Lawson W. Brigham
Pioneering technological and operational innovations in the field of Arctic marine transportation have been the norm for the past six decades. Finnish ship designers and shipbuilders were long-time leaders providing the Soviet Union with innovative icebreaking ships such as shallow-draft river icebreakers, icebreaking commercial carriers (SA-15 or early Norilsk class ships), and shallow-draft nuclear icebreakers, all adapted to the unique Siberian coastal and river environments. The Soviet Union itself pioneered the use of nuclear-powered icebreakers since the 1959 launching of the icebreaker Lenin, the first nuclear-powered surface ship. Larger nuclear icebreakers were developed in the USSR and a polar ship design and development capacity continues in Russia with new nuclear icebreakers under construction. Past and current developments of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) have shown how marine access in ice-covered waters can be maintained and extended using a range of innovative polar ship technologies.
Making sense of the world these days is a bit like trying to drink from a fire hose; overwhelming doesn’t begin to describe the result. Questions about what are the options for Canada with respect to the Trump Presidency are often framed using victim-like language: Canada is at the mercy of its much bigger neighbour. However, Trump’s presidency poses potential opportunities for Canada and one such area is with regards to joint issues of concerning facing the Arctic.
The good news is that the latest U.S. Department of Defense Arctic strategy starts with the statement “The Department of Defense (DoD) remains committed to working collaboratively with allies and partners to promote a balanced approach to improving security in the Arctic region”.1 While written under the Obama Administration, there is no indication that this sentiment won’t continue under the Trump Administration primarily because it is focused on other issues (such as North Korea and football protests) and because the Arctic is not a priority for the President. Many of the eight Arctic states are allies of the U.S. and the biggest Arctic power, Russia, commands notice by Trump. Ultimately, the U.S. wants the Arctic to remain a secure and stable region where U.S. national interests are safeguarded, the U.S. homeland is defended, and states work cooperatively to address challenges.
Last May, Finland started its two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council, conscious of the fact that Arctic cooperation is facing great challenges.
The Arctic will not remain what it is now. Climate change will have a fundamental impact on the Arctic. Global warming will bring drastic changes to the Arctic environment. Human activity in the region will increase.
Globalization will reach the Arctic with full strength. The region may soon become a hub for commercial activities. Arctic resources may attract worldwide interest and globally significant transport routes may be created.
Climate change is occurring at a faster rate and with more severe impacts in the Arctic than in the rest of the world. According to the Arctic Council’s Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost (SWIPA) report, the Arctic region is being forced to shift into a new state.
Changes in the Arctic are also global: they affect weather in mid-latitudes, influence the Southeast Asian monsoon, cause acidification of oceans and increase the rate of global sea-level rise, just to mention a few examples. What happens in the Arctic is critical for the rest of the world.
A recent paper for the Arctic Science Ministerial (A 5°C Arctic in a 2 C° World, 2017) suggests that if the Paris Agreement on climate change is fully implemented and succeeds in limiting the increase in average global temperatures to 2 C° above pre-industrial levels, or preferably 1.5 C°, it would translate into an average temperature increase from 3.75 C° to even 5 C° in the Arctic. This means that the Arctic will continue to experience remarkable warming and substantial ice loss for at least the next 20-30 years, and the Arctic Ocean could be free of summer sea ice already by the late 2030s.
Calotte Academy 2017: Perceptions of the Arctic: Rich or Scarce, Mass-scale or Traditional, Conflict or Cooperation?
Jussi Huotari & Salla Kalliojärvi
The 26th Calotte Academy took place in early June 2017. The travelling symposium had its sessions in familiar places: in Inari, Finland, in Kirkenes, Norway and in Apatity, Russia. This year, part of the caravan continued their way to Umeå, Sweden where final sessions of the Calotte Academy 2017 were organized back-to-back with the International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences (ICASS).
This year’s academy consisted of twelve full working days, eleven sessions, more than 30 presentations, two excursions, five border crossings and plenty of questions, comments and discussions during and outside the sessions. This would not have been possible without the committed participants, who were ready to allocate their time, were open-minded and willing to share their expertise. More than 30 participants representing thirteen different nationalities formed the group, with approximately half of the group participating for the first time. The multi-national and multidisciplinary background of the group, as well as different levels of experience in Arctic studies, fit very well with the main theme of this year’s academy.