The Arctic had once been a largely peaceful zone, harboring cooperative international scientific research. But today, it is swiftly becoming one of militarized power politics. Heavily armed nations surround the melting Arctic Ocean, with its unstable environment of eroding shorelines, accessible natural resources, and contested maritime passages. This February, the U.S. launched little publicized, month-long military exercises in the Arctic, hosted by Finland and Norway. The Pentagon’s European Command described the exercises – named Arctic Forge 23, Defense Exercise North, and Joint Viking – as a way “to demonstrate readiness by deploying a combat-credible force to enhance power in NATO’s northern flank”.
After sampling the atmosphere above the Arctic for more than a year during the MOSAiC research voyage, climate scientists say the ozone layer, Earth’s protection against intense ultraviolet radiation, is at risk, despite the progress made in protecting atmospheric ozone by the 1987 Montreal Protocol, the global treaty that banned ozone-harming chemicals. As greenhouse gases heated the surface of the planet, the researchers said, they have also, during the past 50 years, cooled the upper layers of the atmosphere over the Arctic. In the colder stratosphere, long-lived pollutants like chlorofluorocarbons and halons from refrigerants and industrial solvents break down and release chlorine and bromine, which react with sunlight to destroy ozone.
While plenty of headlines are being dedicated to the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, an increase of U.S. forces in another area has gone under the radar. This area is the Arctic. Back in March, the U.S. Army announced its strategy for “Regaining Arctic Dominance,” signaling that the region long devastated by climate change may soon also be devastated by great power competition and U.S. imperialism. This focus on the Arctic comes as a result of the climate crisis. The Arctic is melting three times faster than the rest of the world, but rather than treating this as the existential threat that it is, capitalists view it as an opportunity to expand their regional influence, a move which will fuel the crisis even more.
NASA satellite images of fires in eastern Siberia depict an inferno of monstrous proportions, nothing in modern history compares. And, as of July, it’s intensifying. Should people be concerned? Answer: Yes, and double yes. According to Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts: “What has been surprising is the rapid increase in the scale and intensity of the fires through July, largely driven by a large cluster of active fires in the northern Sakha Republic.”
As the Trump administration neared the end of its first year in office in 2017, it seemed environmental activists had lost one of the most hard-fought battles in the movement’s history. Thanks to a last-minute maneuver by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Congressional Republicans succeeded in passing legislation allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR. Some of the worst fears of environmental and Indigenous rights groups for what might happen under the administration appeared to be coming true. However, two and a half years later, no drilling or seismic testing has taken place in the refuge — and there is a very real chance it might never happen. A nationwide grassroots movement led by the Indigenous Gwich’in people has repeatedly delayed the oil leasing process and made the prospect of drilling less attractive to major companies.
When I first met Michael Klare in the late Neolithic age (it was actually the early 1970s), he was already researching the U.S. military in a way no one else was doing. His first book on the subject, War Without End: American Planning for the Next Vietnams, had just been published. The title remains eerily apt, given Washington’s twenty-first-century “forever wars.” Almost 50 years later, he’s still ahead of the curve and his newest book on that military, All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change, has only recently come out.
San Francisco– Today, Goldman Sachs announced the strongest fossil finance restrictions of any major U.S. bank, though it still lags behind its leading global competitors. It also remains far from alignment with what is needed to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Goldman Sachs has ruled out direct finance for new or expanding thermal coal mines and coal-fired power plant projects worldwide, as well as direct finance for new Arctic oil exploration and production. The policy makes explicit mention of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
A federal judge in Alaska ruled on Friday that President Donald Trump "exceeded the president's authority" when he signed an executive order to allow offshore oil drilling in around 125 million acres of the Arctic Ocean, CNN reported. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason's decision restores a ban on drilling in 98 percent of the U.S.-controlled Arctic Ocean, according to Earthjustice, which sued to stop Trump's order on behalf of several environmental groups and Alaska Native communities.
The US and its allies have been making a big deal about Russia’s Arctic interests for over the past decade since the country planted its flag under the North Pole in 2007, which was Moscow’s dramatic way of asserting its UN-submitted claims to the region on the basis that the Siberian-originating undersea Lomonosov Ridge’s extension all the way to that point makes it Russian territory. The Arctic is poised to become increasingly important in world affairs over the coming decades because the progressive melting of polar ice is allowing for the year-round establishment of the Northern Sea Route between Western and Eastern Eurasia that will cut traditional shipping times in half.
Edward Snowden said that his greatest fear with regards to revealing the largest government spying program in history was that “nothing will change.” When I interviewed John Kiriakou, he agreed. When it comes to climate change, it often feels like I’m screaming “fire” at a bunch of people sitting around roasting marshmallows. For so many, the issue of climate change has become normalized, even oddly comfortable. In the film “This Changes Everything,” Naomi Klein laments the apathy she feels in seeing yet another polar bear caught on a melting piece of ice. It’s an image we’ve seen so often, it just becomes another image – a passable piece of our reality – unfortunate but too big, too abstract, too difficult to change. In the film, likewise the book, Klein makes the point that while climate change is indeed a crisis, capitalism is what’s driving that crisis.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s reversal of a ban on petroleum drilling in most of the Arctic Ocean and Atlantic underwater canyons can move forward. Federal court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled Monday in Anchorage, Alaska, that environmental groups can sue to keep the ban in place. Former President Barack Obama withdrew Arctic waters under provisions of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Obama also banned exploration in 5,937 square miles (15,377 square kilometers) of Atlantic Ocean canyon complexes. Environmental groups say presidents can permanently withdraw areas but the law makes no provision to reopen areas.
Turns out, when you heat up ice, it melts. And with 2017 likely going down as one of the warmest years on record worldwide, this year's climate change signal was amplified at the Earth's poles. There, decades-old predictions of intense warming have been coming true. The ice-covered poles, both north and south, continue to change at a breathtaking pace, with profound long-term consequences, according to the scientists who study them closely. And the consequences are destined to spill over into other parts of the globe, through changing atmospheric patterns, sea currents and feedback loops of ever intensifying melting. The past year may not have broken annual records, but it provided ample evidence of where long-term trends are heading.
By Tone Sutterud and Elisabeth Ulven for The Guardian - The Norwegian government is being sued by climate activists over a decision to open up areas of the Arctic Ocean for oil exploration, a move they say endangers the lives of existing and future generations. The plaintiffs, led by environmental organisations Greenpeace and Youth and Nature, will on Tuesday claim that the Norwegian government has violated a constitutional environmental law which guarantees citizens’ rights to a healthy environment. The law, known as Section 112, states: “Everyone has the right to an environment that safeguards their health and to nature where production ability and diversity are preserved. Natural resources must be managed from a long-term and versatile consideration which also upholds this right for future generations.” “We have for years tried to stop the expansion of Norway’s oil extraction, from both local and global considerations,” said Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway. “As far as granting concessions for the Arctic is concerned, not only have our objections been ignored and overrun, but the state has also paid no heed to the guidelines from their own appointed advisers, such as the polar institute and the environment agency, who both recommended that the majority of concessions in this area be turned down.” In fighting the case, Greenpeace is relying on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which states that to meet the goals set out in the 2015 Paris accord, oil production must be wound down, not escalated.
By Sabrina Shankman for Inside Climate News - ANCHORAGE, Alaska—In the energy industry, Hilcorp has built a reputation for fast growth, big profits and making people rich. This 28-year-old Houston-based company has kept a low public profile while becoming one of the top five privately held oil and gas producers in the United States. Founder Jeffery Hildebrand has become a billionaire, rising up the ranks of the hundred richest Americans. Employees, who got six-figure bonuses for meeting output goals, rave online about their employer, which Fortune magazine has lauded as one of the 100 best companies to work for five years in a row. In regulatory circles, however, and among environmentalists, Hilcorp has become known for different reasons. As the company has bought up older oil and gas fields from bigger companies, a business strategy known as "acquire and exploit," it has amassed a troubling safety and environmental track record in Alaska and several other states. As soon as the company started working in Alaska in April 2012, it began to accumulate violations. By October 2015, the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC), the main industry regulator in the state...
By Sabrina Shankman for Inside Climate News - The day before the Arctic Council met for its biannual ministerial last week, the United States requested six changes to the intergovernmental declaration that was to be issued—each of which weakened the language on climate change. The Arctic Council, an intergovernmental body representing all eight Arctic states, does not make policy, but the diplomatic work accomplished there is intended to trickle back to the countries and result in changes. An important part of that is the declaration issued at the end of each two-year chairmanship, which is signed by top officials from each country, to acknowledge the scientific and diplomatic work that was accomplished and to state the council's goals going forward. The last-minute move by the United States to weaken the document can be seen as a test case for what we can expect at larger, more consequential meetings of international organizations dealing with global warming issues and policy as President Donald Trump rolls back U.S. climate policies and backslides on international commitments.