The Arctic This Week: 19 January 2013 – 25 January 2013

The Arctic This Week 2013:04

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With much of the team at the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Norway this week, Kevin Casey took on this week’s shortened news briefing alone; we’re grateful to Kevin for his excellent work. As always, all editorial choices, opinions and any mistakes are the author’s own. To comment or to request a back issue, feel free to contact Tom or Kevin directly.

Reads of the Week

Had you Googled “Arctic” this week, you would have been overwhelmed by articles on an “Arctic Outbreak” of cold weather in the eastern United States. Though these weren’t bitterly Arctic winter temperatures, it has become popular – probably rightly so – to tie weather events such as these to the High North. Tom Yulsman, co-director of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado, explained in Discover how cold outbreaks like this might be tied to weather phenomena in the Arctic, while Nature chronicled current research on the Greenland ice sheet that is helping scientists understand how ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are reacting to global warming.

The unlucky among us could not make it to Tromsø last week for the Arctic Frontiers conference. Should you wish to review or get caught up on the proceedings, start with Mia Bennett’s article cataloging the presentations by high-level speakers from the first day. The article shows how the speakers’ remarks reflect the different policy orientations of Arctic and non-Arctic states. To dig deeper into the conference’s proceedings, go to the: (1) downloads page for full text and slide packets for many of the presentations; (2) full program with abstracts covering all presentations; (3) video for the Monday and Tuesday sessions (in English, Russian and Norwegian); (4) keynote addresses from Wednesday’s Science section; and (5) a series of brief audio interviews with speakers and participants available on iTunes.

To get caught up on all the week’s other events, start with Rob Huebert, who convincingly lays out for the Canadian International Council several reasons that 2013 will be a pivotal year for Canada’s Arctic policy. Most importantly, Huebert reminds us that, with dynamic factors such as climate change end energy development evolving so quickly, 2013 is likely to include new and unanticipated challenges that will require Ottawa’s leadership and investment to address. An interview with Rob Huebert is also available.

There are also further indications this week that Shell’s accident-prone Arctic drilling season has opened up a fundamental debate on the wisdom of energy exploration in the US Arctic. For a great introduction to the landscape of this debate, see this roundtable discussion in the National Journal for which representatives from industry, the media, and environmental groups provide their perspectives on Shell’s Arctic ambitions and the future of Arctic energy development. The Kulluk, meanwhile, remains anchored in Kiliuda Bay after being towed off the rocks of Sitkalidak Island two weeks ago. An assessment of the damage is ongoing, and much uncertainty remains as to whether the vessel will be serviceable for the 2013 drilling season (Reuters). Jennifer Dlouhy covers Alaskan officials’ frustration at their lack of access to a federal, high-level review of Shell’s Arctic drilling program (FuelFix). Alaska politicians don’t just want a seat at the table when it comes to directing Alaska offshore exploration; they also want a slice of the pie. Dlouhy profiles efforts by the congressional delegations from Alaska and Louisiana to secure a share of offshore drilling revenues for states (FuelFix).

For other press coming from the Arctic Frontiers conference, see this article in the Voice of Russia on Norwegian and Swedish cooperation with Russia on Arctic policy. CBC covered Leona Aglukkaq’s address to the conference and Canada and Russia’s focus on Arctic economic development for the benefit of Arctic residents. Carey Restino provided an article for the Arctic Sounder on Alaska Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell’s call for the development of Arctic maritime policy; Ms. Restino also wrote a thoughtful editorial calling for more consistent US engagement in Arctic issues. In a similar vein, Luke Coffey writes for the Heritage Foundation on the need for US policymakers to more clearly define the US’s Arctic security posture.

China’s possible interests in the Arctic figured prominently at Arctic Frontiers; this concise article by Christoph Seidler in Spiegel gives an overview of those interests and the careful messaging Beijing is using to promote them. In his address to conference, Chinese Ambassador to Norway Zhao Yun described his as a “near-Arctic state”, and - in a sign that China’s diplomatic approach is paying off - there are new indications this week that both Canada and Norway are open to Chinese observer status. Levon Sevunts in Eye on the Arctic gives a Canadian perspective on the various issues at stake as the Arctic Council prepares to vote on observers later this year; he also discusses why Canada might elect to support China’s bid, but not that of the EU. Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide also announced this week that Norway will work towards admitting China as an observer state (Barents Observer).

On the lighter side, check out this photo gallery by pioneering surf photographer Yassine Ouhilal; he chronicles an expedition to find unexplored waves in Arctic Norway. If this leaves you wanting more, there’s a nine-minute video of the expedition available on YouTube. Lastly, you will doubtless have heard of the dramatic incineration of a truck filled with 27 tons of brunost (delicious, brown, caramelized goat cheese, a Norwegian specialty which our staff highly recommends) that has forced a tunnel closure outside Narvik, Norway for much of the last week (New York Times).  Apparently the driver was already in the tunnel before noticing that his truck was on fire; he abandoned ship a mere 1,000 feet from the tunnel’s entrance (Time).  No word on how the fire started. 

Abbreviation Key

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)
Aftenbladet (AB)
Alaska Dispatch (AD)
Alaska Native News (ANN)
Anchorage Daily News (ADN)
Barents Nova (BN)
Barents Observer (BO)
Bristol Bay Times (BBT)
BusinessWeek (BW)
Canadian Mining Journal (CMJ)
Christian Science Monitor (CSM)
Eye on the Arctic (EOTA)
Fairbanks News Miner (FNM)
Financial Times (FT)
Globe and Mail (G&M)
Huffington Post (HP)
Indian Country Today Media Network (ICTMN)
Moscow Times (MT)
Natural Gas Europe (NGE)
Naval Today (NT)
New York Times (NYT)
Northern News Service Online (NNSO)
Northern Public Affairs (NPA)
Nunatsiaq News (NN)
Ottawa Citizen (OC)
RIA Novosti (RIAN)
Russia Today (RT)
Voice of Russia (VOR)
Wall Street Journal (WSJ)
Washington Post (WP)
Whitehorse Star (WS)
Winnipeg Free Press (WFP)