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Executive Summary for May 20th

In this weekly roundup, we review and analyze the latest news and key developments in the Arctic, including Norway’s rising greenhouse gas emissions and renewed efforts to feed a fiber-optic cable through the Arctic.

Published on May 20, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

No Dent in Norway’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Norway’s greenhouse gas emissions rose 1.5 percent last year, owing to oil and gas extraction, Reuters reports.

The official data, released by Statistics Norway on Friday, showed that greenhouse gas emissions have grown 3.9 percent since 1990 to the equivalent of 53.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from 53.2 million tonnes.

Oil and gas extraction is the main source of greenhouse gases in Norway, accounting for 28 percent of the total emissions in 2015. Annual emissions from oil and gas extraction have increased 83 percent since 1990.

Emissions from road traffic have also climbed steadily since the 1990s. In 2015, road traffic contributed to the equivalent of 10.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, a 32 percent increase since 1990.

The preliminary data come on the heels of the announcement on Wednesday that Norway had awarded 10 new offshore oil and gas exploration licences in the Barents Sea.

Friends of the Earth Norway criticized the decision, saying that it was incompatible with the promise Norway had made in Paris to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, Reuters reported.

According to that agreement, Norway has said it will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Northwest Passage Would Provide Link to Asia, But Remains Uncertain

A new report finds that despite melting sea ice, shipping through the Arctic via the Northwest Passage is still a long way off, reports Radio Canada International.

Although shipping via the Northwest Passage would be shorter, unpredictable ice conditions, shallow drafts and limited search and rescue capabilities are among the negatives that offset that advantage, Stephens writes in the Globe and Mail.

Essentially, the report argues that although Arctic sea ice is thinning and retreating, ice coverage still fluctuates from year to year, making it challenging to establish a trusted route.

“Shipping may be more possible through the Northwest Passage than it was in the past, but it will not be consistently unobstructed,” Stephens said.

Despite the route’s uncertain future, Canada shouldn’t ignore it, Stephens told Radio Canada International. The route could be used to strengthen trade ties with Asia, he said.

Subsea Fiber-Optic Cable Planned for Alaska Coast

Alaska-based Quintillion Networks will take advantage of the receding sea ice to lay a submarine fiber-optic cable off the coast of Alaska later this year, but the Canadian Arctic will have to wait before it is connected, reports Nunatsiaq Online.

Quintillion will begin construction on the Alaska portion of the network this year. It expects to have communities connected to broadband internet by 2017, according to the article.

A second phase will extend the network into Asia, connecting Nome, Alaska, to Japan.

A third phase will further expand the system through the Northwest Passage, across the Atlantic Ocean to the United Kingdom. Quintillion has not said which Canadian communities will be connected to the cable.

Arctic Fibre, a Toronto company that had planned to build a cable from Asia to Europe via the Northwest Passage, was acquired by Quintillion Subsea Holdings on May 18, Nunatsiaq Online reports.

Schools, libraries and clinics are eager to gain access to high-speed Internet, reported KTOO Public Media. But some Alaska residents are worried high-speed Internet might weaken the cultural identity of young people living in these communities.

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