The Arctic This Week: 9 March 2013 – 15 March 2013

The Arctic This Week 2013:11

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Thanks for joining us this week! As always, all editorial choices, opinions and any mistakes are the authors’ own. To comment or to request a back issue, feel free to contact Tom or Kevin directly. If you find TATW valuable, please spread the word!

Thanks to some travel, this week’s briefing is restricted to the dozen articles that, in our view, are the best reads available this week on several important issues. Enjoy!

Reads of the Week

Those who were able to tear their attention away from the Vatican this week saw, much further to the north, an important election taking place in Greenland. In the election, (now former) Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist and his Inuit Ataqatigiit party were displaced by new Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond of Siumut, a “centrist” party as described in this excellent debrief from the AP. Though no election can be reduced to a single issue, the future of the island’s mining industry is universally believed to have figured prominently in the outcome. The heavy media focus on the importance of mining development and relations with China may, however, have given the false impression that massive mining development is imminent on the Arctic island. In analysis for Reuters, Alistair Scrutton points out that, while global interest in the island’s mining potential is high, actual development of Greenland’s mining sector still faces significant financial, logistic and regulatory hurdles.

The second political story of major import was the devolution of a suite of powers from the Canadian government to the territorial government of the Northwest Territories. Amidst a mass of intelligent writing on this topic, the best piece by a slim margin is the intelligent, readable and thorough piece by Chris Windeyer for Up Here Business – enjoy. Relatedly, Andreas Østhagen writes this week for the Arctic Institute on oil and gas development in the Canadian Arctic, pointing out that, despite a meaningful history of development and exploration in Canada’s Arctic, neither federal or regional actors seem eager today to see rapid development of the region’s resources.

Compare the situation in Canada to the excitement in Alaska over the potential opening of a new field in the state’s National Petroleum Reserve, covered by Alex DeMarban and Jerzy Shedlock for Alaska Dispatch. Why the excitement? The state’s budget is 70 percent dependent on oil tax revenues, and continually falling production is giving many people bleak visions of Alaska’s fiscal future. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is also suffering from a number of problems due to low oil volumes.

Dynamics similar to those in Alaska are driving Norway’s push to expand oil exploration into the previously off-limits region of the Lofoten Islands, as profiled this week by Alister Doyle and Balazs Koranyi for Reuters. Norway’s oil production has fallen to about 1.5 million barrels a day from a peak of almost 3.5 million in 2001, and the desire to increase production (and state revenues) is spurring exploration of remote areas like the Barents Sea and the Lofoten, originally protected from oil exploration in order to preserve the region’s cod fishery and its idyllic Arctic setting. Although the region has higher unemployment than the rest of Norway and stands to profit from more development, a recent poll shows that a majority of Lofoten’s residents oppose oil development. This sets the stage for a clash of values in the run-up to parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year. Next door in Russia, global price trends have cooled the pace of Arctic offshore development, but the global gas industry is still keenly interested in the country’s Arctic potential. See this concise summary of Russia’s Arctic oil and gas program by Robin Depre in RigZone for more details.

Several important pieces touching both science and science policy came out this week, among which the following stand out. First, the Economist takes its usual succinct and well-written look at the recent/chronic commotion over the Canadian government’s apparent efforts to control information exchange between government-funded scientists and the general public. Second, the National Academies Press provides an extremely intelligent and valuable report looking at the need for improvements in overall climate modeling. They call for better coordination, training, basic research and communication, among other factors. The report is covered readably in EarthZine, which links to the (free) original as well. Also making headlines this week in the research field was the news that Arctic vegetation has crept far northward in the past 30 years, and that further warming could leave Iqaluit looking like southern Quebec by 2100; Nunatsiaq News provided the best article on this research. Finally, a fun and fanciful article on the practicalities of Arctic science comes from Alaska Dispatch, which covers an upcoming snowmachine-and-kite-ski expedition from Prudhoe Bay to Baffin Island to implant a series of permafrost-sensors.

In business, a longer essay on the potential and risks of Nunavut’s nascent turbot and char fisheries is well worth the read (from Ali Morrow via AlertNet). And in sports, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race came to an end in Nome, Alaska, a little before 10:40 PM when Iditarod veteran Mitch Seavey crossed the finish line 24 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor, Aliy Zirkle.  Craig Medred and Suzanna Caldwell provide a great summary of the last day’s competition as well as a profile of this year’s winner for Alaska Dispatch. Alaska Dispatch has also collected the best of their photos and videos of this year’s race on one page, which can be found here.

This week’s credits

All selections by Tom Fries or Kevin Casey

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)
Government of Canada (GOC)
Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT)
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 Beyond the Headlines (RBTH)
Russia Today (RT)
Voice of Russia (VOR)
Wall Street Journal (WSJ)
Washington Post (WP)
Whitehorse Star (WS)
Winnipeg Free Press (WFP)