Ártico (Continuación)

Much too often, diplomacy is behind the curve in struggling with developments unfolding in ways not foreseen.

But when the Arctic Council meets in Kiruna in northern Sweden in the next few days, it is a rare example of a framework set up to deal with events well before they really start to happen, thus making it possible to shape events rather than reacting to things that have already gone wrong.

The Arctic Council was set up between the eight Arctic states, with representatives of the indigenous peoples as permanent participants, in Ottawa in 1996. But in its first years it hardly registered on the international scene.…  Seguir leyendo »

With global warming rapidly melting Arctic sea ice and glaciers making valuable stores of energy and minerals more accessible, voices of doom are warning of inevitable competition and potential conflict — a new “Great Game” among the five Arctic coastal nations.

In fact, the Arctic states of North America, Europe and Russia, working with indigenous peoples and a number of non-Arctic states, already have taken steps to ensure just the opposite: that the Arctic remains a zone of cooperation, peace and stable, sustainable development.

The Arctic Council — the intergovernmental organization for the eight Arctic states: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States — has created a forum for cooperation and momentum toward a responsible approach to the region’s issues.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iceland's long-isolated existence was broken by World War II and the Cold War when its strategic location at the gateway to the North Atlantic and the Arctic were key to the defense of NATO and the United States. But with the disintegration of the Soviet Union the island country seemed again to pass into irrelevance, and in 2006 the last American military aircraft were withdrawn from the Keflavik Air Base. Now the situation is changing again, as the melting north polar ice opens new ocean routes and access to vast natural resources.

According to a 2008 estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey, 13 percent of all the unexploited oil, 30 percent of natural gas and 20 percent of the natural gas liquid resources are located under the seabed of the Arctic.…  Seguir leyendo »

Just a quarter-century ago, and for millenniums before that, the Arctic Ocean was covered year-round by ice, creating an impregnable wilderness that humans rarely negotiated. Today, as the effects of global warming are amplified in the high north, most of the ocean is open water during the summer and covered by ice only in the winter.

This unexpected transformation has radically altered the stakes for the Arctic, especially for the eight nations and indigenous peoples that surround it. But while there has been cooperation on extracting the region’s oil, gas and mineral deposits, and exploiting its fisheries, there has been little effort to develop legal mechanisms to prevent or adjudicate conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

La rápida reducción de la capa de hielo en el Ártico es uno de los cambios más radicales que estén ocurriendo hoy en el medio natural del planeta, con profundas implicaciones ambientales y económicas. Por una parte, estamos perdiendo uno de los ecosistemas más grandes e importantes de la Tierra. Por otra, los pasos noreste y noroeste, de los que se especulaba tanto en el pasado, reducirán los tiempos y costes de transporte en prácticamente la mitad, con lo que China y Japón quedarán mucho más cerca de Europa y la costa este de Norteamérica.

En lo inmediato, las vastas reservas de combustibles fósiles y minerales del Ártico se volverán mucho más accesibles.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last month, the spectacle of Greenpeace activists scaling the Russian Prirazlomnaya oil-drilling platform drew international attention to the Arctic as an arena for political competition. This dramatic act coincided with a report by the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder that the Arctic sea ice cover had melted to its smallest extent since satellite records began in 1979 — even with a few more weeks remaining in the melt season. Some scientists expect to see an ice-free summer by 2030.

The previous record was set in September 2007, which was just after Russian scientists completed the first manned descent under the geographic North Pole and planted a Russian flag on the Arctic sea floor.…  Seguir leyendo »

Most Americans think of the Arctic as an icy, distant place; beautiful, remote and teeming with wildlife, but unrelated to their daily lives. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This summer, big doings on America's northern doorstep will have enormous consequences to the economic, strategic and environmental future of the nation. Yet we are unprepared for the challenges and opportunities.

What happens in the Arctic as ice melts there could soon cheapen the cost of the gas you buy and products you purchase from Asia. It could help make the nation more energy independent. It could draw our leaders into a conflict over undersea territory.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una calamidad silenciosa, en gran medida inadvertida, se ha estado revelando en las últimas semanas en el Ártico. Las consecuencias de largo plazo serán de mayor alcance que las de la crisis de deuda internacional o las de la desaparición de la dictadura libia, que son las noticias que ahora concentran la atención de los medios de comunicación. El drama –más precisamente, la tragedia- que ahora tiene lugar en el Norte es la rápida desaparición de la capa de hielo polar, la característica principal del Océano Ártico.

En septiembre, la capa de hielo en el Océano Ártico se derritió hasta igualar el mínimo histórico que se registró en septiembre de 2007.…  Seguir leyendo »

No country will ever “own” the North Pole, which is located roughly 400 miles to the north of any land. The central Arctic Ocean belongs to humanity; its challenges are the responsibility of all nations. Those challenges — of life-threatening accidents, oil spills and over-fishing — are increasing as the sea-ice melts and ships of all kinds gain access.

The 1959 Antarctic Treaty is sometimes advanced as a model for Arctic governance. But the Antarctic Treaty was concluded before nations had developed vested interests there.

The Arctic has already seen more activity than the Antarctic. Fully 20 percent of Russia’s G.D.P.…  Seguir leyendo »

About 55,000 gallons of oil have escaped into the North Sea since last week from a leaky pipeline operated by Royal Dutch Shell, about 100 miles off Scotland.

Last year, Americans watched in mounting fury as the oil industry and the federal government struggled for five disastrous months to contain the much larger BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now imagine the increased danger and difficulty of trying to cope with a similar debacle off Alaska’s northern coast, where waters are sealed by pack ice for eight months of each year, gales roil fog-shrouded seas with waves up to 20 feet high and the temperature, combined with the wind chill, feels like 10 degrees below zero by late September.…  Seguir leyendo »

Standing on the deck of this floating laboratory for Arctic science, which is part of Canada’s Coast Guard fleet and one of the world’s most powerful icebreakers, I can see vivid evidence of climate change. Channels through the Canadian Arctic archipelago that were choked with ice at this time of year two decades ago are now expanses of open water or vast patchworks of tiny islands of melting ice.

In 1994, the “Louie,” as the crew calls the ship, and a United States Coast Guard icebreaker, the Polar Sea, smashed their way to the North Pole through thousands of miles of pack ice six- to nine-feet thick.…  Seguir leyendo »

The drastic climatic changes in the Arctic, viewed first-hand this week by an ‘alarmed’ UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, are threatening to unleash not only environmental catastrophe on the rest of the world but a furious political struggle between competing regional governments.

The Arctic Five - the US, Russia, Norway, Canada and Denmark (Greenland) - are scrambling to secure territorial rights to disputed and hitherto unclaimed parts of the world’s last great wilderness. This is partly because the retreat of local sea ice is opening up to exploitation what many leading experts think could be massive reserves of petroleum- even as much as 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30% of its undiscovered natural gas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Europe will be wrangled for the next six months by a lanky, no-nonsense Swede named Carl Bildt. His country chairs this semester's cascade of European Union summits, procedural debates and other gabfests. As Sweden's foreign minister, it is Bildt's job to make sense of it all -- a task akin to herding not cats but eels.

Well, he asked for it, didn't he? When he was Sweden's prime minister in the 1990s, the conservative politician relentlessly overhauled his country's socialist economic policies and neutralist orientation to push it into the European Union. Now Sweden is stuck picking up the pieces of a deepening European economic crisis, paralyzed national governments and a constitutional stalemate.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two polar bears, known in these parts as ice bears, amble and yawn on an iceberg. The mother and her 2-year-old cub stand out light yellow against bright white and glacial blue -- these mascots of the global warming movement seem majestically content on an Arctic summer day.

Polar bears may be threatened, but they can hardly be called fragile. They are serene, cuddly killers, with curved claws that can pull a seal from the water by the top of its head in one smooth stroke. If the ice floes on which they hunt were to melt entirely, the bears could probably adapt by genetically rejoining their relatives on land.…  Seguir leyendo »

North of Oslo, north of Longyearbyen, almost as north as North itself, the National Geographic Endeavor breaks pack ice in endless daylight through a gray-teal sea. The expedition has been cruising near Svalbard, a group of high arctic islands larger than Denmark -- in summer, a land of brown mountains streaked with snow-filled gullies, low clouds that blur distinctions of sky and land, and wide glaciers reaching the ocean in gashes of bright sky blue.

Ashore, this arctic desert is so harsh that the region's natives wisely never settled here -- only men digging coal, trapping arctic fox and polar bear, and hunting whales were foolish enough to come.…  Seguir leyendo »

With the Arctic ice melting, anticipated increases in Arctic shipping, tourism and economic activity, and Russia’s flag-planting at the North Pole last summer, there has been much talk in the press about a “race to the Arctic” and even some calls for a new treaty to govern the “lawless” Arctic region.

We should all cool down. While there may be a need to expand cooperation in some areas, like search and rescue, there is already an extensive legal framework governing the region. The five countries bordering the Arctic Ocean — the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia — have made clear their commitment to observe these international legal rules.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sitting on my desk is an illegal acquisition, a black pebble the size of a walnut. I picked it up some years ago on the slopes of Cape Crozier on Ross Island in the Antarctic. This vast wilderness of rock and ice lies on a cliff overlooking the Ross Sea and is celebrated as destination of the "worst journey in the world".

This was the title of the book written by Apsley Cherry-Garrard about a trip taken by him and two colleagues from Scott's 1911 polar expedition to acquire the eggs of the Emperor penguin. The storm shelter of stones, canvas and bits of sledge from which they barely escaped alive still lies on the cape, literally frozen in time.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Arctic ice cap melted this summer at a shocking pace, disappearing at a far higher rate than predicted by even the most pessimistic experts in global warming. But we shouldn’t be shocked, because scientists have long known that major features of earth’s interlinked climate system of air and water can change abruptly.

A big reason such change happens is feedback — not the feedback that you’d like to give your boss, but the feedback that creates a vicious circle. This type of feedback in our global climate could determine humankind’s future prosperity and even survival.

The vast expanse of ice floating on the surface of the Arctic Ocean always recedes in the summer, reaching its lowest point sometime in September.…  Seguir leyendo »

Aboard Training Vessel Arctic Tern, off Newport, R.I.

Russia’s flag-planting caper at the North Pole last week captured the world’s attention. Harking back to the heady days of colonial imperialism and perhaps the success of Sputnik, a resurgent Russia dispatched from Murmansk a nuclear-powered icebreaker and a research vessel armed with two mini-submarines to stake a symbolic claim to the Arctic Ocean’s riches. Russia hopes that leaving its flag encased in titanium more than 13,200 feet beneath the frozen surface bolsters its 2001 claim that the Lomonosov Ridge is a geological extension of its continental shelf and thus the 460,000 square miles of resource-rich Arctic waters stretching from the North Pole to Eurasia fall under the Kremlin’s jurisdiction.…  Seguir leyendo »

The world's children may soon be needing to write to Santa Claus in Russian if Moscow's claim to the North Pole, made this week without a trace of humour, is realised, giving new life to the phrase "cold war". No sooner had the Russians made their announcement than the US Coast Guard said it would be dispatching an icebreaker to the Arctic on a "research mission" on Monday.Sending submarines to the pole to plant a Russian flag on the seabed more than two-and-a-half miles down is all very well, but ignores the fact that there are four other countries with territory inside the Arctic Circle: Canada, Norway, the United States and Danish Greenland.…  Seguir leyendo »