News

    Arctic Council Ministers Faced with Warming Problem

    An iceberg melting off the coast of Ammasalik, Greenland (file photo)
    An iceberg melting off the coast of Ammasalik, Greenland (file photo)

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Rosanne Skirble

    When ministers of the eight-nation Arctic Council meet in Greenland May 12 to discuss a variety of issues crucial to the polar region they will have the benefit of two reports commissioned by the Council on the changing climate and how to best respond to accelerating warming.

    The first report produced by the Council’s scientific arm updates the assessment made by the United Nations Panel on Climate Change in 2007. Leading American glaciologist Gordon Hamilton at the University of Maine says arctic conditions have changed dramatically since then. “With our new understanding on how ice sheets are behaving and how they are responding to climate change, we can say that the IPCC estimate for sea level rise from 18-59 centimeters is a very large underestimate and we are looking at something probably at least twice as large as the upper end of the estimate. So we are expecting one meter of sea level rise by 2100.”

    That poses a threat to low lying coastal communities, where half the world population lives.  The report also finds that the Arctic Ocean could become nearly ice-free in the summers within the next 30 to 40 years. And, Hamilton says, researchers do not expect the oceans to cool down for a long time. “If it is that the ice sheets [are] responding to the ocean [temperature], that change is going to persist for decades to come.  There’s not an easy way to switch that off.”

    But a second report authored by an Arctic Council task force finds that the ice melt can be slowed down dramatically within the next few decades by curbing air pollution. U.S. government chemist Patricia Quinn contributed to that report. She says, while CO2 reductions are central in any effort to mitigate climate change, attention must be paid to shorter lived pollutants like the soot from truck and ships, known as black carbon, and methane from oil and gas drilling, coal mines and waste systems. “Immediate reductions in short-lived climate forcers [climate changing emissions] including black carbon, methane and ozone will have a larger near term impact on global temperature than immediate reductions in CO2. So by 2040 we could have a much larger impact on decreasing warming by focusing on the short-term climate forcers.”

    Armond Cohen is Executive Director of the Clean Air Task Force, an independent advocacy and research group. His group is calling on the Arctic Council to take specific actions based on the report’s broad recommendations. “The first thing they could do as a group is advocate to the International Maritime Organization, which regulates shipping emissions for requiring ships operating in the Northern Hemisphere to be zero emissions. The second thing that they could do as a group would be to adopt a policy that any future oil and gas exploration or shipping in the Arctic needs to occur with zero emissions of black carbon and methane.”

    The Clean Air Task Force also encourages each Arctic member state - the U.S, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland - to take aggressive steps to get dirty diesel trucks off the roads or retrofit their engines. Cohen wants to see Northern European countries regulate emissions on high admitting heating stoves, and Moscow reduce the risk of widespread forest fires that emerge from agriculture burning. “This is something that can be done at relatively low cost with very much available control technology. I think when the ministers recognize that that is the case, we’ll hopefully see after this meeting, a move to much more action, which is where it’s really going to count.”

    That message is one U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg says the U.S. Delegation will address in Greenland. “At the Arctic meeting in Nuuk, Greenland (we will) urge Arctic Nations to take mitigation actions domestically so that we can slow down Arctic melting while we deal with the broader debate on global climate change.”

    According to the United Nations, these measures could suppress up to two-thirds of the warming currently expected in the Arctic over the next several decades.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora