Executive Summary for May 27th

In this weekly roundup, we review and analyze the latest news and key developments in the Arctic, including a new agreement to keep cod from the northern Barents Sea off the menu, and scorching Arctic temperatures if all fossil fuels are burned.

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

Cod Off the Hook Following Fishing Industry Deal

The world’s top seafood providers have agreed to forgo industrial fishing of cod in the once ice-covered waters of the northern Barents Sea.

The group of more than a dozen companies includes McDonald’s, British supermarket chains Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, and fish producers and fishing fleets, reports the Guardian.

The agreement was brokered by Greenpeace following an investigation that used satellite data to show that trawlers supplying cod to U.K. seafood brands were moving further north following the retreat of the Arctic sea ice melt, as reported by Arctic Deeply in March.

“From the 2016 season, the catching sector will not expand their cod fishing activities with trawl gear into those areas where regular fishing has not taken place before,” the agreement reads.

The marine region around Svalbard has been called the “Arctic Galapagos” and is home to polar bears, bowhead whale and the Greenland shark.

The companies say that the deal is precautionary, giving researchers the time to study the impact of fishing on the region, and whether it would harm the environment, reports the Huffington Post.

More than 200 factory trawlers are licensed to operate in the Barents Sea, Deutsche Welle reports. Bottom trawling can harm the seabed and marine life.

Disastrous Impacts If All Fossil Fuels Are Burned

Burning all the known fossil fuels on the planet would warm the Arctic by as much as 20C (36F), according to new research.

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, looks at the potential effects of burning all the coal, oil and gas to release 5 trillion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere over the next 300 years, the Guardian reports.

If no efforts were made to limit those emissions, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels would rise to about 2,000 parts per million in 2300, reports the Carbon Brief. That’s five times today’s level (400 ppm) and seven times more than atmospheric carbon dioxide levels prior to industrialization (about 280 ppm), which marks the beginning of large-scale burning of fossil fuels.

The researchers used climate models to estimate the impact of those emissions on surface temperature. On average, temperatures across the globe would rise 8C (14.4F) by 2300. Add on the effects of other greenhouse gases and the average temperature rises to 10C (18F).

But the Arctic takes the biggest hit. The region would see 17C (30.6F) of warming from the higher carbon dioxide levels and another 3C (5.4F) from other greenhouse gases.

However, because the study does include fossil fuels that cannot currently be recovered because of economic or technical barriers, it might be interpreted as providing a hypothetical extreme scenario. Still, many of the fossil fuels extracted today were similarly categorized 50 years ago, Myles Allen, professor of geosystem science at the University of Oxford told Carbon Brief.

U.S. Congress moves to fund $1 billion icebreaker

A U.S. Senate committee has added $1 billion to a funding bill that could bring a new Coast Guard heavy icebreaker into the Arctic as soon as 2022.

The appropriations subcommittee approved the defense-spending bill on Tuesday, reports the Seattle Times. The full committee considered the bill on Thursday, and from there it must still get to the Senate floor.

In a release, the chair of the committee said investing in the icebreaker is critical for national security and to protect U.S. economic interests in the Arctic, reports the Alaska Dispatch News.

Only two heavy-duty icebreakers remain in the U.S. fleet. One is largely unusable and the other conducts scientific research in Antarctica. The medium-duty icebreaker acts primarily as a research vessel in the Arctic.

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