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Climate Change in the Arctic & around the globe

Back on the Blog

The only Arctic areas I’ve seen in the last few weeks have been from the air.

(Doesn’t this remind you of a dino in the snow?)
Exactly one month since the last entry, I’m back at my desk in Deutsche Welle in Bonn and raring to blog.I’ve been in the USA during an interesting time, with the election campaign in full swing – and climate change high on the agenda. People are finally accepting that global warming is not just a figment of somebody’s imagination.

(Pools forming from melting snow in the Arctic).

It’s interesting to see both candidates falling over each other to be the one to save the planet from global warming. With oil prices as they are, the debate over opening protected areas, like the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, for oil exploration,has been a real eye-opener. At the beginning of my trip, Republican contender John McCain was still opposing offshore drilling. During it, he changed his mind and approved President Bush’s decision to lift the ban, supposedly to make more oil available and have an impact on prices. It seems to me the only likely impact is to appeal to any gullible, undecided voters, who might be fooled into thinking this is the way to give them cheap gas.
Barack Obama stood firm in opposing further offshore drilling. And his fellow Democrat Al Gore issued a challenge to the nation to make a complete shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy within 10 years. Well, that is, indeed, an ambitious goal, but then – as Gore said – so was putting a man on the moon. Where there’s a (political) will, there’s a way.
One of the interesting things I came across while travelling in the US state of Washington was the Western Climate Initiative, a group of North American states seeking ways of reducing emissions. It shows that a lot can be done at regional level, even if there is a national government which refused to sign Kyoto or introduce binding emissions targets.
More info on the Climate Alliance of US and Canadian states
If anyone living in a country with a “developing economy” and working on a local sustainable energy project is reading this, by the way, you might be interested in applying for an award. You’ll find the details here:
Global Green Energy Awards 2008
During a conference at Stanford University in California, I felt the effect of the forest fires, creating smog over the whole area. In fact smoke from forest fires is being measured even in the remote areas of the Arctic. One measuring station is in Barrow, which I visited just last month:

The other is on Svalbard, in the Norwegian Arctic, which I visited for a programme last year, as part of our National Science Foundation-funded international radio collaboration to mark the International Polar Year:

More Arctic and Climate News from the NSF
Picture Gallery from Ny Alesund, Svalbard
I found it a bit bizarre to read this morning that there is something like a positive side-effect of all this: it could temporarily reduce the melting rate of the Arctic’s ice, because less solar radiation gets through. Researchers from the University of Colorado and NOAA are analyzing how smoke influences the Arctic climate relative to the amount of snow and ice cover.
Read a summary on the website, CIRES and University of Colorado

One of the big topics at the conference I was attending at Stanford a month ago was how climate change will result in increasing migration, with people forced to move to escape flooding, drought or extreme temperatures and weather conditions. I was interested to read today that there are some optimists who see climate change not only as a huge threat to the planet, but also as an opportunity to turn politics into “collective action” – by including ALL countries in tackling the challenge, not just the rich.
I’ll sign off today with that piece of food for thought. Here’s the link to the article. (Go on, it’s a shortie, I promise).
Climate Change as an Opportunity for Cosmopolitan Action? (By Ulrich Beck)


July 23, 2008 | 10:39 am



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A Break for the Blogger?

(Thanks to Erika Nagae, Climate Change College ambassador from the UK, for the pic).

There would be plenty of issues to comment on —
Ice shelf breaking off in the Antarctic, although it’s winter there – controversy over German government’s climate protection packages – EU gets into energy-saving light bulbs – floods and storms in different parts of the world – but your blogger is heading off to a conference at Stanford University in the USA. (Including: Energy, Climate and How Societies can/will/have to adapt to change).
That will be followed by some holidays until around July 21st.If there’s anything of interest, internet access and work withdrawal systems leading to some unscheduled blog entries in the meantime – I’ll keep you posted!
Otherwise, tune in to Living Planet
The planet’s best radio environment show?
On Thurs.July 3rd, there will be a feature on methane and climate change, the third part of the Alaska Climate Change College series.
‘Bye for now – and try to keep the air-conditioning off!


June 23, 2008 | 2:48 pm



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Inspired to Save the Planet

Today is the end of the cruise…

but definitely not the end of our voyage!

Sad, but full of motivation and inspiration, we left the ship today in the morning.
The last week was a lifetime experience for all of us and now we are all just about to start establishing our global movement against climate change!

We are still in Longyearbyen today, and tomorrow we are all heading back to Oslo.

This morning we had a very interesting lecture by Jack Kohler. He is something like a god amongst the glaciologists. He told us that all glaciers are melting all over Svalbard, at an increasing rate. We are not only seeing these trends here, but also in the rest of the world. And learning about this has been our challenge – our role is to be communicators about the impacts of climate change, whether this is melting glaciers, the extinction of the King of the North Pole (the polar bear), or how the effects here represent the potential global catastrophe if we do not take the initiative and act now.

Although our time here together is coming to the end, this is by no means the last you will here from us. ‘Us’ being not only the 18 voyage participants, but the other hundreds of thousands of concerned people who are ready for a global shift. Like never before are we going to talk and work on this issue, in order to protect, you, me, the planet and the many other people who unfortunately have no voice in this matter. Personally I cannot wait for the next chapter of this movement, and I’d love for you all to join me. You can keep updated with what we are up to by continuing to reading our blogs. Even better, I’d love to be reading about what you too are up to. Inspire me to inspire others.

And thanks to Timm Christmann from WWF for taking the pictures!!


June 19, 2008 | 1:35 pm



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Arctic Update from Johannes

Johannes, 16.06.2008

Before answering the questions readers of our blogs raised, I want to give you a quick summary of today.

Our 6th day started as usual, with a lecture, this time Solitair Townsend, a communication-trainer from London, told us how to talk to leaders in politics and business. I think that was quite important, because we all want leaders using their power for combating global warming.
In the afternoon we landed at Snatcherpynten, Recherchefjord and walked up to a moraine of the Renard Glacier. We climbed the glacier and had a magnificent view of this nature.

In the evening the crew of the ship prepared a surprise: we had a barbeque (!) in front of a great landscape with glaciers and high snow covered mountains. While eating we just had nice conversations and enjoyed the sunshine.

But now I want to answer your questions:
“Gerry B” asks which “submarine” we used and if it is something special about the Arctic.
I think you have seen the photos of our first Onboard-Day. On this day (Wednesday) we had a safety and lifeboat drill. So we had to embark in the narrow lifeboats, which probably on the photos look like submarines.

Gerry B also wanted to know whether we had special fitness training and tests.
Although some trips are a bit exhausting, we did not partake in fitness trainings or test. When we applied for the voyage there was only the note that every participant has to be healthy and fit enough to go to the Arctic.

Ann likes to see photos of the seal and the reindeer(s).
Unfortunately we currently do not have the communication possibilities to load up extra pictures. But as soon as we are back in “internet territory” we will make sure to show you more pictures. Until then check out
Pictures on German blog
– our German blog for more photos.

“Tom” wants to know why the Sami are suffering from global warming and why they aren’t happy about things warming up.
As I/ we already mentioned in the blog the Sami have several problems probably caused by global warming. Let me give you an example which was given to us by the Sami Olav Mathis Eira, reindeer-herder from North Norway. In the 1990s several times it rained during winter. The last time that happened was in 1918! This caused several problems. As the rain froze on top of the snow cover forming a thick hard layer, the reindeer where unable to dig through the snow and to find food. Furthermore reindeers had trouble to walk on the frozen rain. According to Olav Mathis Eira this probably led to a severe decrease in reindeer during the 1990s. Nearly everybody sees global warming as the cause for these incidents, which occurred several times in the last 20 years.
Another example is that oil-companies began to exploit the nature because global warming makes it easier and, of course, cheaper to use the natural resources in Norwegian and Swedish arctic regions. This industrial development destroys valuable nature and at the life of the Sami people because they depend on the intact nature here in the Arctic.

And a PS from Irene, your Ice-Blogger in the background:
The Inupiat in Arctic Alaska are another indigenous group affected by climate change, as you may have read on this blog.
If you listen in to this week’s edition of Living Planet, you can hear a feature about my visit to the Inupiat with a field trip from the Ben and Jerry’s Climate Change College.
Here’s the link
Radio Feature on the Inupiat of Arctic Alaska and Climate Change
Cara,Erika, Jakob, Aart – you’re all in that feature, you were great, and I hope you’ll be listining in!!!
Marc and Michel from the Climate Change College (currently up there in the Arctic!) – you’ll be proud of them!!


June 17, 2008 | 10:03 am



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The Polar Bear and the Prime Minister

Greta, 14.06.2008

Still we are here in the Arctic, the place which occupies one sixth of the Earth’s surface.
And so many things have happened since the last time we blogged.
Actually the things that you would most expect to experience in the Arctic happened to happen to us.
We saw him, the big white fluffy one – as our guide always uses to say. The polar bear. It was an unbelievable experience which we will probably never ever forget until the rest of our lives. Another unbelievable fact that the head of the WWF Arctic program had told us in the morning in his lecture is that if we don’t take action on climate change now and all the ice will melt the polar bear is not going to be able to live in the arctic regions anymore. Until 2040 two thirds of the polar bear population will have vanished. We should not let this happen.
In the afternoon we still had a lot of other great “arctic-experiences” like seeing a walrus and having a zodiac trip in between a lot of sea ice and glaciers. Incredible how beautiful this is.
Today we were taught how to talk to climate change critics.

Some people might try to tell you that: “Global warming is natural. There have already been a lot of other times in the Earth’s history where the same thing happened just as now.”
Here is what you might answer him: ”You are absolutely right that there have been changes in global temperature over time! But what is happening with our planet at this moment is definitely not natural. The speed of increase in greenhouse gas emissions is unprecedented and we know that these are man-made. If we burned all he fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal it would take the Earth’s natural system 100,000 years to store the carbon we have blown into the atmosphere.”
At the end of our trip we were planning on meeting the Norwegian prime minister. Unfortunately he told us that he will not have time to meeting us the day we will be back in Oslo. So we were thinking about ways how we can try to convince him to give us some of his time.

Dear Jens Stoltenberg,

We are the students of WWF’s Voyage for the Future, a 10-day boat voyage in Svalbard, Norway. We represent nine countries with vested interests in the Arctic. We have come together because we are concerned about the many issues regarding the Arctic region, including climate change. On our trip, we have come face to face with these problems and discussed many potential solutions that we would like to share with you.

You take a break for summer. Climate change does not. This summer, Arctic sea ice levels are predicted to be the lowest in history by far. Youth in every corner of the world consider climate change to be the defining issue of our time. Thank you so much for your help so far in tackling the climate crisis, particularly your pledge of 15 billion NOK to end deforestation. We propose a meeting with you to discuss your continued role in a sustainable future on Friday, June 20th, before we return home to our respective countries. Would you prefer a meeting for breakfast or lunch? Thank you for your time.

The WWF Voyage for the Future:

Maria Waag – Norway
Karl Oskar Teien – Norway
Evanne Nowak – Holland
Michiel Jansen – Holland
Greta Hamann – Germany
Johannes Barthelmess – Germany
Emma Bierman – United Kingdom
Casper ter Kuile – United Kingdom
Jeremy Brammer – Canada
Jayme Collins – Canada
Sven Heijbel – Sweden
Nanny-Maja Anderback –Sweden
Ekatarina Levitskaya – Russia
Dmitry Vladimirov – Russia
Yuriko Murakami – Japan
Shunta Takagi – Japan
Ben Wessel – United States
John Monaghan – United States

If you want to see our open invitation to the prime minister (which is pretty cool though) check out this video. We want to reach as many people as possible. So be part of our climate change movement!



June 17, 2008 | 9:34 am



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