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February 3, 2012

Today's Eventstodaysevents 


The Senate is not in session. The House will consider a bill to stop the Congressional Budget Office from incorporating inflation increases into its projected spending baselines as well as consider a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.




budgetAppropriators Look Past Sequester. The very real possibility that a 9 percent spending cut for most federal programs will be ordered next Jan. 2 is hanging over the heads of congressional appropriators. For now, though, they are acting as if it does not matter. Appropriators appear on track to produce fiscal 2013 bills that ignore the threatened spending "sequester," which is intended to help pare more than $1 trillion from the accumulated deficit through fiscal 2021. For fiscal 2013 - the budget year that begins Oct. 1 - the sequester will be particularly severe because it will be enforced through across-the-board cuts that are currently estimated to trim virtually every appropriations account by almost one-tenth. Half the cuts will come from defense spending and half from non-defense programs. Congressional Quarterly


As Inouye Extends Earmark Ban, Senate Votes Against Permanent Measure. Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) today reluctantly extended a moratorium on earmarks for another year, shortly before a vote on a permanent ban. That proposal, offered by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), failed, 40-59, with both Democrats and Republicans voting against it. The duo had offered the amendment to a Senate measure barring insider trading by Members of Congress. Roll Call


NWTFNorthern Waters Task Force Report: Opportunities and Challenges. The Alaska Northern Waters Task Force has given the legislature its findings and recommendations on the effects of climate change in the Arctic - and how the state fits into national and international interest in the arctic region. Chairman Reggie Joule of Kotzebue says the goal was to identify opportunities and challenges for the state. Among its recommendations, the task force called for expansion of oil and gas development in the arctic - as well as for the state and federal governments to improve technology for spill clean-up.   It also suggests taking steps to improve the likely increase in marine transportation in the region;   and it calls for more fisheries-related research and monitoring. Alaska Public Radio Network


Link to the full report: Findings and Recommendations of the Alaska Northern Waters Task Force   


Associate State of Alaska resolutions (linked to the NWTF report).

HCR 23, establishing an Alaska Arctic Policy Committee

HJR 34, Urging Congress to fund facilities and vessels necessary for the USCG to fulfill its Arctic missions. 


'Big Miracle': The real story. Once Roy Ahmaogak decided to report three gray whales trapped in the ice near Barrow rather than leave them to their natural fate, it was probably inevitable that their story would wind up in Hollywood. What's amazing is that it took 23 years for a film to be made. Now that "Big Miracle" is opening -- the movie is loosely based on the 1988 rescue effort in Barrow -- how close is the movie to actual events? How on earth did Greenpeace, Veco's Bill Allen and the oil giant Arco, Ted Stevens, the Soviets, the U.S. military, a chainsaw distributor, a guitar-playing whale-song singer, a couple of Minnesota ice fishermen and, most importantly, a brigade of Inupiat whalers all manage to find themselves on the same side, if only for a couple of brief, bizarre weeks in a bitterly cold arctic October? Anchorage Daily News 


ChinaflagChina Dismisses Accusations of its Activities in Arctic. Chinese officials and scholars have recently refuted a Japanese newspaper's accusation of its activities in the Arctic region, saying that China's activities are for the purposes of regular environmental investigation and investment and have nothing to do with resource plundering and strategic control, Xinhua news reported. "Greedy eyes of China never left the wealth of Arctic," said a report from Sankei Shimbun of Japan on Jan. 28. It said China's geological exploration in Arctic area is aimed at plundering the oil and gas resources and controlling the Asia-Europe arctic route in the future by investment in the countries in north Europe to build an Arctic strategic foothold, rather than purely scientific investigation. Qu Tanzhou, Director of Polar Research Office of State Oceanic Administration of China, said this report is full of absurd supposition, and attempts to arouse suspicion and worsen the relationship between countries in the region and China. People's Daily Online 


Underwater Oil Rig 'Factories' Planned to Beat Catastrophic Arctic Ice Storms. Oil companies are planning to create huge factories on the sea bed of the Arctic Ocean in a bid to prevent extreme weather conditions from hampering their work.The giant underwater oil and gas plants will contain all the machinery needed to extract fossil fuels from beneath the waves. It is hoped the rigs will be serviced by a fleet of manned submarines. Daily Mail 


How Much Life is Left in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline? The oil companies that run the Trans-Alaska Pipeline suggest that if oil flows drop too low, the line could be compromised. But others say that the industry's numbers are wrong and are actually part of a campaign to open up currently off-limits areas like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. In an election year when access to domestic oil supplies will figure prominently in the presidential campaign, uncertainty is growing over how much life the critical Trans-Alaska Pipeline has left in it. The pipeline transports roughly 14 percent of U.S. crude oil supplies, yet energy companies are starting to suggest that the lifeline to some of the richest oil fields in the country may not be worth the expense of upkeep. Oil production in Alaska's North Slope oil fields has declined every year since production peaked in 1988, and the consortium of energy companies that own the line say they are worried: If production slows down too much, the pipeline can become unsafe-or at least uneconomical-to run. But some watchdogs say the industry may be fudging its numbers as part of a ploy to get access to new, potentially rich oil fields. Popular Mechanics  


A Show of Seal Skin Solidarity on Parliament Hill: Government and Native leaders hand out hundreds of seal skin lapels Feb. 2. Downtown Ottawa was awash with fuzzy accessories Feb. 2, as government officials and Inuit leaders donned seal skin in support of the industry. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper was spotted on Parliament Hill sporting seal skin, presented to him by Rankin Inlet Mayor Pujjuut Kusugak, as part of a government show of support for the country's controversial and troubled sealing industry. Nunatsiaq Online 


Gray WhaleA Baby Boom of Alaska's Gray Whales in Warm, Salty Lagoons. With no-holds-barred winter gripping coastal Alaska, delivering blizzard watches and ice alerts, it's time to check on some of Alaska's most determined summer residents. A cetacean armada has been wrapping up its annual 5,000-mile trip south from the Arctic, with hundreds of gray whales arriving off the coast of Baja California to complete another cycle of the world's longest marine mammal migration.  "Gray whales are boogeying past the Pacific coast in record numbers to reach the warm waters of Mexico," reports the latest mid-winter update about whale migration, from the educational website Journey North. Observers from the American Cetacean Society say they logged more southbound whales this December than ever before. Alaska Dispatch  


Alaska Fuel Crisis Averted- Go Back to Sleep on Arctic Policy [OPINION from retired USCG Captain]. Stand down, avast, move on to the next crisis, catastrophe averted - all is well in Nome. "Down South" Coast Guard and elected officials can sleep soundly knowing no one was killed and no one outside Alaska was inconvenienced. D.C. policy makers can move on to the pressing issue du jour. The National Science Foundation remains the smartest agency in the room by proving, once again, that the U.S. does not need a robust Arctic surface fleet of seagoing vessels - all our polar needs can be outsourced to the international community. Alaska Dispatch 


permafrostMore Pressure on Permafrost: An expansion of shrubs in the Arctic, driven by climate change, may increase permafrost thaw. A new computer modeling study from NCAR investigates how an increase in shrubs in the Arctic may affect permafrost. Over the past few decades, a warming climate has meant that the Arctic's grassy tundra is being increasingly overtaken by shrubs. A recent field experiment found that the shade provided by these shrubs keeps the permafrost in the ground beneath them comparatively cool. However, shrubs also alter the land surface albedo (fraction of solar radiation reflected back into space), as their dark leaves and stems absorb more radiation than the surrounding snowpack and tundra. This may partly counteract the shading effect by warming the atmosphere and soil. University Corporation for Atmospheric Research 


Canada Must Act Decisively to Protect Marine Biodiversity: Report. Canada is failing badly at protecting its rich marine biodiversity from the looming threat of climate change, an expert-panel report for the Royal Society of Canada concluded Thursday. "Canada has made little substantive progress in fulfilling national and international commitments to sustain marine biodiversity," the panel report found. A promised national marine protected areas network "remains unfilled," the report noted, and the application of a "precautionary" management approach, including harvest control rules and recovery plans remains "absent for most fisheries." 


Legislative Actionfutureevents  


U.S. Congress


S. 1925, Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (Leahy, hearing held)



Alaska Legislature


HCR 18, Acknowledging the lessons learned from the 2011 Norway Policy Tour and encouraging investment in the state's oil and gas industry. (Herron, introduced and referred to committee)


Future Events                                   


The Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region, February 14 2012. The parliamentarians will discuss Arctic cooperation with the Chair of the Arctic Council Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. Further on the agenda are issues including oil and gas development and the effect of climate change on human health. 


Arctic Policy Forum, February 15, 2012. This Arctic Policy Forum will feature a compelling panel discussion of the history, current issues, and future plans of IONNORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) in Alaska. This Arctic Policy Forum, hosted by the Institute of the North and sponsored by the Government of Canada, will leave participants with an increased understanding of:
* A 50 year partnership and cross-border collaboration
* Arctic governance and sovereignty
* Public safety; and search and rescue
* Maritime and aviation issues related to the Arctic environment


Arctic Workshop, March 7-9, 2012. The Workshop is hosted by the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. The meeting is open to all interested in the Arctic, and will consist of a series of talks and poster sessions covering all aspects of INSTAARhigh-latitude environments. Previous Arctic Workshops have included presentations on arctic and antarctic climate, archeology, environmental geochemistry, geomorphology, hydrology, glaciology, soils, ecology, oceanography, Quaternary history, and more. A traditional strength of the Workshop has been Arctic paleoenvironments. Click here


Arctic Science Summit Week 2012, April 20-22, 2012. The summit will provide opportunities for international coordination, collaboration, and cooperation in all areas of arctic science. Side meetings organized by stakeholders in arctic science and policy are also expected. More information here


From Knowledge to Action, April 22-27, 2012. The conference will bring IPYmeetinglogotogether over 2,000 arctic and antarctic researchers, policy and decision-makers, and a broad range of interested parties from academia, industry, non-government, education and circumpolar communities including indigenous peoples. The conference is hosted by the Canadian IPY Program Office, in partnership with the National Research Council of Canada, among other groups. Each day of the conference will feature a program of keynote speakers, plenary panel discussions, parallel science sessions, as well as dedicated poster sessions. The conference-wide plenaries will explore themes related to topics of polar change, global linkages, communities and health, ecosystem services, infrastructure, resources and security. Other sessions will provide the opportunity to present and discuss the application of research findings, policy implications and how to take polar knowledge to action. Click here


USARC Commission Meeting, April 27-28, 2012. The 97th meeting of the CPClogoUSARC will be held in Montreal, Canada, in conjunction with the "From Knowledge to  


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Action" IPY meeting referred to above. The Commission will meet on April 27-28, and will meet jointly with the Canadian Polar Commission on the afternoon of the 27th, to discuss common interests in Arctic Research. Details to follow. 


Arctic Forum 2012, April 30-May 1, 2012. The Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. will host the forum in conjunction with their 24th annual meeting. Both events will be in Washington, D.C. The Arctic Forum is part of the American Geophysical Union's Science Policy Conference, which will be held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. The Conference will focus on the science that helps inform policymakers' decisions. Within the Science Policy Conference, the Arctic Forum will assess gaps and priority needs for arctic scientific information to inform decision makers in policy

formation for three key themes:

                - Governance and Security in the Arctic;

                - Transportation and Energy Development; and

                - Changing Arctic Ecosystems.

The Forum will examine the current state of policymaker and public understanding of the issues. An important goal will be to foster an increased capacity for dialogue and action on arctic science-policy issues.


 American Polar Society 75th Anniversary Meeting and Symposium, "The Polar Regions in the 21st Century: Globalization, Climate Change and Geopolitics", May 2-4, 2012, The Explorers Club, NYC. For 75 years, the American Polar Society has both documented and communicated polar activities to the interested world. This meeting will bring together the current leaders in science, government, commerce, and diplomacy for a state-of-the-art forecast of the next seventy-five years in a world influenced more than ever before by the destiny of the Arctic and Antarctic. Click here.  


The Tenth International Conference on Permafrost, June 2012. The conference will be held in Tyumen, Russia, and is organized and hosted by Russia. The last conference was held in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2008. Click here.  


15th International Congress on Circumpolar Health, August 5-10, 2012. This event is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Society for Circumpolar Health, and the International Union for Circumpolar Health.  The forum will consider community participatory research and healthmeetinglogoindigenous research; women's health, family health, and well-being; food security and nutrition; social determinants of health; environmental and occupational health; infectious and chronic diseases; climate change health impacts; health service delivery and infrastructure; and behavioral health. Click here


The Arctic Imperative Summit, August 24-28, 2012. The summit will be hosted by Alaska Dispatch and will bring together leading voices in this conversation, including residents from the small villages that comprise Alaska's coastal communities, state, national and international leaders, the heads of shipping and industry, as well as international policymakers and the news media. The goal of the summit is to sharpen the focus on the policy and investment needs of Alaska's Arctic through a series of high level meetings, presentations, investor roundtables and original research. Click here


Arctic/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 inuitconferencelogomuseums 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. For more information, click here. 

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