News / Europe

Arctic Warming Means Challenges, Clinton Says

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, speaks with Jarle Aarbakke, Rector of the University of Tromso, aboard the Arctic Research Vessel Helmer Hanssen during a boat tour of the coastline with Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, speaks with Jarle Aarbakke, Rector of the University of Tromso, aboard the Arctic Research Vessel Helmer Hanssen during a boat tour of the coastline with Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr
TROMSO, Norway - Thinning polar ice means more sea traffic through the Arctic at a time of territorial claims to an area that could contain as much as 20 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Norwegian officials to discuss the changing Arctic.

Over the last 20 years, Norwegian climate scientists say the Arctic has been losing 45,000 square kilometers of ice cover a year. That has opened new shipping routes across the north that could make trade between Europe and Asia 40 percent faster than using the Suez Canal.

So Arctic nations are working to protect a region that Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere says is undergoing a profound transformation.

"There are changes going on which are leading to the emergence of a region which used to be frozen both politically and climatically, and now there is a thaw," Stoere said.

The foreign minister brought Secretary Clinton to this city above the Arctic Circle to meet with scientists and business leaders preparing for greater ocean traffic and greater oil exploration in a region that the U.S. Geologic Survey says could hold $9 trillion in oil and minerals.

"A lot of countries are looking at what will be the potential for exploration and extraction of natural resources as well as new sea lanes and are increasingly expressing an interest in the Arctic," Clinton noted. "The United States and Norway are committed to promoting responsible management of those resources and to do all we can to prevent and mitigate the effects of climate change."

Warmer waters and receding ice mean big changes for animals at the top of the Arctic food chain including polar bears and seals.

"In the fjords of Svalbard we used to have a lot of ice and this was a good denning area for the seals. It is also a good feeding area for polar bears. Now there is no ice," explained Geir Wing Gabrielsen, who directs ecotoxicology programs at the Norwegian Polar Institute. "That means that these seals have to find other areas to have the young ones. The polar bears, they don't find the food they used to find in this area."

Higher ocean acid levels also have an impact lower down the food chain as crustaceans such as the Arctic Sea butterfly form weaker shells. That means less food for herring and cod.

"We see the effect of pollutants on these animals. Which is the result of transport of pollutants from industrial areas, from Central Europe, from North America, Asia, Russia. And this is ending up in the Arctic in the food chain," Gabrielsen said.

Gunhild Hoogensen Gjorv is a political science professor at the University of Tromso.

"The environment here is quite pristine. It's something very important to protect. And what happens in the environment here has global consequences. And we know that," he warned.

Mitigating those consequences falls mainly to the five nations with Arctic coastlines: Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia, and the United States. Each has an exclusive economic zone within 200 nautical miles of its coast and is dividing the remaining ice around the North Pole through the U.N. Continental Shelf Commission.

Territorial waters are governed by a Treaty of the Sea, to which all of the Arctic nations are a signatory except the United States. Some conservative members of Congress oppose the treaty because they say it unduly restricts the U.S. Navy.

Secretary Clinton told Norwegian officials that the Obama administration is pushing hard for passage of the Treaty of the Sea. Political Science professor Gjorv says it is an important part of moving forward in the Arctic.

"It is going to make it harder for these different actors to come to the table after a while if they feel that there isn't reciprocity coming from the United States with regards to that very important document," Gjorv noted, "particularly as it opens up and we are going to have more activity up here. This is clearly going to be causing strains because we need that as a platform to build on further negotiations on things we have not yet foreseen."

On this trip, Secretary Clinton says she learned that many of the predictions about warming in the Arctic are being surpassed by the actual data, something she says that is not necessarily surprising but is certainly sobering.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Eli C from: York, PA
June 03, 2012 9:41 AM
Check out Arctic Row - They are traversing 1,100 miles across the Arctic Ocean to report about global warming and its effects.

The name of the project is Into Thin Ice -

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs