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August 31, 2012

Today's Eventstodaysevents 


The House and Senate have adjourned for the August recess.




Shell Wins Permit to Prepare for Arctic Drilling, US Says.
Royal Dutch Shell will be allowed to begin some "limited" drilling in Alaska's Chukchi Sea, the U.S. government said, a move the company hailed as a step forward in its long-delayed effort to tap Arctic oil. The U.S. Interior Department said Shell will be permitted to begin preparatory work in the Chukchi, but cannot drill to areas containing oil until the government certifies its oil spill containment system. Without that containment system, the department has said it will not allow Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic. Money News



Shell Says Arctic Drilling to Begin Next Week in Chukchi Sea. News that exploratory drilling in the Arctic could begin as early as next week brought a palpable sense of exuberance to the squat workers' camp on the Chukchi Sea, where Shell Alaska has been slowly preparing to launch operations about 70 miles offshore. "I've been waiting four years, coming up here to do this, and now I get to be here and be part of this new venture with the company. It's exciting," Travis McNair, supervisor of Shell's oil spill response crew in this remote northwest Alaska coastal village, said in an interview. "It does feel good, because of course we've been waiting for this for a long time. We've worked very, very hard to make sure we have everything in place," said Chuck Holcomb, a 34-year Shell employee who has been coordinating the efforts of Shell scientists working across the Chukchi coast and several miles offshore. Los Angeles Times


canadian flag [Canadian] Coast Guard Clearing the Way for Bigger Ships in the Arctic. When the Canadian Coast Guard offers help this summer in the search for the lost ships of Sir John Franklin's polar expedition, its efforts will be only one part of its multi-faceted annual mission to the Arctic. Its return to the northern waters will also feature work that reflects the changing nature of the life in the area: bigger ships are starting to travel and work there and the coast guard will be moving beacons to make way for the larger vessels. "The one change for us this year is we'll be opening the navigation season by laying all the buoys and checking the beacons," says Bill Noon, one of the captains of the icebreaker Sir Wilfrid Laurier." CBC News


Russia Halts Gas Project in Arctic. The ambitious Shtokman gas production scheme in the Barents Sea, described by the Russian president as recently as May as having "global significance", was officially halted this week. "All parties have come to the conclusion that the financing is too high to be able to do it for the time being," said Vsevolod Cherepanov, head of Gazprom's production department. The move became more likely last week when Gazprom's Norwegian partner, Statoil, handed back its 24% stake and wrote off $336-million, saying Shtokman could not be commercially justified. Mail & Guardian


Chinaflag China Arctic Pioneers Begin Work. China's fifth Arctic expedition team began their work on Wednesday, carried by icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, which started its trip in July. The 120-member team includes one scientist from Taiwan and four from France, Denmark and Iceland. Their work will include a survey on the impact of changes in the Arctic Ocean's environment on China's climate, the arctic eco-system's current conditions and its interaction with global changes.


Arctic Diplomacy is not Enough. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just completed his annual trek to the Canadian North. Unlike previous years, when he emphasized international challenges, this trip focused on domestic Arctic issues. Several important new initiatives were announced, such as the creation of a new park. However, while the normal focus on the protection of Canadian Arctic sovereignty and security were not as evident, no one should be under the impression that the case for fulfilling previous promises has been reduced. International interest in the region only strengthens it. The Globe and Mail


permafrost Carbon Release from Collapsing Coast Permafrost in Arctic Siberia. The team found that the tens-of-thousands year old Yedoma carbon is rapidly converted to CO2 and that ten times more Yedoma carbon is released to the Arctic Ocean than previously estimated.  Thermal collapse of the carbon-rich, permafrost-covered coasts may accelerate with warming of the Arctic climate. Release to the atmosphere of carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost in the Arctic is identified as a positive feedback mechanism to climate warming. About half of the carbon pool in soils globally is held in frozen surficial permafrost in the Arctic (twice as much as in atmospheric CO2); the region is experiencing twice the global average of climate warming.

Legislative Actionfutureevents  


No formal action was taken on Arctic legislation.

Future Events    


10th Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region, September 5-7, 2012. The 10th Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region will take place in Akureyri, Iceland 5-7 September 2012. The conference will be attended by members of parliament from the eight Arctic countries and the European Parliament, Arctic indigenous peoples and a variety of observers. The main items on the agenda are:


1.  Arctic Governance and the Arctic Council

2.  Economic opportunities in the Arctic

3.  Human Development in the Arctic: Interplay of Research, Authorities and Residents


The Conference will adopt a statement directed to the Arctic Council, the governments in the Arctic Region and the institutions of the European Union.  


Fifth Polar Law Symposium 2012, September 6-8, 2012. The theme for the symposium is quite open. It covers a wide variety of topics relating to the Arctic and the Antarctic. These include:

  • Human rights issues, such as autonomy and self-government vs. self-determination, the rights of indigenous peoples to land and natural resources and cultural rights and cultural heritage, indigenous traditional knowledge.  
  • Local and national governance issues.
  • Environmental law, climate change, security and environment implications of climate change, protected areas and species.
  • Regulatory, governance and management agreements and arrangements for marine environments, marine mammals, fisheries conservation and other biological/mineral/oil resources.
  • Law of the sea, the retreating sea ice, continental shelf claims.
  • Territorial claims and border disputes on both land and at sea.
  • Peace and security, dispute settlement.
  • Jurisdictional and other issues re the exploration, exploitation and shipping of oil, gas and minerals, bioprospecting.
  • Trade law, potential shipping lines through the north-west and north-east passages, maritime law and transportation law.
  • The roles and actual involvement of international organizations in the Polar regions, such as the Arctic Council, the European Union, the International Whaling Commission, the

For more information, please see the Arctic Center


inuitconferencelogoArctic/Inuit/Connections: Learning from the Top of the World; October 24-28, 2012.  The 18th Inuit Studies Conference, hosted by the Smithsonian Institution, will be held in Washington, DC. The conference will consider heritage museums and the North; globalization: an Arctic story; power, governance and politics in the North; the '"new" Arctic: social, cultural and climate change; and Inuit education, health, language, and literature.  


Wakefield 28th Wakefield Symposium: Responses of Arctic Marine Ecosystems to Climate Change, March 26-29, 2013. This symposium seeks to advance our understanding of  responses of arctic marine ecosystems to climate change at all trophic levels, by documenting and forecasting changes in environmental processes and species responses to those changes. Presentations will focus on collaborative approaches to understanding and managing living marine resources in a changing Arctic, and to managing human responses to changing arctic marine ecosystems. Hosted by Alaska Sea Grant and sponsors.

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