(DPA/EarthTimes, 26 February 2009) -- Geneva - As a young girl, Elisapee Sheutiapik never wore short-sleeved shirts, but the weather in the summertime in recent years can reach 25 degrees in her hometown of Iqaluit, close to the Arctic Circle in northern Canada. Climate change has also impacted the lives of winter hunters from the indigenous Inuit people in Canada. "Our older hunters, who go out to the land regularly, are sometimes stuck now, and we are conducting more search and rescue missions" said Sheutiapik, the mayor of Iqaluit. Once, a hunter would cross a frozen river knowing months could pass before it would melt. With rapidly changing weather patterns, hunters find their traditional tools to gauge the depth of snow and ice no longer accurate. "The changes are happening more quickly and we are not prepared," said Grete Hovelsrud, a senior research fellow at the Center for International Climate Change and Environmental Research in Oslo. As a social anthropologist, Hovelsrud said she views climate change through the people affected and the communities living near the poles are at the front lines of the new weather patterns. "The Arctic communities are the canary in the mine," she said in an interview with Deutsche Press-Agenter dpa. "The rate of change there is faster and the magnitude of it is greater." Research conducted by scientists as part of the International Polar Year (IPY), which was wrapped up at the United Nations in Geneva on Wednesday, has shown that snow and ice are declining at both the North and South Poles, contributing to rising sea levels and changes in wildlife, vegetation and weather patterns. The two years of research, by the International Council for Science and the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO), at a cost of 1.2 billion dollars, "took place during a time when our planet was changing faster than ever in recorded human history, especially in the polar regions," the groups said.
Posted 27 February 2009; 12:48:13 PM. Permalink
(Dmitry Solovyov/Reuters, 26 February 2009) — MOSCOW - The battle for the Arctic's vast reserves of oil and gas can only be decided by international law, Russia and Denmark said after talks on Thursday. Five countries with an Arctic coastline—Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark through its control of Greenland—have competing claims to the region. Russia said this week it would respond to any moves to militarise the Arctic. It has stepped up its own patrols there. Arguing that an underwater ridge links Siberia with the Arctic, Russia plans to claim a vast section of the seabed—with a estimated total of 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and 30 percent of undiscovered gas. "All problems in the Arctic, including climate change and reducing ice cover, can successfully be considered and resolved within specially created international organisations such as the Arctic Council," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a news briefing after meeting his Danish counterpart in Moscow. The Arctic Council, set up in 1996, includes the five countries with an Arctic coastline plus the Faroe Islands and Iceland, which both lie just outside the Arctic Circle. Last May the council met in Greenland and agreed to follow the U.N. convention on the Arctic. International law states the five countries with territory inside the Arctic Circle are allowed a 320-km (200-mile) economic zone north of their shores. But there is a tangle of claims beyond the economic zones, as the icecap that once made the Arctic Ocean impenetrable year round shrinks. Scientists say oil and gas exploration could begin during the summer months within decades. Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller said at the news briefing his government agreed cooperation was the best way to solve disputes. "International law should be used if there are contradicting claims from different states," he said. (Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; writing by James Kilner; editing by Andrew Roche)
Posted 27 February 2009; 12:42:56 PM. Permalink
(ENS, 26 February 2009) -- LONGYEARBYEN, Norway - Four tons of seeds representing hundreds of crop species were delivered today to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as it celebrated its one-year anniversary. The vault in nothern Norway is intended to serve as a fail-safe backup should the original samples be lost or damaged or to provide a Noah's ark for agriculture in the event of a global catastrophe. The seeds arriving today are from food crop collections maintained by Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, the United States, and three international agricultural research centers in Syria, Mexico and Colombia. Located near the village of Longyearbyen on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, the repository has in one year amassed a collection of more than 400,000 unique seed samples—some 200 million seeds. ... "The vault was opened last year to ensure that one day all of humanity's existing food crop varieties would be safely protected from any threat to agricultural production, natural or man made. It's amazing how far we have come toward accomplishing that goal," said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which operates the seed vault in partnership with the Norwegian government and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center in Sweden. To mark the anniversary of the vault, experts on global warming and its effects on food production have gathered in Longyearbyen to discuss how climate change could pose a major threat to food production, and to examine crop diversity's role in averting crisis. Speakers at the seminar "Frozen seeds in a frozen mountain—feeding a warming world" include the authors of a study published last month in Science magazine warning that by the end of this century the average temperatures during growing seasons in many regions will probably be higher than the most extreme heat recorded over the last 100 years. ... The vault at Svalbard has so far received duplicates of nearly half of the crop samples maintained by the genebanks of the international agricultural research centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.
Posted 27 February 2009; 12:30:54 PM. Permalink