Executive Summary for April 28th

We review the latest Arctic news, including new reports on the rapid decline of sea ice and the spread of new chemicals in the Arctic environment, as well as Norway’s new push into oil drilling.

Published on April 28, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Another Grim Forecast for Arctic Ice

The Arctic Ocean is expected to become ice-free in the summer months by 2040, according to a report released this week by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, a working group of the Arctic Council.

The report envisions that global sea levels could rise twice as high as predicted by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2013. That means sea levels would rise by 52–74cm (20–29in) by 2100 at the present rate of global emissions, reports Inside Climate News.

The Arctic’s trajectory of rapid warming is locked in until the middle of the century. But what happens after that depends on how much humanity is able to curb global carbon emissions. If the Paris Agreement is fully met, global sea level rise could be curbed by nearly half, and temperatures over the Arctic could stabilize.

Report Warns of New Raft of Arctic Chemicals

The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program also issued a report warning about a new generation of chemicals that are making their way into the Arctic’s water and air.

As we reported this week, many of these substances were introduced in an effort to phase out previously banned chemicals, like PCBs and DDT, only to later be identified as potential health risks in their own right. These substances include new classes of flame retardants and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which are formed by incomplete burning of fuels.

Another worry is the spread of so-called microplastics, which are now found in waters around the world. Studies have shown these tiny plastic particles harm fish reproduction and growth, and release contaminants.

Norway Prepares to Resume Arctic Drilling

Norway’s Statoil is set to begin drilling for oil in the Barents Sea, which is believed to be home to half of the country’s remaining oil reserves.

As MarineLink reports, this work will include drilling what will become the world’s northernmost well. However, all of the planned five to seven wells are expected to remain about 400km (250 miles) away from sea ice, due to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream on the region.

That hasn’t reassured environmentalists, who have taken the Norwegian government to court over Arctic offshore drilling. They contend that the drilling violates the Norwegian people’s constitutional right to a safe and healthy environment, as the Barents Observer reports.

The biggest environmental risk identified by the oil company is drilling a well about 110km (70 miles) from Bjoernoeya (Bear Island), which is one of the largest seabird colonies in the Arctic.

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