Search Results for Tag: Norway
Seeds in transit: from Australia to Svalbard
Ice blog followers may remember my account of a visit to the Svalbard seed vault, which preserves a wide variety of seeds safe under the permafrost of an Arctic mountain for posterity. The story is also online at DW’s environment website.
The idea is that saving a wide diversity of crop seeds could help humankind survive in the future in spite of any disasters occurring – or, for instance, to help agriculture cope with the challenges of a changing climate.
Well the vault has just celebrated its third birthday with a bumper delivery of seeds from different parts of the world. For the first time ever, seeds have been delivered from Australia, just about as far away as you can get from the Arctic. Australia is one of the areas of the world that are particularly vulerable to climate change. It has had to cope with an increasing number of extreme weather events, droughts and floods. The seeds brought to Svalbard were the furthest travelled of the more than 600,000 samples now stored at the vault.
Most of Australia’s food crops come from outside the country, and so are dependent on global crop diversity.
There’s more information on the website of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. See also “Wild Relatives can save our food supply” on why it’s important to preserve crop seeds for posterity.
DateFebruary 25, 2011 | 2:58 pm
Climate Change: Threat or Opportunity?
The interview I recorded with the Norwegian foreign minister is transcribed on Deutsche Welle’s Environment page. Have a read of his views on whether the opening of the Arctic to commercial exploitation is more of a threat or an opportunity.
DateFebruary 2, 2011 | 2:37 pm
Pink Arctic Twilight
Some ice blog readers have been asking for more visual impressions of Tromsö. I took these this afternoon before it got dark (at around 3pm!) Enjoy some impressions of the “high north”:
Tromsö in the pink.
Snowy trees against the afternoon sky
The best way to get to uni, 4km out of town.
Conference location, Tromsö University.
The light is fading, more blue now.
Street up on the hill (a slippery descent today).
DateJanuary 25, 2011 | 9:09 pm
Arctic Science and Politics
It was a full house all day here in the world’s northernmost university.
The first two days are designated the “political” section, Wednesday to Friday will be the “science” section. Of course there has to be some overlap, with the scientific background for the politicians and the political considerations giving context to the scientists.
At lunchtime I talked to some scientists from North America and Europe attending the whole week. They seemed to have the feeling the political discussions were only skimming the surface. Some of them also said – and I’ve heard this a number of times before at conferences like this – it was a real pity the politicians didn’t stay around to engage with the scientists. There seems to be a consensus though that it is a good idea to bring scientists and the politicians who have the responsibility to decide on action taken based on scientific research – and to fund research – together more often.
US Rear Admiral Dave Titley had an interesting interpretation of the “tipping point” theme. “Melting sea ice in the Polar Ocean – a tipping point for US politics in the Arctic” was his presentation. He was stressing the Arctic is “tipping” into the mainstream, i.e. no longer a remote area, but one where shipping and oil and gas extraction would be on the increase from 2030 onwards, with a whole month ice-free every summer. He made no bones about the fact that the ice is melting fast and we need progress on a “polar code” and search-and-rescue procedures. He says it’s just a matter of luck that there has been no major cruise ship disaster so far, in what will remain dangerous waters.
In between times I talked to a Norwegian and two Russian “explorers”, who know all about that, the ones who took ships through the northern sea passages just last year. Things are really changing fast up here. That brings us back to the tipping points.
Spanish marine ecology professor Carlos Duarte was the “scientist amongst the politicians”. And he painted a worrying picture. 6 out of 14 “tipping elements” in the earth system, he says, are located in the Arctic. Let me close with a quick list of the dangerous factors he described: sea ice and albedo, the Greenland ice sheet, sea level rise, thermokarst and permaforost melting, increased freshwater runoff, methane hydrate release, pollutant release, ocean reversal to a CO2 source, boreal forest dieback and peat fires. While the Greenland ice cap melting and sea level increase are likely to be very long-term factors, the others could all be acting within decades, he says, and “tipping over” like dominos. He told me in an interview that he is really concerned with the paradox involved in exploiting even more fossil fuels which will further increase global warming and bring the “points of no return” closer, faster. He feels we are not far away from the “tipping point” represented by melting Arctic sea ice.He thinks the politicians have to abandon their reluctance to take unilateral steps and get moving.
DateJanuary 25, 2011 | 11:46 am
The gateway to the Arctic
If you’ve ever thought it was getting increasingly difficult to find a public phone box in the age of mobiles – you’d have to dig deep for this one in Tromsö. (Or has Dr. Who landed a new-look tardus a little too deep? Apologies if you do not understand this reference). Yes, I have indeed arrived in the Arctic circle town, 2 hours flight north of Oslo. It’s actually an island, linked to the mainland by a fairly spectacular bridge.
Tromsö is nicknamed the “gateway to the Arctic“. Traditionally, that has been the case especially for polar explorers, scientists and fishermen. With the climate warming, it’s likely there will soon be all sorts of others heading through the gate in search of oil, gas or mineral riches…. But let’s leave that for later. The Arctic Frontiers conference officially starts tonight. I thought I’d set the scene for you before I head off to the ceremony.
We left Oslo this morning in beautiful weather, a pleasant (for ice-blogger types) minus five, sunshine on snow. By the time we got up north (well it is January and we are in the Arctic circle), there was so much snow falling on the runway we had to circle for half-an-hour while they got it swept again. Yes, I had a very guilty conscience about the emissions we were producing.
It was a great day for snow ploughs. I watched this little one through the window, keeping the harbour walk reasonably clear for pedestrians – and handily dumping the white stuff into the sea.
Still snow on the gangway though. I don’t expect those boats are going anywhere today.
Tromsö itself is quite picturesque, with a lot of these 19th century wooden buildings.
And if you’re into building snowmen, clearly it’s a great place to be.
Even if the weather outside looks pretty much as you might expect here at this time of year – more on the warming of the Arctic and what the politicians, scientists and locals here are saying about it tomorrow.
DateJanuary 23, 2011 | 4:45 pm