have been kept. 2007 was the lowest level of arctic ice in recorded history, and the ice coverage was still greater than half the average summer minimum.
mikiwud
5 / 5 (3) Apr 19, 2009
Here is a photo of the St. Roch. It%u2019s a wooden ship, not some massive, metallic icebreaker. According to the Vancouver Maritime Museum web site, this 104 foot wooden ship sailed through the Northwest Passage from 1940 to 1942, that was from west to east. In 1944 it did it again from from east to west. King George VI awarded Captain Henry Larsen, and the crew, the Polar Medal for making the 1944 voyage.

The Maritime Museum also includes a little information about the Northwest Passage as well. And they specifically mention that the famed Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen %u201Cbecame the first person to sail the entire Passage from east to west%u201D and that was in 1906.
Taken from link below if it works.
http://freestuden...age.html
So you can see the NW and NE passages were open last century.
GrayMouser
4 / 5 (4) Apr 20, 2009
That's patently false. The arctic has not been ice free during the time period that records have been kept. 2007 was the lowest level of arctic ice in recorded history, and the ice coverage was still greater than half the average summer minimum.

Depends on who you ask. "Recorded history" may be the last 30 years, or the last 100 years, or the last 2000 years. Depends which fits your needs best and confirms your hypothesis (if your intellectually dishonest.)

Personally, I think any model that can't cope with the last 2 to 5 ice ages, with the intervening warm periods, isn't capable of predicting the next warm period.
gopher65
1 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2009
"Recorded History" in this case goes back to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Once that happened the nations around the arctic began asserting sovereignty in the region, and making regular observations as a byproduct.

There *was* a low ice period in the 30's and 40's, but anyone who claims that the arctic was ice free during that period is lying. It was not. Since records have been kept (basically the past 100 years, which is a very short time to be sure) 2007 has been the low ice point. The arctic has been completely ice free in the distant past, but not since we started collecting data.

So my statement stands: what you said was patently (and provably) false. In other words you were lying in order to make an anti-AGW argument. Neither lying nor hyperbole is allowed, whether by Gore or by you. Anyone who does so automatically disqualifies themselves from a place at the table. Gore did it, and so did you, just now.

Oh, and the NWP does indeed open up on a regular basis. In fact, it does so every year. Just not during the winter. Canadian ships travel the passage on a regular basis, and have been doing so for decades (as have ships from other nations, I'm sure).
gopher65
1 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2009
Ah yes, rating me down because you got caught in a baldfaced lie;). Good strategy buddy. It's not my fault that you lie in order to convince people of your argument.
Modernmystic
5 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2009
That's patently false. The arctic has not been ice free during the time period that records have been kept. 2007 was the lowest level of arctic ice in recorded history, and the ice coverage was still greater than half the average summer minimum.




And yet we all know that during the PETM when there were NO eeevvillll CO2 emitting technology on the planet the artic was completely ice free for a looong time.



"Recorded history" is an idiotic measure to use to try to prove a point about whether or not current changes in climate are man made or natural.



It's like trying to prove the sun is normally sun spot free based on a hour reading during its minimum cycle.
gopher65
5 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2009
I don't disagree with you Modernmystic. I think that "recorded history" is too short a time period to make a judgement on as well. But that's not what GrayMouser was saying. He was saying that the arctic was ice free in the 40s, which is well inside recorded history. So he is provably wrong.
mikiwud
not rated yet Apr 22, 2009
I am afraid that I have to agree with gopher. The Arctic was last completely ice free 3.5 million years ago in the Pliocene age. The point many of us are making is that the low sea ice area is not unusual and that the NW and NE Passages have been open many times before.
It was a lot warmer then and has been since, although the later warm periods did not remove all the sea ice. This mildly warm period certainly will not either. The reason Man is pissed about sea level rise is that we did not realise it was happening when we started building cities on the coast. Which is the more stupid, still building on the coast and moaning about it, or thinking we can stop the sea level rising? Only another iceage will do that.
GrayMouser
5 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2009
"Recorded History" in this case goes back to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Once that happened the nations around the arctic began asserting sovereignty in the region, and making regular observations as a byproduct.



There *was* a low ice period in the 30's and 40's, but anyone who claims that the arctic was ice free during that period is lying. It was not. Since records have been kept (basically the past 100 years, which is a very short time to be sure) 2007 has been the low ice point. The arctic has been completely ice free in the distant past, but not since we started collecting data.



So my statement stands: what you said was patently (and provably) false. In other words you were lying in order to make an anti-AGW argument. Neither lying nor hyperbole is allowed, whether by Gore or by you. Anyone who does so automatically disqualifies themselves from a place at the table. Gore did it, and so did you, just now.



Oh, and the NWP does indeed open up on a regular basis. In fact, it does so every year. Just not during the winter. Canadian ships travel the passage on a regular basis, and have been doing so for decades (as have ships from other nations, I'm sure).


I should have put "ice-free" in quotes. Though, since there were merchant ships regularly up to around the 85th parallel (within 5 degrees of the North Pole and the NW Passage was open year-round) it would certainly qualify as "ice-free" in today's press and IPCC bilge.
GrayMouser
5 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2009
He was saying that the arctic was ice free in the 40s, which is well inside recorded history. So he is provably wrong.

How ever, if I say the North Pole was free of ice within recorded history would you feel better? Here's some odd photographs from th North Pole:
http://wattsupwit...o-thick/
mikiwud
not rated yet Apr 28, 2009
How ever, if I say the North Pole was free of ice within recorded history would you feel better? Here's some odd photographs from th North Pole:
http://wattsupwit...o-thick/


Here is the link to the full article, really worth reading, no matter what your beliefs.
http://www.john-d...ctic.htm