Friday, 24 September 2010

Polar Bears face a new threat

An international meeting to try to prevent the Arctic becoming the next battleground over mineral wealth is taking place in Moscow. With one quarter of the world's resources of oil and gas are believed to lie beneath the Arctic Ocean, the battle is on to legalise claims and to start extracting them.

Russia, Norway, Canada, Denmark and the United States have already laid claim to territory in the region.Although the summit is promoting dialogue, a Kremlin adviser said Russia would defend its national interests. So with hard line comments like this, spare a thought for the Polar Bear and all the other arctic flora and fauna, and the delicate biodiversity. This is my second posting on the Arctic Ocean since the Arctic Summit started in Moscow earlier in the week, and it is important environmentalists, politicians and oedinary people, monitor the outcomes closely.






I think that we are doomed to co-operate in the Arctic. And military confrontation especially is completely counterproductive”

Lev Voronkov, Russian Arctic expert




Melting ice cap
The region's resources are rapidly becoming accessible due to the rapid shrinking of the polar ice cap.

Senior Norwegian adviser Olaf Orpheum told the conference that nowhere else had seen "such dramatic changes in the surface of the Earth".

The race for the Arctic centres on an underwater mountain range known as the Lomonosov Ridge.

In 2001, Moscow submitted a territorial claim to the United Nations which was rejected because of lack of evidence.

Three years ago, a Russian expedition planted a titanium flag on the ocean floor beneath the North Pole in a symbolic gesture of Moscow's ambitions.I think that we are doomed to co-operate in the Arctic. And military confrontation especially is completely counterproductive”




With global warming seriously threatening the existence of the Polar Bear, oil and mineral exploration is likely to add polution and a permanent  human presence that will further harm the species. Phot: Bob McKerrow




Law of the Sea

As evidence of the gathering momentum in the race for mineral resources, Russia has announced it will spend $64m (£40m; 48m euros) on research aimed at proving its case.
The man behind the 2007 polar expedition, Artur Chilingarov, has announced that he will attempt to launch a drifting research station next month.

Kremlin climate change adviser Alexander Bedritsky told reporters that Russia had a "strong chance" to win approval when it submitted its data to the UN in 2012-13.

Last week, Canada's foreign minister met his Russian counterpart in Moscow to discuss their competing claims.

Canada is likely to hand its file to the UN around 2013 and has said it is confident of its case.



From the Arctic Hare (right) to the Loon, the Ptarmagin to the Walrus, to the Arctic Sedge, Arctic flora and biodiversity will surely be affected.

Photo: Bob McKerrow







Denmark plans to put forward its details by the end of 2014.

For the states involved in the territorial dispute, the key lies in obtaining scientific proof that the Lomonosov Ridge is an underwater extension of their continental shelf.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a coastal nation can claim exclusive economic rights to natural resources on or beneath the sea floor up to 200 nautical miles (370km) beyond their land territory.

But if the continental shelf extends beyond that distance, the country must provide evidence to a UN commission which will then make recommendations about establishing an outer limit.






Climate change and pollution is already seriously affecting the biodiversity of fragile plants and lichens that cling precariously to the Arctic coastline. The further exloitation of oil and minerals can only serve to push them to extinction. Left, Artic Sedge. Photo: Bob McKerrow














Last week, Russia signed a treaty with Norway, ending a 40-year dispute over their maritime borders in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean.

Russian Arctic expert Lev Voronkov said the experience of the Cold War proved the need to work together.
"No one problem of contemporary Arctic can be resolved by one country alone. So that's why I think that we are doomed to co-operate in the Arctic. And military confrontation especially is completely counterproductive."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last week that Nato's presence in the Arctic could raise additional problems.



The Musk Oxen's habitat is being threatened by Climate Change. Let's not add pollution from oil spills to this ever degrading situation. Photo: Bob McKerrow

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