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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid