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

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Nigerian Islamic School Tries to Combat Boko Haram

Kaduna school headmaster teaches his students that what militants are doing is are doing is 'a total misunderstanding of the Islamic religion' More

University Trains Students to Advocate for Deaf People Worldwide

Program prepares graduates to advocate internationally for access to education, jobs for people with disabilities More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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 - http://intothinice.com/.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid