Arctic Update Header
May 11, 2012


Today's Eventstodaysevents 


The Senate is not in session. The House will hold a pro forma session.





capitalHouse Passes Reconciliation Package, First Appropriations Bill of Year. The House today passed a sweeping measure to replace deep, across-the-board cuts mandated by last year's debt ceiling agreement with targeted reductions to entitlement programs for the poor. Over passionate objections from many Democrats, the bill passed on a 218-199 mostly party-line vote. No Democrats voted for the bill; 16 Republicans voted "no" and one voted "present." Congressional Quarterly




House Panel Backs Defense Policy Bill. The House Armed Services Committee approved a fiscal 2013 defense policy bill Thursday that would reverse some of the Obama administration's security policies and authorize unrequested funds for Pentagon weapons. After more than 16 hours of debate, the Republican-led panel backed the measure (HR 4310) 56-5. The defense authorization bill is one of Congress' must-pass pieces of legislation and has reached the President's desk consistently for more than half a century. The House could consider the measure as early as next Wednesday, committee aides said. Congressional Quarterly


[Canadian] Army Struggles to Find Parkas for Arctic Operation: briefing documents reveal tents, stoves and lanterns also in short supply. Six years after the Harper government declared the Arctic to be a new operations area for the Canadian military, the army has struggled to find enough parkas, cold-weather tents, lanterns and heaters to equip forces that take part in its annual summer exercise. The "critical equipment shortfalls" were so bad last year, the head of the army approved a request by area commanders to buy missing gear themselves, say internal briefing documents. The briefings also show the army worried about running out of parkas, and turned to the air force for help. CBC News


polar bear iceGame Over for Climate [Op-Ed]. Global warming isn't a prediction. It is happening. That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves "regardless of what we do." If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate. Canada's tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet's species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk. New York Times 


ChinaflagChina a "Near-Arctic State:" Swedish Think Tank. Think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said Friday that new challenges and opportunities posed by increased access to the Arctic were discussed at a workshop in Beijing entitled 'Chinese and Nordic Cooperation on Arctic Developments.' Chinese Arctic specialists now refer to China as a 'near-Arctic state' and at the workshop the term 'stakeholder' was also used. The Chinese government has recently increased investment in Arctic research and commissioned a second Arctic ice-breaker. Last month Sweden supported China's bid to become a permanent observer at the eight-member Arctic Council. The Swedish Wire 


Budget Cuts Hit Western [Canadian] Arctic. Federal budget cuts have caused eight positions to be cut from Parks Canada's Western Arctic Field Unit, which has its main office in Inuvik. All Parks Canada employees here had meetings Monday, April 30 to learn about the fate of their positions. It is not immediately clear what effect these cuts will have on Parks Canada's presence in the region, said Dan Frandsen, acting field unit superintendent for Parks Canada in Inuvik. "It doesn't happen immediately. Even people who are surplus are not immediately out of a job today or tomorrow. They get a period of time to decide what options they want to take," said Frandsen. Northern News Service


arctic shippingNew Push Begins for Law of the Sea Treaty. The Obama administration and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) are beginning a new push to seek ratification of the United Nations' Convention on the Law of the Sea, known around Washington [by some as] simply as the Law of the Sea Treaty. The treaty, which came into force in 1994, established rules of the road for operating in international waters and set forth a regime for determining mineral and other rights beneath the ocean floor. Since then, 161 countries have signed on, as well as the European Union, but the U.S. Senate has not ratified it. In fact, the treaty has never come up for a full vote, despite support from multiple administrations, Democrats, and the Navy, which views it as needed to allow the United States to fully participate in the growing multinational system that governs the open seas. It is vigorously opposed by some Republicans, who argue that signing it would be tantamount to an abandonment of U.S. sovereignty. Foreign Policy Magazine


Beaver Air Wins $928,000 Contract to Get Sailors to Canadian Arctic. A Lantz consultant has secured a $928,000 government contract to transport coast guard sailors to their icebreakers in the Canadian Arctic. Beaver Air Charter Consultants Ltd. will arrange five of seven flights departing St. John's, N.L., this summer carrying crews destined for the Henry Larsen, Terry Fox and Louis St. Laurent coast guard vessels based in the North. SkyLink Aviation Inc. of Toronto will supply air service for two of the flights. The crew change-outs each require room for 50 to 76 passengers and supplies, mostly groceries, traveling between Resolute Bay, Iqaluit and Kugluktuk in Nunavut and from Thule, Greenland. The Chronicle Herald


Gray WhaleGray Whale Population Up to 5 Times Larger Before Whaling, Study Finds. The population of eastern Pacific gray whales shows a huge dip at the same point that whaling increased in the early 20th century, a new analysis of ancient whale genes shows. Eastern Pacific gray whales are a subspecies of grey whale that live in the Pacific Ocean, migrating from the Arctic to Mexico yearly. Their population is currently estimated to be around 20,000. They are up to 46 feet (14 meters) long and weigh up to 99,000 pounds (45,000 kilograms). Live Science 


Newly Sworn President Putin Orders Arctic Naval Boost. President Vladimir Putin got right to work and presented a series of new decrees within hours of being sworn in as Russia's new president. According to Norway's Barents Observer, the Arctic figured prominently in his plans to modernize and improve the country's military. In an armed forces modernization and improvement decree, Putin called particularly for a larger naval presence in Russia's Arctic and Far East in order to protect its interests in the increasingly active northern oceans. The decree is the natural extension of comments Putin made during the presidential campaign. In a February statement published by the Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Putin declared his intention to build a Navy capable of serving in the Arctic Ocean and in the Pacific. Increased Arctic militarization by other nations was forcing Russia to act on behalf of its strategic interests, he said. Alaska Dispatch

Legislative Actionfutureevents  


No Arctic legislation was formally considered yesterday.

Future Events               


NOAA's Hydrographic Services Review Panel meeting, May 22-24, 2012 in Anchorage, Alaska. This federal advisory committee will discuss improvements of navigation services that NOAA provides for Alaska and the Arctic. Topics include new nautical charts and navigation safety, emerging commercial shipping needs, accuracy of land elevation data for coastal management, and natural hazard warning and response for the Alaska/Arctic region. The public is invited, and can provide comments during the May 23 and 24 afternoon sessions. For more information, 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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