Global warming carving changes into Alaska in fire and ice

31 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Alaskans concerned Obama visit a ploy to highlight green legacy.

Anchorage, Alaska (CNN) — To hear the White House describe Alaska, the state has become the canary in the climate change coal mine, complete with raging wildfires, accelerating ice melt in the arctic, vanishing glaciers and whole villages forced to relocate away from rising seas.The U.S. agreed earlier this month to allow Royal Dutch Shell Plc to resume Arctic oil exploration, yet state officials say it may not be enough to save the 800-mile (1,300-kilometer) pipeline, Alaska’s economic lifeline for the past 40 years.

Obama leaves Monday for a three-day visit to the 49th state in which he will speak at a State Department climate change conference and become the first president to visit the Alaska Arctic.ABOARD COAST GUARD CUTTER ALEX HALEY – With warming seas creating new alternatives on the prime of the world, nations are scrambling over the Arctic — its territorial waters, transit routes and particularly, its pure assets — in a rivalry some already name a brand new Chilly Struggle.

President Obama on Monday will begin a three-day trip to Alaska to hike on a glacier and call attention to climate change, amid concern from Alaskans and the oil and gas industry that the president merely wants to use the resource-rich state as backdrop to burnish his legacy as an environmentalist. President Barack Obama will carry that urgent message to Alaska this week in the hopes his long journey away from his busy agenda in Washington will begin to change the national conversation on global warming. Efforts to limit drilling and dwindling volumes on the line may eventually make it difficult to move crude at all. “We have an oil pipeline that’s two-thirds empty,” Walker, a Republican-turned-independent, said in a telephone interview from Anchorage. “It’s easy for people to predict what will or won’t happen, but as governor I can’t take that chance. When President Obama travels to Alaska on Monday, turning into the primary president to enterprise above the Arctic Circle whereas in workplace, he hopes to focus consideration on the consequences of local weather change on the Arctic.

The president will highlight Alaska’s retreating glaciers to lend urgency to his campaign to reduce carbon emissions, which are blamed for rising temperatures, as he tries to build momentum for a global deal to cut greenhouse gases at a United Nations conference in Paris in December. Right now, about 75 percent of our revenue comes from that oil pipeline.” Spanning mountains, rivers and caribou ranges, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline — the world’s largest private-construction project when built for $8 billion in the 1970s — symbolizes the paradox of an energy- and wilderness-rich state. More than 3.5 trillion tons of water have melted off of Alaska’s glaciers since 1959, when Alaska first became a state, studies show — enough to fill more than 1 billion Olympic-sized pools. Some lawmakers in Congress, analysts, and authorities officers say the U.S. is lagging behind different nations, chief amongst them Russia, in getting ready for the brand new environmental, financial and geopolitical realities dealing with the area. “We’ve got been for a while clamoring about our nation’s lack of capability to maintain any significant presence within the Arctic,” stated Adm. Obama approaches his final year in office, he has stopped even paying lip service to fossil fuel production in the U.S. “There has been a very clear shift in the administration’s position,” said Louis Finkel, vice president of government relations at the American Petroleum Institute. “In the first four years, you heard a lot of rhetoric about an ‘all of the above’ energy policy.

Permafrost is thawing more often as the ground warms, so as the ground oozes, roads, pipelines and houses’ foundations tilt and shift — sometimes enough to cause homes to be abandoned. In far northern Barrow, the upper part of the ground is 7 degrees warmer than it was in the late 1950s and getting closer to the melt point in the summer, data shows. Bill Walker said he wants to talk to the president about the state’s “economic climate change,” a reference to the drop in global oil prices and the resulting hit to the state’s budget. Named McKinley in 1896, shortly after President William McKinley was nominated as a candidate for office, the 20,320-foot peak has long been known locally as Denali, its name in the indigenous Athabascan language. Energy Department’s statistical arm. “The pipeline is not shutting down any time soon,” Pamela Miller, head of research firm Arctic Connections in Fairbanks, Alaska, said by phone.

The national park that surrounds the mountain was named Denali in 1980, but the peak itself is still listed in official federal documents as McKinley. TAPS can run “for another 30 to 50 more years without opening up special areas.” Volume on the pipeline, which funnels crude to Valdez in the south from Prudhoe Bay in the north, has declined with North Slope oil production during the past three decades. The cutter, a former Navy salvage vessel constructed almost 5 many years in the past, has amounted to the federal government’s solely asset close by to answer an accident, oil spill or incursion into U.S. territory or its unique financial zone within the Arctic.

Flows are dropping about 5 percent a year and slid to 513,441 barrels a day in 2014 from a peak of 2 million in 1988, according to operator Anchorage-based Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. To cope with the rising numbers of vessels sluicing north via the Bering Strait, the Coast Guard has needed to divert ships just like the Alex Haley from different missions, like policing fisheries and interdicting medicine.

Arctic Slope Regional Corp., an Alaska Native regional corporation, owns subsurface rights to land within ANWR, and Kaktovik Inupiat Corp. owns the surface rights. And scientists say those things are happening — at least partly and probably mostly — because of another thing they can measure: Alaska’s temperature. Obama will deliver remarks at a conference of arctic nations in Anchorage to foreign ministers representing counties with a vested interest in the region. Alyeska is already using heat to prevent freezing and water pooling in the line and small devices called “pigs” to remove wax that can build up when volumes are low, Barrett said. “It’s not like there’s some shutoff point, some magic flowthrough,” the University of Alaska’s Knapp said. “The smaller the flowthrough, the higher the cost.” Three major oil companies — BP Plc, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp. — mostly fund Alyeska, and Chevron Corp.’s Unocal unit has a 1.4 percent stake. “It is difficult to forecast when it will no longer be feasible to operate the pipeline” because that depends on variable factors including taxes and the price of oil, Andrea Urbanek, a ConocoPhillips spokeswoman, said by e-mail. Alaska’s yearly average temperature has jumped 3.3 degrees since 1959 and the winter average has spiked 5 degrees since statehood, according to federal records.

Benjamin Nageak, a Barrow Democrat who was born in ANWR and is a member of the Inupiat tribe, objected to the president’s proposal when it was announced earlier this year. “We have thousands and thousands of acres of land that our people in the state of Alaska, especially in ANWR, have title to, and [they] cannot even use that resource to enrich themselves,” Mr. Secretary of State John Kerry, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and other top administration officials are also making the 4,000-mile plus journey for the gathering.

The foreign policy implications of a changing arctic are quickly coming into focus for the Obama administration, as Russia is increasingly behaving like a military rival in the area. When you give the people the ability to enrich themselves, you don’t lock up their lands so they don’t do anything else but just sit on it, and nothing comes out of it except the renewable resources that we depend on.” In New Orleans last week to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the president said the effects of climate change are forcing coastal communities to become more “resilient,” and the government needs to take an array of preventative steps to protect them. “We’re going to see more extreme weather events as the result of climate change — deeper droughts, deadlier wildfires, stronger storms,” Mr. Some Alaskans are expecting the president to enjoy essentially a three-day-long photo op in their state, where he has only stopped previously to refuel Air Force One on his way to foreign lands. “He is coming to use us to further his agenda,” Michael Dingman of Anchorage wrote in an op-ed for Alaska Dispatch News. “He is coming with a closed mind, to find areas to take photos and video as a backdrop to make a more convincing argument that development in Alaska should be further restricted.” Mr. From 1959 to 1993, Alaska’s glaciers lost 57 billion tons of ice a year, but that jumped to almost 83 billion tons a year since 1994, according to Anthony Arendt, who co-authored a study on the subject this July. Dingman told The Washington Times in an email: “Many development issues, such as ANWR and mining projects, are crucial to Alaska’s survival and many Alaskans feel as if we are treated as a colony in that sense.

As the President noted in his weekly address, the state’s independent governor warns four Alaskan villages are in “imminent danger” and must be relocated. “Think about that. And while there may be many factors involved in glacier melt, all but about five of Alaska’s 25,000 glaciers are shrinking, said University of Alaska Fairbanks glacier expert Regine Hock. Signaling its ambitions to be a “polar expedition energy,” China is now constructing a second icebreaker, giving it an icebreaking fleet equal to America’s. Russia, by far the most important Arctic nation, has 41 in all. “The Arctic is considered one of our planet’s final nice frontiers,” Obama declared when he launched a nationwide technique for the area in Might 2013. The technique outlined the challenges and alternatives created by diminishing sea ice — from the tough results on wildlife and native residents to the accessibility of oil, fuel and mineral deposits, estimated by the U.S.

In January, the president created an Arctic Government Steering Committee, led by the director of the White Home’s Workplace of Science and Know-how, John P. The President defended the decision in favor of Shell’s application as part of a balanced energy approach which he describes as the development of domestic resources of oil and natural gas until more sustainable, alternative fuel sources become the norm. “I share people’s concerns about offshore drilling. By 2006, aerial surveys had found spruce bark beetles had killed mature white spruce trees on 4.4 million acres following mild winters and hot summers.

What sort of frontier the Arctic can be — an ecological protect or an financial engine, an space of worldwide cooperation or confrontation — is now the query on the middle of the unfolding geopolitical competitors. White House aides say the president won’t be deterred by opposition to his agenda on energy either, which they say comes primarily from fossil fuel interests. President Vladimir Putin has sought to revive Russia’s pre-eminence in its northern reaches — economically and militarily — with zeal that a new report by the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research in comparison with the Soviet Union’s efforts to determine a “Purple Arctic” within the 1930s. In March, Russia carried out an unannounced army train with 45,000 troops and dozens of ships and submarines, together with these in its nuclear arsenal. It’s a problem because sometimes the plants and animals don’t quite match up — caribou, for example, born before the plants they eat, according to the USGS.

This month, Russia resubmitted a declare to the United Nations to an enormous space of the Arctic Ocean — 463,000 sq. miles, the dimensions of South Africa — based mostly on the geological extension of its continental shelf. The record warmth this spring has “turned the state into a melting pot, almost literally,” said Jake Weltzin, who runs the USGS program tracking changes in plant and animal timing. “It’s an enormous experiment.” The fee that evaluations claims beneath the Conference on the Regulation of the Sea rejected an identical one filed in 2001, citing inadequate scientific proof. Russia signaled its ambitions — symbolically no less than — as early as 2007, when it despatched two submersibles 14,000 ft right down to seabed beneath the North Pole and planted a Russian flag.

Gortney, head of the Pentagon’s Northern Command and North American Aerospace Protection Command, stated that Russia was growing its capabilities after years of neglect however didn’t but characterize a significant menace.

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