Arctic Imperative

by Judith Curry

In my congressional testimony, I discussed the idea of climate change winners and losers.   In the Arctic, where climate is changing most rapidly, will there be winners or losers?

Arctic Climate Impact Assessment

The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) is a study describing the ongoing climate change in the Arctic and its consequences.The project was conducted under the auspices of the intergovernmental Arctic Council and the non-governmental International Arctic Science Committee. Three hundred scientists participated in the study over a span of three years.  The summary and synthesis are provided in chapter 18 of the main report, particularly section 18.2.2.

Another very interesting chapter in the ACIA report is Chapter 3: The Changing Arctic: Indigenous Perspectives.

Robert Corell’s statement provides a concise summary of the findings of the ACIAstudy, which is further summarized here by these seven points:

  1. Arctic climate is warming rapidly and much larger changes are expected
  2. Warming across the Arctic and its consequences are likely to have major implications for the entire world
  3. Climate-induced changes in Arctic landscapes are important to people and animals in terms of habitat, food, fuel, and culture. 
  4. Animal species diversity, ranges, and distributions are likely to change
  5. Thawing ground will disrupt transportation, buildings and other infrastructure
  6. Indigenous peoples and other residents of the Arctic are likely to face major impacts due to climate and other environmental changes.
  7. Climate change is occurring in the context of many other changes taking place in the Arctic. 

ACIA’s policy document is found here, not much there.

Subsequent to the ACIA report,  the World Wildlife Fund in 2008 produced a report, Arctic Climate Impact Science – An Update Since ACIA

Coping with a Changing Arctic

The Alaska Dispatch lays out what is at stake:

Alaskans have long been aware of the melting Arcticsea ice, but we are only now beginning to comprehend its sweeping and profound implications. The opening and commercialization of this new shipping gateway will likely transform life for western and northern Alaskan coastal residents over the coming decades. Many have an uneasy sense that change may be profound. And Alaskans must work together to take steps to make the most of the transformation, while still protecting our Native cultures and environment.

In short, all Alaskans, outside investors and government entities must become engaged, and they must do so soon. Otherwise, Russian ports, which are already well-positioned for expansion, could become the only ones servicing shipping through the Bering Strait. The ships will be built in Asia and northern Europe; the energy resources will be extracted from Canada; the offshore drilling in the Arctic will be done by Chinese oil and gas companies. How do we know this? Because it’s already starting to happen.

With seven nuclear-powered icebreakers, our Russian neighbors are assertively encouraging marine shipments to and from Asia and Europe and to destinations along its Arctic coast. Ship traffic through the Bering Strait is growing quickly. Yet the U.S. Coast Guard has only one working icebreaker on the water. Alaska has no deepwater port in the Arctic, and only two in the Aleutian Islands more than 800 miles to the south. Villages along the Bering and Chukchi seas are presently defenseless against the dangers that accompany increased shipping: fuel spills, pollution and accidents. The federal government seems unconvinced of the need to act – to designate the location of a Bering Sea deepwater port; to appropriate funds for icebreaker repairs; to have the US become a party to the Law of the Sea Conference; to negotiate bilateral shipping conventions with our Russian neighbors just 50 miles to the west across the Bering Strait.

Oil development has dominated the debate in Alaska for the last 30 years. Oil and gas and natural resources will always be the key to this state’s economic viability. But the Arctic coastline is a vast and almost uncharted territory with its own potential to drive economic development.   Melting ice is opening this region to development; the right kind of development will transform lives for future generations of young people. A thriving Alaska seaport or two along the Bering Sea will bring jobs to other coastal villages, and improve their sense of strategic value to the state and the nation.   

Time to ratify Law of the Sea?

From an article in the Alaska Dispatch:

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,  it’s at the heart of the very modern-day scramble over modern-day resources; namely, minerals, oil and gas. Lots of oil and gas, particularly in Arctic waters. The treaty, which sets the rules for ownership of the ocean and all of its bounty both above and below the seabed floor, has the potential to affect United States interests in the Gulf of Mexico, areas off the Pacific Northwest, and California.

But the largest spoils are guessed to be in the Arctic, where the U.S. Geological Survey estimates as much as a third of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil, billions of barrels, may be in the offshore Arctic.

Supporters from all sides, from environmentalists to industry, say that if the U.S. doesn’t ratify the Law of the Sea — which is easier said than done given that ratifying a treaty requires a supermajority vote of 67 senators — the country stands to lose out on both potential riches and environmental protections.  

So far, the European Union and 160 nation states have ratified treaty. The U.S. is one of 18 countries that have not done so.

A warming Arctic climate has changed the political calculus, number one. The thawing Arctic Ocean is opening up shipping, tourism and oil exploration, with the eight countries bordering it all vying to claim that natural resource-rich territory lies within their respective “economic zones.” The big question is who has the right to the spoils. Enter the treaty, signatories to which are legally bound to the rules and regulations it creates.

Thanks in part to legislation passed by former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, the United States routinely claims special rights — particularly fishing and transportation rights — within 200 nautical miles of their coasts. These are called Exclusive Economic Zones. But the Law of the Sea treaty could extend those rights if a country can prove to the United Nations that the continental shelf — the underwater portion of the continent — extends beyond that limit. 

But opponents again portrayed the treaty as a means for the U.N. to regulate undiscovered resources, “restrict mineral development” and redistribute approved production in “economic zones” managed by an International Seabed Authority, headquartered in Jamaica. Signing on, these opponents said, would be akin to a “new global order.”

The Arctic Imperative Summit

From the Alaskan Dispatch:

This is why we at Alaska Dispatch Publishing are hosting the first-ever international summit on the subject in Alaska. Nearly two hundred leaders from around the world will gather to learn about the changing Arctic from the viewpoints of Alaska. They will tackle the region’s crosscutting topics — from Arctic shipping and navigation to energy and resource development. They will hear from village coastal residents directly and debate the issues with representatives of the international investment community, executives from the shipping and infrastructure sectors, federal and state policymakers, and many other interested parties. Alaska Dispatch has invited scientists, Native leaders, oil drillers, sea captains, politicians, investors and entrepreneurs to attend the gathering in Girdwood. 

The website for the Arctic Imperative summit is here.   Some of the invited speakers are advertised here:

  • David Balton, U.S. Department of State
  • Admiral Thomas Barrett, USGC (ret.), President, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company
  • Artur Chilingarov, Deputy Chairman, State Duma of the Russina Federation, President of Non-commercial Partnership of the Coordination of Northern Sea Route Usage
  • The Honorable Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, President of Iceland
  • Richard Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
  • The Honorable Edward Itta, Mayor, North Slope Borough
  • Sergey Kislyak, Russian Ambassador to the United States
  • Pontus Melander, Minister-Counselor, Embassy of Sweden
  • U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski
  • General Joseph Ralston (Ret), Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO
  • Rex Rock, President, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation
  • Kenneth Rogoff, Professor of Economics, Harvard University
  • David Rubenstein, Managing Director, Carlyle Group
  • Denis Stevens, Consulate General of Canada, Seattle
  • The Honorable Dan Sullivan, Commissioner, Alaska Department of Natural Resources
  • Peter Taksoe-Jensen, Danish Ambassador to the United States
  • The Honorable Mead Treadwell, Lieutenant Governor, State of Alaska
  • Fran Ulmer, Chair, United States Arctic Research Commission

with a full list here.  Videos of the talks and discussion can be found here.


“Arctic Imperative” concludes with investment discussion:

The “Arctic Imperative” conference concluded yesterday in Girdwood with talk of future investment options.  And at least one capitalist predicts the money will come, because the opportunities offered by withdrawing sea ice are too tempting to pass up.

From an article entitled “Wall Street and the Arctic Ocean“:

On June 22nd, a large man disembarked at the Barrow Airport. Scott Minard is the Chief Investment Officer and a Managing Partner at Guggenheim Partners, which has more than $100 billion in assets under supervision.

A passionate weight lifter, he made six stops in Alaska over the course of his five-day trip, folding his muscular 136-kilo body into a chair and listening intently to a variety of people including mayors, Native American elders, and oil company insiders. When I asked for his thoughts at the end of the trip, his face became very serious. “The sense of opportunity here reminds me of visiting China in the late 1980s.”

“Let’s call the Arctic ‘The Last Emerging Market.’” At the end of June, Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein made this suggestion in an address at a symposium held in a suburb of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. He brought forward an idea for a partnership to build infrastructure such as large ports and roads in the Arctic Circle, which would bring together private investors and a $40 billion government fund controlled by the oil-enriched state.

Wall Street is enthusiastic, but there are many hurdles to cross in order to develop Alaska’s Arctic zone. One of them is the Convention on the Law of the Sea. Because the United States has not yet ratified the Convention, it can’t claim a 200 nautical mile-wide Exclusive Economic Zone that would begin at its shores. In May, President Obama announced a policy that would expand oil exploration in Alaska, but he made no reference to the Convention and has set no goal to ratify it.

Environmental issues also cause difficulty. Environmental groups and Native Americans who depend on whaling and other marine life are very concerned about the risk of spills should offshore fields be developed. Royal Dutch Shell, which won a bid to mine the Alaskan sea in 2008, has still not gained the permit to begin digging.

Even so, Minard says that investing domestically has its appeal, since the risks that accompany investment in other emerging markets are absent. “The payback is huge,” he says, so it merits a long-term effort.

The Guggenheim family, which founded Guggenheim Partners, actually has a deep connection with Alaska. At the beginning of the 20th century, in the heat of the gold rush, they formed a syndicate with the Morgan family and used private capital to build railroads between the inland copper and gold mines and the ports in the south. These railroads were later replaced by state-run Alaska Railroad, but they contributed to the economic development of the region.

After a hiatus of 100 years, Wall Street and the Arctic are once again drawing closer. In this northern region, where Wall Streets’ “animal spirits” meet the frontier spirit, the source of America’s vitality still lives and breathes.

Senate Hearing

There was a recent hearing in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation on “Defending U.S. Economic Interests in the Changing Arctic:  Is there a Strategy?”  From the majority statement by Senator Rockefeller:

From the Aleutian Islands to Barrow, Alaska, ocean ecosystems are shifting due to a combination of Arctic warming, large natural variability, and sensitivity to changing sea ice conditions.  These changes, combined with new technologies are opening new possibilities for a variety of increased human activity in the Arctic, including ocean shipping, oil and gas development, mineral ore extraction, commercial fishing, and tourism. 

We have enduring national and strategic interests in both Polar Regions, but particularly in the Arctic Region where we have U.S. citizens and territory to protect.  Greater human activity in the Arctic will only increase the need for us to assert our presence and leadership in order to shape the evolving security, economic, scientific, and international political issues of the region.  

Already, the other Arctic nations—Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Russia—are scrambling to take advantage of economic opportunities in the Arctic.  Meanwhile, the U.S. seems to be standing idly by and content to watch the action from the sidelines.

Other Arctic nations have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Meanwhile, the Senate has been sitting on the treaty for years.

Other Arctic nations—and even non-Arctic nations such as China—either have or are building icebreakers to transit Arctic waters.  Meanwhile, the U.S. has a pile of studies concluding we should be equipping the Coast Guard with the same capabilities, but we’re not—although Senator Begich, Senator Cantwell, and I keep trying.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: As a nation, we depend on the Coast Guard to keep us safe and secure, but their ability to do that rests on their access to resources and other support necessary to perform their missions. 

Witnesses testifying were:

  • Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr, Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard
  • Rear Admiral David W. Titley, Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy
  • Ambassador David A. Balton, Deputy Asst Secy for Oceans and and Fisheries, U.S. Department of State
  • Peter Slaiby, Vice President, Alaska Venture, Shell Oil Company
  • Dr. Scott Borgerson, Senior Fellow, Institute for Global Marine Studies
  • Dr. Andrew Metzger, Asst Professor, University of Alaska-Fairbanks.


The word Unaami derives from the Yup’ik word for “tomorrow,” with a connotation of change.  There is no question that the Arctic is changing, not just the climate but there is a host of additional socioeconomic factors.  The Arctic Imperative Summit is a fascinating example of adaptive governance, a grass roots effort initiated by a local newspaper that is bringing together  government officials from local to international, industry from the oil titans to local whaling captains, investors and environmental groups.  Back to the question:  In the Arctic, where climate is changing most rapidly, will there be winners or losers?  The process put into action by the Arctic Imperative Summit is stacking the deck in favor of “winners.”

97 responses to “Arctic Imperative

  1. 1947 : ” temperatures in the Arctic have increased by 10 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900″

    The earth warms and cools all by itself. I worry about the cooling

  2. Alaska Dispatch:
    Thanks in part to legislation passed by former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, the United States routinely claims special rights — particularly fishing and transportation rights — within 200 nautical miles of their coasts. These are called Exclusive Economic Zones.

    Wall Street and the Arctic Ocean:
    Because the United States has not yet ratified the Convention, it can’t claim a 200 nautical mile-wide Exclusive Economic Zone that would begin at its shores.

    A difference of opinion or is one wrong?

    • good question. As far as I know, the Alaska Dispatch version is correct.

      • Presidential Proclamation 5030, March 10, 1983:

        NOW, THEREFORE, I, RONALD REAGAN, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the United States of America and confirm also the rights and freedoms of all States within an Exclusive Economic Zone, as described herein.

        The Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States is a zone contiguous to the territorial sea, including zones contiguous to the territorial sea of the United States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (to the extent consistent with the Covenant and the United Nations Trusteeship Agreement), and United States overseas territories and possessions. The Exclusive Economic Zone extends to a distance 200 nautical miles from the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured. In cases where the maritime boundary with a neighboring State remains to be determined, the boundary of the Exclusive Economic Zone shall be determined by the United States and other State concerned in accordance with equitable principles.

        Within the Exclusive Economic Zone, the United States has, to the extent permitted by international law, (a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring, exploiting, conserving and managing natural resources, both living and non-living, of the seabed and subsoil and the superjacent waters and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds; and (b) jurisdiction with regard to the establishment and use of artificial islands, and installations and structures having economic purposes, and the protection and preservation of the marine environment.

        The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act refers to the above presidential proclamation and an AGREEMENT WITH THE UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS ON THE MARITIME BOUNDARY clarifying the maritime boundaries between the two countries. It does not set out the boundaries. Nor does it appear that any other document, treaty, agreement or law is required.

      • Actually both views pretty much just claims. one says that whatever we calim, it is ours. The other one says no one has acceded to our claims, so it is just a claim.

        No other country has tried to contest the Reagan proclamation — why would anyone want to contest when we have 11 aircraft carriers and 75 sumbarines, about 100 frigates/destroyers/cruisers… all of them carrying cruise missiles.

        But as WSJ correctly points out, we have not a bunch of countries agree to it in any signed document. so, just a claim

    • John Vetterling

      As a strictly pragmatic matter, when you have the most powerful navy in the world, by a large margin, you can claim whatever youn are willing to defend.

      • Hence the current push to strip funds from the Department of Defense.

      • Not the issue, the issue is will you attack what others (Russia/Norway/Denmark) claim.

      • Or negotiate a direct agreement between the affected parties as has been the diplomatic norm for a very long time. Cutting in a super-national third party can yield some “interesting” results.

      • John, Ferdinand and Isabella had their little confab because a supernational third party had pronounced ignorantly.

        The BRICs at Copenhagen.

      • What ignorant pronouncement was that?

        Contrary to popular belief, America was discovered because Christopher Columbus managed to convince himself, and F&I, that Japan was 2-3 thousand miles off the west coast of Europe. Educated people in his time knew the world was round.

      • That of the Spanish born Pope. All I know is what I read at Wikipedia and what I see with my own eyes as I slither from hither to thither.

      • OK, cryptic’s fun, and so is art, but if I must explain: The BRICs @ Kobenhavn were those trio objecting to the Spanish pope acting as the IPCC was to do.

      • Fortunately for Columbus, he ran into America.

        Hal is correct, educated people knew the earth was round and they knew the approximate distance to Japan going East was 8,000 miles. The ships of the day couldn’t carry enough food and water for such a journey.

  3. I’ll leave judging winners and losers to the Martha.

    Maybe the Martha could also tell us if Al Gore is a winner or a loser.

  4. Many of the usual suspects involved, here. Apparently they do not have access to the timeline you presented in:

    Curry, Judith A. 2011. Arctic update. Scientific. Climate Etc. August 7.

    What provision(s) do they advise in case it turns much colder again?

  5. I looked at the ACIA, and found the following as one of the first key points.

    “The Arctic climate is now warming rapidly, and much larger changes are projected.”

    I am not at all sure that this statement is correct. I would suggest the first phrase ought to read “The Arctic climate has been warming rapidly”; I am not sure that the available data shows that this warming trend is currently persisting. If it is, then maybe someone can direct me to that part of the report which proves this is true.

    I find the second phrase even more disturbing. Who made the projections? How were the projections made? Are these projections merely the usual output of non-validated climate models? If these projections really are merely the usual nonsense we get from the proponents of CAGW, then maybe the ACIA is not worth the paper it is written on.

    Here in Canada we face a similar problem to that which is depicted for Alaska, but alas, we dont have a powerful navy like the USA has. We have been talking about building a deep sea port on the North-west passage for decades, but I am not sure we can afford to either build it, or maintain it once it is built. Our icebreakers are such that they do a magnificent job in the summer, particularly escorting vital supply ships to Canadian Arctic ports. But when winter comes they retreat to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where the ice, once again, is sufficiently benign that the icebreakers can do some good.

    If, indeed, the projections for future warmth in the Arctic turn out to be wrong, and the new Eddy solar magnetic minimum turns out to be a Maunder type minimum, then a lot of valuable resources might be spent chasing an impossible dream, just when financial resources need to be used with a considerable amount of conservation.

  6. George Barwood

    I notice that the population of the Arctic region is only 4 million people.
    World population is about 6.7 billion, so the Arctic is less than 0.1% of the world.

    So on the whole, I don’t think it deserves any special consideration.

    • So on the whole, I don’t think it deserves any special consideration.

      Population isn’t much of a metric for what deserves “special consideration”. Take the Arabian Peninsula as an example.

    • George:
      Excellent point. In consulting, we try to tell clients that first they have to size the problem.
      On the other hand, I am very open to the Arctic in some sense a place where some aspects of theories of climate change can be evaluated.

  7. Politically, this is a lose-lose. Within the Republicans, there is a wing that sees this treaty as constraining the United States with an international veto. Within the Democrats, there is a wing that wants the Arctic untouched by human hands, and no doubt sees this treaty as opening the way to exploitation. So rather than discuss the issue publicly, each side stays silent and nothing gets done. Not because they don’t know the problem their silence creates, but for strictly intra-party political reasons.

  8. Here is one reason the US hasn’t signed on to the treaty.

    Amendments to LOST. The treaty provision relating to LOST amendments has not been altered since 1982. Article 314 of LOST (located not in Part XI of the treaty, as asserted by treaty proponents, but rather in Part XVII) empowers the bureaucracy created by LOST to amend the provisions of the treaty–even over the objection of any member state.[6] In other words, the LOST bureaucracy–dominated by the developing world–may vote to amend the terms of the treaty over the objections of the United States and without the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. Reagan rightly singled out Article 314 as objectionable when he rejected LOST in 1982. The 1994 Agreement affirmed that Article 314 was the proper provision for amending LOST.[7]

    Why should the US sign on to the treaty when it can be amended without getting the consent of all signatories?

  9. “In the Arctic, where climate is changing most rapidly”

    Serious question, Dr. Curry- How, exactly, has the climate changed in the Arctic? Something like a “before and after” summary would be a good start.


    • Understand that “change” means a significant change in a long term measure. It need not be a unprecedented change. for example.
      The change in ice volume in the past 30 years, for example, is a statistically significant change. And yes we know it has happened before, the interesting question as always is “how did it happen before” and ‘how is it happening now”

      • That unlovely null,
        How then, how now, brown cow?
        Consult Heisenberg.

      • Kim, the “null” you speak of really isnt a proper null. I can illustrate it thusly: If you look over the long record of temperatures for example you will find a all sorts of dips and peaks. A dip of .3C or a peak of .3C is quite ordinary, within the bounds of variability. That fact however does not entail that the dips and peaks are “explained” by natural variability. NV ‘explains’ nothing. It merely restates the observation in other terms. So we look at one of those dips: Bingo it aligns with a volcano. So we have a probable ‘explanation’ We know its an explanation because it assumes the correct epistemic form. Observable A ( temperature going down) is explained by Observable B ( volcano) these two observables are different sorts of creatures. One is dust, the other is measure of molecular motion. The explanation gains further weight because we have laws ( propositions than quantify over objects and forces using numbers) that explain how more “dust” leads to lower temperatures. We have particles on one side of the equation and degrees on the other. The explanation gains further weight because it can be used to explain other past events and predict the response to future events.

        In all of this there was no need to “falsify” the empty null of Natural Variation. You have two “explanations” :
        1. “naturalism: the climate just goes up and down. TRUE
        2. Volcanos cause dips in temperature. TRUE

        They are not logically in conflict with each other. They both “explain” the data. One does a POOR job because it makes no predictions and cannot really be falsified. Why cant it be falsified? it cant because it makes no quantifiable claims. The arctic has been ful of ice and free of ice. In that scheme of things–nothing can happen to shake the null. hence, it’s unfalsifiable. The second does a better job. It could be falsified. It makes predictions. “natural” variation makes no predictions as a “theory”, hence its scientifically empty.

        The ice goes up and down. Yes, thats natural variation. Yes, in the past it has lower and higher. True. Absolutely true. But, this explanation is logically distinct from the explanation that says: when the planet gets warmer ( for whatever reason) the arctic ice will tend to descrease. And further its logically divorced from the science that says GHGs warm the planet.

      • Poor Kim.

      • Heh, why do you think I called it ‘unlovely’?

      • Moshe, I understood immediately why you were so intrigued by Kevin’s null.

      • “The ice goes up and down…Yes, in the past it has lower and higher.”

        The most rapid change in the arctic that Dr. Curry is talking about is change that has already occurred before, apparently many times.

        So what is different about the climate in the arctic now as opposed to these times in the past?


      • Dr. Curry,

        Where did my previous comment go?


      • I think it had technical difficulties.

      • kim,

        You mean my “a statistically significant change in ice volume is the climate change… Anything else?” made Climate Etc. throw an error? ;)


      • That part was pertinent, the first part offensive. Moshe’s on it.

      • I thought the arctic data was only accurate back to around 1950. How do they get statistical significance from very little data? What’s the alpha?

  10. 1. The largest and most powerful nations are the ones that stand most to benefit from a broadly accepted international order, and the most to lose from chaos or uncertainty. The fact that 160 nations, all of which are presumably as jealous of their rights as we are, have ratified the Law of the Sea, suggests it is not a threat to our national sovereignty. But the fear among the isolationist right of UN thugs in black helicopters who will seize their businesses and force their women to get abortions is not a rational one and will not likely respond to reason.

    2. While I understand the argument that a plan for development will help “stacking the deck in favor of ‘winners'” I would include the caution that the plan needs to include the mechanism by which the “winnings” and the “losses” are shared. You cannot assume that oil company profits will trickle down to a village destroyed by erosion, or that shipping company profits will repair roads torn up by melting permafrost. Taxation, regulation, and programs of compensation will be needed to turn “losers” into “winners,” or even to allow them to break even. The point at which the people with money still need permission to drill, tap, and build is the point at which the public has the maximum leverage to ensure the development benefits the entire community. That should be part of the planning as well.

    • “1. The largest and most powerful nations are the ones that stand most to benefit from a broadly accepted international order, and the most to lose from chaos or uncertainty.”

      Why? Are Estonia and Croatia going to send warships to seize American resources?

      “The fact that 160 nations, all of which are presumably as jealous of their rights as we are, have ratified the Law of the Sea, suggests it is not a threat to our national sovereignty”

      I would suggest the opposite. When you want to steal from Peter to pay Paul, you will always have Paul on your side. Just what ‘rights’ can 160 countries have in Arctic waters? Only the rights they can gain by international treaty.

  11. The Alaska Dispatch has a long list of distinguished invitees – I doubt a small fraction will attend. The Alaska Dispatch is a web based publication started a few years back by a small group of newly unemployed local journalists. It is a publication of local interest, but not deserving of the attention provided by this blog on this subject.

    • You can see the attendees for yourself from their web page, the actual list is more impressive than the list of names I provided from the pre-event publicity. U.S. senators, dignitaries from foreign countries, high ranking oil company executives, representatives from major investment groups such as the Carlyle group. Pretty impressive.

      • The Arctic Imperative was sponsored by Alice Rogoff, the publisher of…the Alaska Dispatch.
        The Carlyle group reference you mention sounds impressive until you realize that Alice Rogoff is married to David Rubenstein – co-founder of…the Carlyle Group.

      • Are you aware of how frequently interlocking relationships like this exist?
        Are you offended by them in general, or in this case in particular?

    • It is a publication of local interest, but not deserving of the attention provided by this blog on this subject.

      Hmmm. Questions:

      1. If it’s a good cause, why not give it wider exposure?

      And . . .

      2. How important in the grand scheme of things do you think this blog really is? (No offense meant, Dr. Curry.)

  12. There’s an interesting current book, “The world in 2050 : four forces shaping civilization’s northern future” by Laurence C. Smith, a young UCLA geographer. Here’s UCLA’s press release:
    “Global warming’s silver lining: Northern countries will thrive, grow”.

    The book is something of a mixed bag, but he’s generally optimistic re climate change in the North. Cautiously recommended for arctic fans. The Amazon reviews are worth reading.

    Happy reading–
    Pete Tillman

  13. It appears that Arctic ice melting may improve commerce in the world. This is not bad thing!

    • You can identify the conflicted peak oil and climate change skeptics when they start rationalizing, suggesting that warming will open up areas for resource exploration.

      • Why is pointing out reality a problem for AGW true believers?

      • I am a believer in applying science, not in playing rhetorical games.

      • So why do you then?

      • Math is my game.

      • If it is, you play very badly. You should take up golf.

      • Then find an error.

      • Web –
        Too easy. Some background first – In 1960, the world reserves were 40 years. In 1980, the world reserves were 40 years. In 2000, the world reserves were 40 years.

        In the last several years, at least 3 major new oil deposits have been found. And then there’s the oil sands in Canada and elsewhere. And then there’s “gas” – you DO know what “fracking” is, don’t you? I know – that’s not oil, but it’s a viable substitution.

        Peak oil may come – but it’s not here yet. Nor will it be in the near future.

        I’m not a geologist. Nor do I play one on TV. But my father-in-law IS a geologist and I listen to him. When he says “peak oil”, I’ll believe it. Until then, you apparently can’t count.

      • That is not math, that is anecdotal information. You lose.

        Too easy. Some background first – In 1960, the world reserves were 40 years. In 1980, the world reserves were 40 years. In 2000, the world reserves were 40 years.

        The idea of reserve growth is all about maturation of estimates, it has little to do with reality. A cautious operation would only extract a steady proportional amount of the estimated reserve total so as to maximize his financial return. If, for example, the extraction infrastructure had way too high an extraction capacity compared to the size of the reservoir, the overhead costs would cut into profits. By the same token, not putting in a large enough extraction capability for a much larger reservoir would get impatient investors upset as they would not reap as much of a windfall.
        So, in terms of reserve growth, a specific production operation does not know the potential reserve until it reaches a typical maturation period. In perhaps more familiar terms, consider equating a hidden reservoir with an iceberg. You see the tip of the iceberg yet it may take a while to figure out how big a volume lies underneath it (perhaps 90%). If you knew the iceberg’s size right away then you would never need to do a reserve growth analysis. So that over the passage of time, the early reserve estimates usually underestimate the available quantity of oil6, and only as
        the operation gains some data, do they put in place their complete infrastructure.
        This, in fact, plays a significant role in the way the maturation stage plays out. As the operation starts out slowly, the investors feel happy that they can cut their losses if things turn sour, but then as reserve estimates improve, they can eventually maximize their profits with confidence.

        So any time you see reserve numbers stated like that, it has no bearing on reality.

        I’m not a geologist. Nor do I play one on TV. But my father-in-law IS a geologist and I listen to him. When he says “peak oil”, I’ll believe it. Until then, you apparently can’t count.

        Geologists are geologists because they don’t like math and don’t like to sit in cubicles. They are the last ones you need to talk to to understand the predicament we are in.

      • WebHubTelescope,
        That is really ironic.

      • As if that has any bearing on anything.

      • WebHunTelescope,
        So you wish.
        You are just pouting because your rhetorical game is not going as you wish.

      • Suit yourself, do what you want.

  14. “The process put into action by the Arctic Imperative Summit is stacking the deck in favor of “winners”

    Well, I guess that’s one way to frame the possible benefits of actions to adapt to climate change. Like all action plans, the ones that are actually supported by infrastructure and decision-making are the best and as your post highlights, the risks to vulnerable people and the regional and global environment are very serious.

    From the perspective of American industry, investment and finance, the Arctic Imperative Summit was a very good thing because the U.S. is very behind other Arctic nations in shaping local impacts, planning for protection of your people and engaging in co-operative actions with others to support the environment. You may be the only nation in the Arctic (via Alaska) who is not a party to the U.N. convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). That is quite a significant problem for a variety of reasons looking into the future. Of course, if it were not for Alaska the U.S. wouldn’t bother to be at the table given all the footdragging, but it was truly impossible to avoid any longer.

    Things are a little different with this ‘new’ frontier than in the past: indigenous input cannot be ignored, these days, because traditional knowledge is crucial to understanding the problems and indigenous people have democratic influence on development policy and investment.

    Since you know about this investment Summit, you know that it is both development policies AND mitigation policies to reduce emissions e.g. low-emissions shipping, based in science and also traditional knowledge, that are being demanded and shaped by policy in Alaska and other Northern regions. You also know that Native leaders have pressed to proceed cautiously with development, with a vision that respects people and the environment for a more sustainable future.

    Additionally, you know that the Indigenous People’s Global Summit on Climate Change (Alaska 2009) along with Northern Community sustainability plans and the emissions reduction plan of the state of Alaska, include both adaptation plans AND mitigation plans to increase efficiencies and reduce emissions — including a demand for binding international agreement on emissions. It is misleading to pretend that mitigation action is absent or taking a back seat, by highlighting or discussing only the aspects of the investment Summit that you feel is coherent with your own beliefs, knowledge or perspective, and the raison d’etre of your personal blog. That is blatantly disingenous. Or may you are just often ignorant of details in your rush to interpret things along the lines of your subjective beliefs– I don’t know which.

    Anyway, Alaska may very well be helping to lead your country, as it turns out. That may be ironic, what with Palin, and all.

    • Actually Martha, while mitigation is mentioned in the ACIA policy statement and other policy statements, the Arctic Imperative Summit was not at all about CO2 mitigation.

      • “[it] was not at all about CO2 mitigation”

        Actually, I said you cannot pretend that CO2 mitigation was absent from the discussions.

        Discussions about energy choices, technological innovation, conservation and responsible development include discussion of CO2 mitigation choices, these days, in the North. Ask anyone who was there, if you don’t wish to consider anything I say or observe. The investment Summit was not just about oil and mineral and shipping ‘opportunities’ resulting from climate change. Economics, culture and the environment are all connected.

        You would be wrong, for example, if you thought Shell doesn’t have a CO2 management plan for development, and wasn’t there.

        No one can stop you from insisting that community members, Inuit leaders, conservationists and Arctic scientists working together with business and finance leaders at this first investment Summit were not discussing C02 mitigation along with community protection, adaptation, development, resource planning and opportunities.

        No one can stop you, but you would be mistaken and demonstrating a surprising lack of awareness.

      • No Martha, I am talking about what went on at the Arctic Imperative Summit. Find a talk at the Summit that discusses mitigation, provide the link, then you may have a valid point. Better yet, listen to the panel discussions and see if this is discussed in any significant way.

    • Heh, it’s all in the irony of the beholder.

      H/t Please, anyone but me.

    • U know Marta, this was a good post, full of info and insight…..

      but as always, you had to ruin it with your usual ad-homs. And guess what I am left with?

      My God I wish that u would leave that crap at the door, because u do have a lot to offer to this community!

      • Leo, I reject her opinions on the basis of her lack of knowledge, not character concerns.
        But I don’t think it is not unreasonable to distrust the views of someone who is demonstrably biased or insincere in their presentation of information. We are often right to rely less on someone like this.

      • Martha, let me know what piece or body of knowledge I am missing that is of relevance to your points, and I will take a look. You haven’t come up with anything so far.

      • Martha,
        You can tell yourself many things.
        From your sad and disturbing confessions of obsession with our hostess, it is clear that you may even have little voices telling you some of your best points.
        But that does not mean your assertions have any credibility.

  15. Basing Arctic policy on AGW community claims and demands will likely work no better than did following AGW demands and projections for the Reinsurance industry, Australian flood control or East Africa famine.

  16. Doug Badgero

    Hasn’t the vast majority of Arctic warming occurred during the NH winter when temperatures are determined primarily by oceans temps? Haven’t summer temps in the Arctic been relatively unchanged……..when temps are determined by local radiative balance?

    • This is an area of expertise for Dr. Curry, and so I will only statet my general understanding – perhaps she will comment. At least part of the winter/summer difference is due to the fact that during Arctic summer, much absorbed energy goes into ice melting, which occurs without a temperature change. When the ice temperature in winter is so cold that raising it will still leave the ice frozen, a rise in temperature can be observed. I believe you are right that ocean temperature plays a significant role in transporting energy from lower latitudes into the Arctic, and atmospheric circulations also contribute.. In other words, some of the effect is local and some is the result of heat transport from elsewhere.

  17. The unspoken part of the paper is that while the Arctic is warming, it should not be warming. What is the basis for that unspoken part and what should the Arctic be doing, what is it thought that is what it should be doing, and how is it known what it should be doing?

    • Good point dp. The unspoken assumption of an unchanging (or balanced) nature has always been at the heart of the scare, and still is. Change is equated with instability, or to use John Holdren’s new buzzword — disruption. I have always felt that the proper question was, if we can change the climate what climate do we want? Not how do we stop? Not that we can change the climate, but those who believe we can should be asking this question.

  18. Has anyone come across a paper on Arctic circulation?. I have seen references to an arctic gyre and the Norwegian current (warm). Bering Strait, Labrador and Greenland are labeled cool.

    If warmer water intrudes from lower latitudes, it may effect Arctic water temperatures.

    And then there are the yellow duckies; some of them had a northern vacation:

  19. “In the Arctic, where climate is changing most rapidly”

    Is the climate changing or are the temperatures varying. Are the conditions now any worse than in 1922 Monthly Weather Review Article or as outlined in the following:-
    “It will without doubt have come to your Lordship’s knowledge that a considerable change of climate, inexplicable at present to us, must have taken place in the Circumpolar Regions, by which the severity of the cold that has for centuries past enclosed the seas in the high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been during the last two years, greatly abated.
    President of the Royal Society, Minutes of Council, Volume 8. pp.149-153, Royal Society, London 20th November, 1817.
    From John Daly’s (Decd) Website
    What has happened in the short period since records began in 1979 is that the climate in the arctic has not changed but has varied and is that variation in climate unusual the answer from historical records is patently it is not.

    (This) affords ample proof that new sources of warmth have been opened and give us leave to hope that the Arctic Seas may at this time be more accessible than they have been for centuries past, and that discoveries may now be made in them not only interesting to the advancement of science but also to the future intercourse of mankind and the commerce of distant nations.”
    President of the Royal Society, London, to the Admiralty, 20th November, 1817

  20. Sorry. The four lines after John Daly….. Websiter should be after the last paragraph.

  21. The ACIA is basically a specialized IPCC, with all that implies. In fact Robert Corell used to head up the US NSF geo science division and he was one of the founders, perhaps the father, of the USCGRP in 1990, the US equivalent of the IPCC. Except the USGCRP reports are even worse than the IPCC reports. It is fitting that the WWF did the update on the ACIA report. This is pure CAGW advocacy.

    What is most interesting, and sad, is to watch this speculation wash out into the policy realm as fact. Let’s hope we don’t have a war over the rights to the riches under the supposedly disappearing ice. But then climate change is predicted to cause social upheaval isn’t it? It will be ironic indeed if that upheaval is due just to the speculation. Things don’t have to be true to be dangerous.

    • David –
      Most wars have been predicated on false, mistaken or inflammatory information. And we have a plethora of that floating around in the CC debate.

  22. No, Judith, my ‘point’ does not require that, if you understood it.

    I think you understood it just fine, but as is so often the case, you bury it by arguing that someone is saying that they are not. Your rhetorical skills leave much to be desired, if that is what you are trying to practice. Try listening, instead, for once.

    I have no idea if a particular speech was on emissions management, I would fully expect not, and it was not my point.

    My point is obviously that many people, including policy-makers and others at the Summit, appreciate that the impacts of human-induced climate change globally are being seen and experienced in the Arctic. How do I know that? Because of who was in attendance. Perhaps, for example, Jim Stotts or Marie Greene (Inuit Circumpolar Council) would be so kind as to fill you in. These individuals, and individuals from other Arctic communities besides Alaska, as well as other international interests and groups (for example, Carter Roberts from WWF which is supporting an indigenous perspective) do not struggle nearly as much as you do, to get the point. These are communities and groups with a strong stance on intervention on climate change/emissions reductions. They are not nearly as mixed up as you are and frankly, neither is Shell or other representatives of oil industry or the transport sector re. how to balance economic and conservation interests.

    Your refusal to acknowledge, especially, that an Inuit perspective was present or to understand the significance, is typical of your cultural, political and economic ignorance. The ICC/ACIA are not only attempting to set an example by planning to reduce significantly the emissions of greenhouse gases in the North, but are demanding targeted emissions of the international community. There are many relevant links that support awareness of this and you can find them yourself.

    • Sorry Martha, no cigar. Lets take a hypothetical example. Investors like the Carlyle Group are prepared to spend $billions helping the Alaskans deal with climate change. The Alaskans are provided with two choices:
      1. Invest in economic development that increases the prosperity and decreases the vulnerability of all Alaskans
      2. Invest in global CO2 mitigation, a strategy that may or may not work, for a problem that may or may not be dangerous.

      Let me know when you find out which one the Alaskans would pick. Wait, only #1 is an option anyways, since few people with billions are going to invest in a strategy that may or may not work, for a problem that may or may not be dangerous.

      • Yes, well in reality (as opposed to hypothetically and in an attempt to create a false dichotomy) the Carlyle group is partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund, Judith.

      • You are surprised that big business aligns with big NGO to make sure they all make a buck?

  23. 1. Invest in economic development that increases the prosperity and decreases the vulnerability of all Alaskans
    2. Invest in global CO2 mitigation, a strategy that may or may not work, for a problem that may or may not be dangerous.

    Dr. Curry, your stated interest in uncertainty does not seem to give you great insight into the selective way in which you deploy the concept.

    A more objective way to describe your points would be:

    1. Make investments which may or may not be successful, and if successful, generating prosperity that may or may not be broadly shared among Alaskans, and if broadly shared, may or may not decrease their vulnerability to climate change.
    2. Invest in global CO2 mitigation, a strategy which (depending on how broadly and deeply it is implemented) may or may not work, for a problem which has already shown itself to be dangerous, and may or may not be catastrophic in itself effects if left unchecked.

    The idea of treating the danger of climate change as uncertain but trickle-down economics as a sure thing may increase your appeal to Tea Party conservatives, but it otherwise has little to recommend it.

    • Robert –
      The idea of treating the danger of climate change as uncertain but trickle-down economics as a sure thing may increase your appeal to Tea Party conservatives, but it otherwise has little to recommend it.

      As usual, you go for the BIG BROTHER, BIG GOVERNMENT solution. Meaning specifically, the least efficient, least effective, most costly option with the least probability of success and maximum government control and interference.

      So – we’ve found another of your areas of ignorance to add to the list – economics.

      Keep trying, Bubba. Maybe someday we’ll find something you actually know something about.

    • Robert,
      Please show us where AGW has already shown to be dangerous in reality, outside of a firmly worded paper or cool computer model.

  24. David said:

    I have always felt that the proper question was, if we can change the climate what climate do we want? Not how do we stop? Not that we can change the climate, but those who believe we can should be asking this question.</blockquote.

    And if such a point is decided, what, finally, is the likelihood the climate will rally round that point? I wager zero likelihood as it is for any random point anyone can imagine. The climate begins at the current point, what ever it is, and immediately moves to another. That is how the climate works.

    There is no flywheel effect of even centuries of some trend. What matters is now. The drivers of climate don't bother with history, they work on today and make tomorrow of it.

    Cut/paste made a mess of my previous message – sorry 'bout that. Should have read:

    What is the basis for that unspoken part and what should the Arctic be doing; why is it thought that that is what it should be doing; how is it known what it should be doing?

    The correct answer, should anyone wonder, is “I don’t know”. There is no other more accurate answer. That is the problem with climate guesstimates, aka climate science.

  25. Damn – needed? Wish WordPress had a takeback button.

  26. Eric OLLIVET

    Looking at data available at NASA GISS website, it turns out that warmest decade at high latitudes has rather been observed during the 30’s… Therefore I do not understand such an alarmism about climate change in Arctic. Climate has always changed and as a matter of fact (and of elementary physics), climate change has always been more abrupt at higher latitudes.

  27. Yes! Finally someone writes about muscle mass