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Executive Summary for January 7th

We review and analyze the latest news and most important developments in the Arctic, including Sweden’s investment in low-carbon energy and how Arctic sea ice extent has fared in December.

Published on Jan. 7, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Arctic Sea Ice Low in December, Slow Growth in January

Arctic sea ice extent continued to track below average in December and registered very little growth during the first week of January, according to a report from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

Satellite measurements show that Arctic sea ice extent measured 12.3 square kilometers (4.74 square miles) in December, about 780,000 square kilometers (301,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average for the month.

In the Bering, Okhotsk and Barents seas, Arctic sea ice extent for December is “well below average,” the report said. Long-term trends show that ice cover in the Barents Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk during the winter maximum (when sea ice extent and concentration are at their greatest) have followed a downward trajectory from 1979 to 2015. In some places, the March winter maximum has declined by as much as 20 percent per decade. In Baffin Bay, sea ice extent is slightly above average.

The report notes that 2015 will be remembered for the record-low Arctic maximum that occurred on February 25, 2015. It was remarkable, not only because sea ice extent reached only 14.54 million square kilometers (5.61 million square miles), 1.10 million square kilometers (425,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average, but also because the date marked one of the earliest recorded starts to the sea ice melt season. Warm conditions in the Okhotsk and Barents seas, associated with an unusual pattern of atmospheric circulation, may have contributed to the decline.

Sweden: Economy Grew with Green Energy Investments

Sweden’s investments in nuclear power, wind energy and hydropower, and its carbon tax have cut carbon emissions and increased the country’s GDP by 60 percent, reports the BBC.

Some say that nuclear energy, which provides 40 percent of the country’s electricity, has been essential to the country’s growth. But the government now wants to replace nuclear energy with “greener sources,” such as wind and hydroelectric power.

The country is often highlighted as a model for breaking the link between economic growth and carbon consumption. The carbon tax has been in place since 1991.

Sweden has set its sights on becoming one of the world’s first fossil-free nations. In September, the government announced that it would spend an additional 4.5 billion kronor (U.S. $546 million) to invest in renewable energy and end dependence on fossil fuels, Bloomberg reported. At the time, the government said it would allocate the budget to solar energy, smart grids, renewable storage technology and other approaches to reduce emissions from transportation.

Greenland: Airports, Hydroelectric Dams Need Private Investment

Greenland has plans to build up to 12 airports and several hydroelectric dams, but doesn’t have the budget to do it. Instead, the government is looking toward creating public-private partnerships to source the investments for the projects, reports the Arctic Journal.

But its options are limited. Two new international airports, in Ilulissat and Nuuk, and a hydroelectric dam near Disko Bay, are among those projects most likely to find private supporters, because they have the most potential of providing profits to a private investor, according to the article.

Still, the government is cautious about providing a private investor with the opportunity to operate Nuuk’s airport, the main way to access Greenland.

Top image: Satellite measurements show that Arctic sea ice extent measured 12.3 square kilometers (4.74 square miles) in December, about 780,000 square kilometers (301,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average for the month. (Pixabay/Barni1)

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