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Executive Summary for January 27th

We review and analyze the latest news and most important developments in the Arctic, including high cancer rates among Inuit, a call to involve indigenous people in decisions about Arctic development and Norway’s plan to continue to develop its Arctic oil and gas projects.

Published on Jan. 27, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Lung Cancer Rates Among Inuit Highest in the World

Cancer has become a significant public health problem in the Arctic, especially among some indigenous populations. Inuit now have the highest rate of lung cancer in the world, reported the National Post.

A new study published in the Journal of Circumpolar Health looked at cancer incidence in eight Arctic states and 20 of their northernmost regions. It found rising rates of lung, breast and colorectal cancer among the Inuit in Alaska, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Greenland between 1989 and 2008.

“The overall risk of cancer among Inuit men and women has now ‘caught up’ with those of non-Inuit in the U.S., Canada and Denmark,” the authors write.

The lung cancer rates for men and women in Nunavut and Greenland lead all the regions and countries. Inuit today also have the world’s highest incidence rate of lung cancer.

The root cause appears to be smoking rates. Official statistics suggest 63 percent of adult Inuit Canadians smoke, but Nunavut-led surveys indicate that as many as eight in ten of the territory’s adults – largely composed of Inuit – smoke, according to the National Post article.

The researchers cite other cancer risk factors, including heavy alcohol use, low dietary intake of fruits and vegetables, obesity and physical inactivity. Genetic factors may also play a role. A breast cancer mutation has been found in the Greenlandic population, but it has not been studied in the rest of the Arctic, the study authors write.

Persistent organic pollutants, chemicals used as pesticides that build up in the environment, may also increase the risk of breast cancer. These chemicals are transported over long distances through the atmosphere and into the Arctic.

Indigenous People Not Listened to by Business, Says Saami Leader

Business investment in the Arctic could bring economic prosperity and much-needed infrastructure to the Arctic, but some indigenous people feel they are being left out of important decisions.

Telecommunications, affordable energy, sewage treatment and potable water are lacking in many Arctic areas, meaning economic development gets plenty of local support, even if that means drilling for fossil fuels, reports ThinkProgress. Participants at Davos were told last week that there may be $1 trillion worth of investment opportunities in the region.

While some organizations owned by Arctic communities back development, others say these benefits can come at a cost to local indigenous groups, notes the Arctic Journal.

At the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromso, Norway, Aili Keskitalo, president of the Saami Parliament in Norway, spoke out about the “blunders” made by national governments when approving projects in the North. She emphasized that the Saami were not against development, but wanted to take part in shaping their future.

Report: Arctic Drilling Would Add 16 Gigatons of Carbon to Atmosphere

A new report by environmental groups finds that the equivalent of almost 16 gigatons of carbon dioxide would be released into the atmosphere by 2050 if drilling for Arctic oil and gas goes ahead.

Keep It in the Ground looks at the carbon dioxide emissions that come from oil, gas and coal development across the planet and measures them against the global carbon budget, reports EcoWatch. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 870 to 1,240 gigatons of carbon dioxide can be released cumulatively between 2010 and 2050 if we are to have a more than 50 percent chance of keeping the global average temperature rise below 2C (3.6F).

But Tord Lien, Norway’s minister of energy and petroleum, says Norway will continue to supply oil and natural gas to Europe and that the Arctic will continue to form part of that mix, reported the Independent Barents Observer from the Arctic Frontiers conference.

In contrast, three of Sweden’s top government officials published a column that warns against the world’s interest in Arctic oil. “Drilling in the Arctic is expensive and risky,” they wrote, according to the article.

During his speech, Lien stressed that Norway has extensive experience of drilling in the Arctic. “No activity will be permitted unless it meets our strict standards. This includes catering for both new and traditional industries living side by side,” he said.

Martin Sommerkorn, head of conservation at WWF Global Arctic Programme, called for a longer-term perspective and vision for sustainable development in the Arctic, reported Xinhua.

Recommended Reads

Top image: The rates of lung cancer in Nunavut and Greenland are among the highest in the world, according to a new study. (AP Photo/NORDFOTO)

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