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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs