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Found 13 results

  1. Last week left a bittersweet taste in the mouths of environmentalists. On Jan. 25 the Obama administration proposed new protections for large portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which, if approved, would be a huge win. Two days later, however, the administration released its new five-year offshore drilling plan, which opened up more of the Atlantic coast and the Arctic Ocean to dirty fossil fuel development - and potential disaster. The new protections for the refuge, at least, would mark a historical achievement. According to the U.S. Department of Interior, which is recommending the protections, the measures could become one of the largest conservation efforts "since Congress passed the visionary Wilderness Act over 50 years ago." The Department's recommendation is that millions more acres of the refuge, including the Coastal Plain, be declared "wilderness." What that means is it will enjoy the highest level of protection possible for public lands. Mining, drilling, road development, and the construction of permanent structures - all of these things will be prohibited, effectively preserving the area and its ecosystem. The issue, however, is that only Congress has the power to make a "wilderness" designation, and given the fact that the Senate just approved the Keystone XL pipeline on Jan. 29, sending it to President Obama's desk for a likely veto, the likelihood of their cooperation on this matter is doubtful. The President, however, challenged Congress to move on the issue. "I'm going to be calling on Congress to take it a step further," he said from Air Force One during a trip to India. "Designating ANWR as a 'wilderness' so that we can make sure that this amazing wonder is preserved for future generations." "Designating vast areas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness reflects the significance this landscape holds for America and its wildlife," said Interior secretary Sally Jewell. "Just like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, the ANWR is one of our nation's crown jewels, and we have an obligation to preserve this spectacular place for generations to come." Republicans seized the chance to attack the development, with Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, saying he and others will "defeat their lawless attempt to designate ANWR as a wilderness, as well as their ultimate goal of making Alaska one big national park." He claimed it was an example of Obama "thumbing his nose at the citizens and [putting] Alaska and America's energy security in serious jeopardy." But the pro-corporate need not have worried; on Jan. 27, the Obama administration catered to them with the release of its proposed 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The draft plan includes 14 potential lease sales, 10 of which are in the Gulf of Mexico, which is still nursing wounds left by the remnants of the infamous 2010 BP Oil Spill. Three areas off the coast of Alaska (the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas and the Cook Inlet) would also be sold for oil exploration, after Shell's numerous efforts to infiltrate the area in the face of impassioned opposition from environmental groups. The final area to be sold would include parts of the Atlantic including coastal parts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. This plan is "risky wherever we do it," said Bob Deans, spokesperson for the National Resources Defense Council. "Oil travels a long way. It doesn't respect boundaries." In a press release issued by the council, executive director Peter Lehner added, "This takes us in exactly the wrong direction. It will expose the Eastern Seaboard, much of the Atlantic, and most of the Arctic to the hazards of offshore drilling. It ignores the lessons of the disastrous BP blowout, the growing dangers of climate change, and the promise of a clean energy future." This plan "would put our beaches, wetlands, and all they support at grave and needless risk, imperil coastal communities and economies, and anchor our future to the diry fossil fuels of the past." So the glimmer of hope offered by the proposal for ANWR protections was rather tempered, most activists feel, by the dark news that came two days afterward. For many, this surely feels like a classic case of 'two steps forward and three steps back.' Noting that the plan puts the Alaskan areas in particular at serious risk, Tim Donaghy, a senior research specialist with Greenpeace USA, concluded, "Alaska native communities depend on the ocean for their livelihood, not to mention the whales, walruses, seals, birds, and fish that make up one of the few remaining pristine ecosystems on the planet. Crude oil is something that simply can't be put back in the bottle once it has been spilled. The only way to win is not to drill."
  2. After Shell proved, through blunders and its infamous reputation, that it is not fit to drill in the Arctic, Aug. 17 brought news that the Obama administration had granted them approval to do just that. The troubling development came just days after President Obama announced he would visit Alaska to discuss the impact of climate change on the region. Now, as the oil corporation further destroys the already-disrupted Arctic sea ice, the problem of global warming can only grow worse. The move is especially bewildering for many, as the president has declared Alaska to be "the frontlines of our fight against climate change." For a place of such importance, it hardly seems like an opportune time for the administration to greenlight a venture that will wreak environmental havoc, but that is what has come to pass. Even so, the approval has not gone unnoticed by activists. Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Marissa Knodel said, "When Obama visits the Arctic this month, he must face the communities he is sacrificing to Shell's profits." Greenpeace executive director Annie Leonard added, "The president cannot have it both ways. Announcing a tour of Alaska to highlight climate change days before giving Shell the final approval to drill is deeply hypocritical." In an official report, however, Greenpeace seemed to suggest that the brunt of the blame does not lie with Obama, but rather, with the greed-driven company that seeks to ravage the Arctic. They noted that the president "has used his executive power to show climate leadership before. Earlier this year, he vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline in response to a nationwide public outcry, demanding the U.S. no longer champion policies and projects that accelerate climate change. "The world is watching Shell right now. [They have] a history of ineffective equipment. In 2012, one of Shell's Arctic rigs ran aground and became stuck in Dutch Harbor. The technology does not exist to effectively clean up an oil spill in the icy and unpredictable waters. This is a disaster waiting to happen." The imbalanced and contradictory approach the Obama administration seems to be taking in regard to environmental matters is confusing. That has grown more so with today's news that the EPA, which was responsible for the recent mishap resulting in a large mine waste spill, has proposed new regulations aimed at cutting methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent (from 2012 levels) over the next ten years. The rules would apply to new or modified sources of oil and natural gas and require energy companies to find and fix leaks and take careful steps to limit emissions. And yet, experts seem to point out that this is not quite cause for celebration. Up in the Arctic, when Shell starts breaking up ice in its exploration for oil, more methane will be released into the atmosphere - enough, perhaps, to render the curbing of emissions from other manmade activities a moot point. Merritt Turetsky, a biology professor at the University of Guelph, Ontario, remarked, "Permafrost carbon feedback is one of the important and likely consequences of climate change, and it is certain to trigger additional warming. Even if we ceased all human emissions, ice would continue to thaw and release carbon into the atmosphere." Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said, "Granting Shell the permit to drill in the Arctic was the wrong decision, and the fight is far from over. The people will continue to call on President Obama to protect the Arctic and our environment." And the opposition to Shell's drilling is composed of more than just environmental activists. Hillary Clinton released a statement on the matter in the form of a tweet, saying, "The Arctic is a unique treasure. Given what we know, it's not worth the risk of drilling." Brune added, "She's exactly right. Everything we know about dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic indicates it imperils a national treasure and is guaranteed to make our climate crisis worse. Allowing Shell to use unproven technology in the Arctic is a recipe for disaster and toxic to any climate action legacy."
  3. As President Obama visits Arctic Alaska, the first president to do so, he is speaking about the many impacts that climate change is already causing there, from rising seas to melting permafrost collapsing homes. Because the arctic is heating faster than the rest of the planet, climate change is a bigger issue for Alaska, for residents of towns close to the water, for tribes dependent on traditional fishing for their livelihood, for rapidly melting glaciers. As part of his trip, Obama gave an opening address to the GLACIER Conference in Anchorage, Alaska. He stated that the U.S. recognizes its role in creating the problem and responsibility to take part in solving it. He noted that no nation is moving fast enough, and condemned leaders who gamble by taking no action on the dire future due to climate change are "not fit to lead." Obama faces severe criticism during the trip from environmental groups who accuse him of hypocrisy, since at the same time he is calling for action to address climate change, his administration has just given final permission to Shell Oil to drill in the Arctic. During his trip, native groups and allies rallied to demand no drilling in the Arctic. Shell's plans have been confronted by many activists, the kayaktivists in Seattle to bridge danglers in Portland, both trying to stop Shell ships and rigs from being able to leave port to go to the Arctic. Groups are mounting petition campaigns and public relations efforts to organize opposition to Shell's plans (sign one petition here.) The record of the Obama administration on environmental issues, while mixed, stands in contrast to the previous, George W. Bush administration. Obama's positive steps include major support for developing renewable energy in the stimulus bill, efforts by the EPA to regulate new and existing power plant carbon emissions, increased mileage standards for cars and trucks, the agreement with China on projected reductions in emissions, and many more. Negative actions include support for major increases in fracking, in offshore oil drilling, and refusing to kill the Keystone XL pipeline (which has also not been approved). The administration faces opposition from the right, in Congress and elsewhere, for the plan of the EPA to regulate carbon emissions as pollution harmful to human health. Republicans in Congress continue efforts to defund the EPA, to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, to undercut any climate agreements, to deny the basic science of climate change, and more. Obama's current tour is part of the run-up to UN-sponsored climate negotiations to take place in December in Paris. The agreement signed between the US and China on carbon reductions has increased expectations that this conference will have more concrete results than many previous UN conferences on climate. In addition to these government-to-government negotiations, there is a growing movement to divest from fossil fuel corporations, which just had a big victory in California. A growing factor on the world stage is the efforts of Pope Francis and other important religious leaders to add a moral dimension to how the issue is framed, and to bring their not inconsiderable political capital to bear on the negotiations. Each particular battle is but one part of the longer struggle to transform our energy economy, our economy as a whole, how things are produced, packaged, and distributed. The direction of these struggles is ultimately to challenge the system, but in the meantime, we need all the allies, temporary or partial though they are, to make changes right now. These current battles lay the basis for future, more basic victories. Obama has moved U.S. policy into the column of those tackling climate change, though in an uneven and partial way. But winning smaller victories now is key to winning more later.
  4. Shell has announced that they intend to revive their oil drilling plans in the Arctic waters of off Alaska. But environmentalists, whom have campaigned against these plans for years, warn that Shell is taking a massive risk that could potentially end in disaster for the pristine Arctic environment and its wildlife. The giant's chief executive, Ben van Beurden, acknowledged to the BBC that these fossil fuel development plans for the Arctic may “divide society”, but that they are needed to meet increased global demands for oil and gas. It’s estimated that around 24 billion barrels of oil can be extracted from Alaska – potentially being the biggest oil reserve in the world. Shell’s plans are not new. For the past decade, the energy giant has spent around $6 billion on unsuccessful attempts to extract oil in the fragile region. Shell has also announced a $15 billion cut in global spending, and recent profit figures has disappointed investors. It’s clearly not going that well for Shell. And with plummeting global oil prices many are questioning whether these Arctic plans are economically beneficial. “Despite announcing cuts, Shell hasn't taken the opportunity to cut its most high-cost high-risk project,” said Greenpeace's Charlie Kronick. “Shell is taking a massive risk doggedly chasing oil in the Arctic, not just with shareholder value, but with the pristine Arctic environment. A spill there will be environmentally and financially catastrophic,” Kronick said. “It's time for investors to recognise that it's impossible for Shell to justify its continued pursuit of offshore Arctic oil.” In spite of concerns about the risks of devastating oil spills in the Arctic’s sensitive ecosystems and the impact on our climate from exploiting new sources of fossil fuels, Shell claim that they can drill for oil safely and responsibly. “We will only do this if we feel that we can do it responsibly,” Ben van Beurden said. “I think that we are as well prepared as any company can be to mitigate the risks.” Promises aside, to drill in the Arctic is a very risky business and Shell’s latest attempt in the Arctic ended in fiasco in late 2012 when their oil rig drove up on land. And their track record when it comes to oil spills are not comforting. For example, the company recently had to pay $84 million in clean-up costs after a major oil spill in Nigeria. Before Shell can set their plans in motion they first need approval from the US government to start drilling in Arctic waters. Greenpeace is now pushing for US President Barack Obama to block Shell’s oil drilling plans and to protect the Arctic.
  5. Earlier this week, a group of Greenpeace activists climbed onto an oil rig belonging to Statoil, a Norwegian state-owned oil and gas company. The oil rig was being moved to its new drilling location in the Barents Sea, located near the unique Arctic habitat of Bear Island – a protected nature reserve home to countless of sea birds, polar bears and other wildlife. The activists managed to “occupy” the oil rig for 48 hours before they were forcefully removed by Norwegian police. Following the arrest of its activists, Greenpeace decided to block the actual drilling site with its ship the Esperanza. The activists rejected the coast guard's demands to move the ship. As a result, Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum informed Greenpeace that the government had created a “safety zone” around the drilling site. And early this morning, the Norwegian coast guard boarded Esperanza and started towing it away. Because Esperanza was outside of Norwegian territorial waters, Greenpeace believes that the boarding violates international law. “There is no reason why the Esperanza should have to make way for oil companies to drill here because of the abrupt and irregular declaration of a safety zone,” said Greenpeace International legal counsel Daniel Simons. “Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, foreign vessels enjoy freedom of navigation through the Exclusive Economic Zone. We certainly have as much right to be here as companies drilling for Arctic oil," Simons explained. Greenpeace also delivered a petition from over 120,000 people to Tine Sundtoft, the Norwegian Environment minister, asking her to reconsider the decision to allow drilling near Bear Island, a protected nature reserve. “I took action in Russia last year to stop exactly the same recklessness as I can see here in Norway. We ask everyone to tell the Norwegian government to stop this dangerous rush into the beautiful Arctic environment and rethink its increasingly desperate hunt for oil,” said 32 year old Sini Saarela from Finland, who spent over two months in Russian prison for climbing another Arctic oil rig in September last year.
  6. Believe it or not, winters have been warming rapidly in the majority of the continental 48 states since 1970. And, take note Chicago and other Midwest readers: The coldest states are warming the fastest. So says a 2013 report by Climate Central. In fact, says science writer Andrew Zimmerman, if the climate had not warmed so much during the past few decades, it's possible that the current freezer-like weather would be even colder in those areas. Yikes! Meanwhile, there have been above-average temperatures across parts of the Arctic, Scandinavia, Europe and Asia this past week, Zimmerman reports. Last month, the northern Alaska coastline, above the Arctic Circle, had the warmest temperatures on record in at least 70 years. It's part of an overall trend of warming in the Arctic area. But yes, brrrrr, every state in the continental U.S. has had sub-freezing temperatures this week. It's attributed to the behavior of the "polar vortex." The polar vortex (also known as a polar cyclone) is a large swirl of very cold air that sits over the polar regions year round. It intensifies in the winter and weakens in the summer. The jet stream from the Arctic polar vortex sometimes brings extremely cold weather southward into Europe, Asia and the U.S. According AccuWeather.com, cold outbreaks like the one this week occur "on average once every 10 years. The last far-reaching, bitterly cold blasts occurred in the mid-1990s, during February of 1996 and January of 1994." AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said, "We were overdue for a large Arctic outbreak of this intensity." This time the polar vortex has spread unusually far south into the U.S., giving us the record frigid conditions we've been experiencing. Is global climate change a factor in this unusual intrusion of the polar vortex? Some scientists say yes; others say the jury is still out. Scientific studies have tied abnormally cold temperatures in the U.S. and Europe to warmer than usual conditions in the Arctic - they dub this the "Warm Arctic/Cold Continents Pattern." This could be driven by the loss of polar sea ice which has been documented over the past few decades. That in turn is spurred by human-caused global warming. Research is ongoing. "The research linking climate change impacts in the Arctic to more extreme jet stream patterns is still very new, and we need several more years of data and additional research before we can be confident that this is occurring," writes Weather Underground scientist Jeff Masters. "But if the new research is correct, the crazy winter weather we've been seeing since 2009 may be the new normal in a world with rapid warming occurring in the Arctic." But one thing is sure, scientist agree: cold weather does not contradict the well-established fact that the Earth has been warming overall due to human activity, in particular the massive use of oil, coal and other fossil fuels. The consequences of this, scientists say, include more extreme weather of all kinds. For a break from the cold, you might want to consider a trip Down Under. Australia has experienced record-breaking scorching hot weather this past year. It's been so hot that mapmakers have had to add a new color to temperature maps to signify the blistering heat there. Australia's winter, which is during our summer months, was "only" the third hottest on record. But its spring temperatures, starting in September, were the hottest ever. January 2014 is starting off with similar heat extremes. Walgett, in New South Wales, recorded 120 degrees Fahrenheit, the second hottest temperature ever measured in the state. One of the reasons for Australia's record heat in 2013 was very high ocean surface temperatures, the third warmest on record according to preliminary data. If you are not up for a trip to Australia, not to worry. The record cold in the U.S. will be ending this week, weather forecasters say. Temperatures are predicted to be up to 50 in places like New York and St. Louis. This article was first published in People's World by Susan Webb.
  7. The 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists who were arrested in September after a peaceful protest against oil drilling in Arctic waters has been granted amnesty. The Russian parliament has voted in favor of an amendment that extends an amnesty decree to people who have been charged with hooliganism. This amendment grants amnesty not just for the “Arctic 30”, but also for thousands of other Russians and high-profile people. These include Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhin, both members of the Russian feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot. The amnesty grants freedom for the 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists who were arrested on international waters following a peaceful protest at a Gazprom-operated Arctic oil platform three months ago. This also means that the legal proceedings against the “Arctic 30” are over and that the 26 non-Russian Greenpeace activists will be able to leave the country and travel back home to their families. “I might soon be going home to my family, but I should never have been charged and jailed in the first place,” Peter Willcox, the Captain of the Arctic Sunrise, said. “We sailed north to bear witness to a profound environmental threat but our ship was stormed by masked men wielding knives and guns. Now it’s nearly over and we may soon be truly free, but there’s no amnesty for the Arctic.” But the amnesty could also be seen as an acknowledgement of guilt, especially for the Russian activists. “I’m relieved, but I’m not celebrating. I spent two months in jail for a crime I didn’t commit and faced criminal charges that were nothing less than absurd,” Ana Paula Maciel from Brazil said. “Right now my thoughts are with our Russian colleagues. If they accept this amnesty they will have criminal records in the country where they live, and all for something they didn’t do. All because we stood up for Arctic protection.” The photo shows an Arctic 30 vigil outside the Russian embassy in Mexico. Greenpeace and the “Arctic 30” received massive support following the arrests. Famous names such as Paul McCartney, Madonna, Jude Law, and many others called for the immediate release of the jailed activists. More than 2.6 million people also wrote to Russian embassies and Greenpeace themselves held around 860 protests in 46 countries worldwide. The campaign to free the “Arctic 30” also received political support from Angela Merkel, David Cameron, Dilma Rousseff, François Hollande, Ban Ki-moon and Hillary Clinton. Twelve Nobel Peace Prize winners, including Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi and Lech Walesa, likewise supported the campaign. Jim Leape, director general of WWF International, said that he was “relieved” to hear that the Greenpeace activists had received amnesty but stressed that “they should never have been arrested” in the first place. “The Gazprom Prirazlomnoye project poses a huge threat to this fragile region,” he said. “While the case against the protesters may no longer exist, the issue of risky Arctic development remains, and needs to be addressed honestly by government, business and civil society.” It is still unclear what will happen to the Arctic Sunrise, the iconic Greenpeace ship, which is still impounded in Murmansk. An international court has ordered for its release following a case brought by the Dutch government. Greenpeace says that they have not been deterred from future protests against Gazprom and has vowed to continue with its campaign against oil drilling in the Arctic.
  8. 30 Greenpeace activists, who had been part of a peaceful protest against energy giant Gazprom, are currently being held at gunpoint by Russian security officers who stormed the group's ship on international waters. Russian officials and representatives from Gazprom have accused the activists of participating in terrorism. Greenpeace dismisses these accusations and says the boarding by Russian security forces was illegal because their ship was circling Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya platform inside international waters and outside the jurisdiction of Russian authorities. The illegal boarding of the Greenpeace ship, named Arctic Sunrise, comes only a day after two other Greenpeace activists were arrested as they protested Arctic oil drilling on the Gazprom platform, Prirazlomnaya, in the Pechora Sea off the Russian coast. They were held overnight without charges or legal representation aboard a Russian Coast Guard vessel. It's been nearly 24 hours since the boarding of the Arctic Sunrise and there have been no official response from Russian authorities regarding the action. Greenpeace International has not received any formal confirmation of possible charges, and the activists have been denied access to legal or consular assistance. "The safety of our activists remains our top priority and we are working hard to establish what is facing them. They have done nothing to warrant this level of aggression and have been entirely peaceful throughout," said Arctic campaigner Ben Ayliffe. "The real threat to the Russian Arctic comes not from the crew of the Arctic Sunrise but from Gazprom, one of the most reckless oil companies in the world today." Greenpeace has organized protests at Russian embassies on 20 locations around the world today in support of the arrested Greenpeace activists. Greenpeace demands the immediate release of their activists and an end to Arctic drilling.
  9. Russia's Federal Security Service has announced that they've seized the Arctic Sunrise and its crew following a protest against oil drilling in Arctic waters. The Greenpeace ship has now been towed to port in Murmansk where an investigation will be conducted. A Russian official have said that the Greenpeace activists, totaling 27 or 30 depending on source, could face piracy charges. Greenpeace strongly rejects these allegations and describes them as a desperate attempt to justify the illegal boarding of their ship in international waters. "The suggestion that Greenpeace engaged in piracy this week smacks of real desperation," said Greenpeace International's General Counsel Jasper Teulings. "The activists climbed Gazprom's Arctic oil platform for a completely safe and peaceful protest against dangerous drilling, carrying only banners and rope. Piracy laws do not apply to safe and peaceful protests." "Over a day after our protest the Russian Coast guard boarded our ship outside of territorial waters, where there is right of free passage, with no legal justification whatsoever," Teulings added. "This looks like a retrospective attempt to create that justification and avoid embarrassment." Greenpeace organized protests outside Russian embassies on 20 locations around the world today following the boarding. They have also called on people to contact Russian embassies and demand the immediate release of the ship and its crew. So far about 400 000 letters have been sent. "We will contest these allegations strongly and we continue to demand the release of our activists and the ship," Teulings said.
  10. It's been more than 48 hours since armed Russian security officers boarded the Arctic Sunrise and arrested around 30 Greenpeace activists following a protest against oil drilling in Arctic waters. Details are still sketchy but the Greenpeace ship is apparently now being towed by the Russian coastguard to the nearest harbor with the ship's crew being held onboard at gunpoint. "They used violence against some of us, they were hitting people, kicking people down, pushing people," said Faiza Oulahsen in a phone call from the ship before communications were cut. Russian officials have accused Greenpeace of "aggressive and provocative" behavior during the oil drilling protest earlier this week. Liliya Moroz, a representative of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the Murmansk region, has said to local media that the activists could now face terrorism or piracy charges. If charged with terrorism the activists could face a minimum of 10 years in prison. Greenpeace have been unable to make contact with their activists onboard the Arctic Sunrise and they have not yet received no official confirmation from Russian security services. "This is the clear detention of people against their will," said Vladimir Chuprov, head of the energy department at Greenpeace Russia. "Terrorism is a very serious crime." FSB has said that they've been co-ordinating actions with the Russian foreign ministry and energy giant Gazprom "to protect the safety of the crew on the platform and defend the interests of the Russian Federation in the Arctic region." But Greenpeace says these accusations are dishonest because the "unidentified object" was their safety pod, and it was brightly coloured and branded with the environmental organization's famous logo. Greenpeace have also said that the boarding was illegal because their ship was on international waters and outside the jurisdiction of Russian authorities. Jasper Teulings, a Greenpeace lawyer told Reuters that "the only reason the ship can be boarded inside the EEZ, (exclusive economic zone) is when there is suspected breach of fisheries regulation or suspected substantial discharge in violation of environmental regulation. Neither is the case. Other grounds could be piracy or slavery, so it's clear that none of these apply." Teulings also stressed that "the situation at the moment is actually unclear," and that we don't know yet whether the Greenpeace ship have been seized. "We would be surprised if it had been [seized], because that would have been illegal," Teulings said. "We do know that the ship is being held by the coastguard, and we are taking every step in our power at this moment, including international diplomacy, to ensure the swift release of the activists and we are in touch with their families."
  11. "The findings are striking," Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA's acting administrator, said on a conference call to the Guardian. "Our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place." The findings were published in the 32nd edition of the American Meteorological Society's State of the Climate report, which was compiled with contributions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and from more than 380 scientists from 52 countries. According to the new report, 2012 saw record levels of greenhouse gas emissions with a global average of carbon dioxide, methane and other warming gasses reaching 392.7 parts per million. 2012 was also among the 10 warmest years on record - ranking eighth or ninth depending on dataset. As a result, and as the report shows, the Arctic has lost record amounts of sea ice, making life hard for animals such as polar bears and raising the Earth's average sea levels. The map shows ice concentration on September 16, along with the extent of the previous record low (yellow line) and the mid-September median extent (black line). The most dramatic changes in the climate can be found in the regions of Arctic and Greenland. In 2012, the Arctic warmed at about twice the rate of lower latitudes while both the snow and sea-ice cover had fallen to its lowest levels ever since the beginning of satellite records. At one point in 2012, Arctic sea ice had receded to 1.32 million square miles - about 18% lower than the previous record low of 1.61 million square miles back in 2007, and a shocking 54% lower than the levels in 1980. If the current rate continues, the NOAA has projected that the Arctic ocean could become ice-free by 2050. "The record or near-records being reported from year to year in the Arctic are no longer anomalies or exceptions," said Jackie Richter-Menge, a civil engineer with the US army corps of engineers. "Really they have become the rule for us, or the norm that we see in the Arctic and that we expect to see for the forseeable future." The graph shows monthly global sea level from 1993 through early 2013 compared to 1993-2012 average, based on AVISO data. Global sea levels are rising as a result of the dramatic melting of sea ice, the report says. "Over the past seven years of so, it appears that the ice melt is contributing more than twice as much to the global sea level rise compared with warming waters," said Jessica Blunden, a climatologist at NOAA's national climactic data centre. During 2012, global average sea levels rose to record highs of 1.4 inches, about 35.56 mm, above the 1993-2010 average.
  12. Today, six brave activists from Greenpeace climbed to the top of the tallest building in Western Europe, the Shard in London, UK. The daring stunt was made in an effort to protest Shell's plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. The six climbers were Ali Garrigan from the UK, Sabine Huyghe from Holland, Sandra Lamborn from Sweden, Lisbeth Deddens from Belgium, Victoria Henry from Canada and Wiola Smul from Poland. You can read the full story here. Meet the climbers, from the left: Sabine, Sandra, Victo, Ali, Wiola & Liesbeth. The six activists started their journey up the 72-story building by climbing on to the roof of the neighboring London Bridge station early in the morning. Greenpeace says the Shard was chosen because it’s located in the middle of Shell’s three corporate headquarters. This photo shows how everyone involved in the action trained the day before the daring stunt. They arrived to the Shard in a van and climbed up to the London Bridge station using a ladder through a hatch on the roof of the van. Sabine Huyghe and Victoria Henry can be seen here climbing up the side of the Shard. “We'll try to hang a huge art installation 310m up. We may not succeed, but we’re going to do everything we can to pull it off,” Henry said. “Millions of people have called on Shell to get out of the Arctic but they're still trying to drill there anyway. If we reach the top we’ll be able to see all three of Shell’s London offices below us, meaning they'll be able to see us. Maybe then they'll stop ignoring the movement ranged against them.” Ali Garrigan has been climbing since age 18 & hopes the action can bring attention to the dangers facing the Arctic. People could follow and watch the six climbers while they climbed to the top of the Shard, situated 310 meters above ground. The live-feed was managed from the Greenpeace UK headquarter. The climbers used Iphones to stream live from their journey to the top of the Shard where they planned to unveil “a huge work of art that captures the beauty of the Arctic.” Lisbeth Deddens began climbing in high school. She has now climbed ice, rock, alpine, and the Shard. The media seemed to love the stunt and the Save the Arctic campaign got some much needed attention. Wiola Smul hopes that today’s action helps to change the way companies exploit vulnerable regions like the Arctic. Sabine Huyghe was inspired to train as a climber after helping other Greenpeace activists get ready in Belgium. Sandra Lamborn who has just finished an MA in environmental science was the lead climber during the action. “We do this to draw attention to the untenable situation in the Arctic, where the ice has melted by more than 80% since the 1950s. As the ice disappears, opportunities for development in the area previously been virtually inaccessible to humans,” Lamborn said. “This is a threat not only for the Arctic ecosystem and the animals that lives there, but actually for the planet and thus the future of humanity. The oil industry, with giant Shell in the lead, wants to drill for oil in the Arctic icy water, a place where the conditions are extremely unpredictable. Any oil spill would be devastating to the sensitive Arctic ecosystem and almost impossible to clean up. Extraction and consumption of Arctic oil leads to climate change, which in turn disrupts the planet's delicate balance ending in disasters, the extent of which we have only seen the beginning of.” The climbers reached the top of the Shard late on Thursday evening. All safe and sound, but exhausted from their free climb up the tallest building in Western Europe. All six climbers will be spending the night in police custody.
  13. Early this Thursday morning, six activists from Greenpeace started to scale the tallest building in Western Europe, the Shard in London, UK. The daring stunt is made in an effort to protest Shell's plans to drill for oil in the Arctic, which could potentially cause "irreparable harm" to the fragile nature and its inhabitants. The six climbers - identified as Ali Garrigan, Sabine Huyghe, Sandra Lamborn, Lisbeth Deddens, Victoria Henry and Wiola Smul - have been climbing for over 12 hours and, at the time of publish, managed to "free climb" 240 meters. Once they reach the top, at 310 meters, they plan to unveil "a huge work of art that captures the beauty of the Arctic." Greenpeace, who is calling for a moratorium ban on oil and gas exploitation in the Arctic, hopes that the action will result in even more signatures to their already one million strong Arctic petition. Greenpeace says the Shard was chosen because it's located in the middle of Shell's three corporate headquarters. But also because the 72-story building is modelled on a shard of ice - the very same environment that is being threatened by our continued use of dirty fossil fuels. In a response to the action, Shell said that they "respect the right of individuals and organisations to engage in a free and frank exchange of views about our operations." They also defended themselves against the criticism from Greenpeace and other environmental organizations by claiming that they have the "technical experience and know-how to explore for and produce oil and gas responsibly." But Shell's failed track record in the Arctic and around the world, casts real doubts on the company's claims of being able to drill for oil and gas safe and responsible - especially in a region such as the Arctic where fierce environmental conditions are a daily occurrence. New findings, released earlier this week, also shows that it's impossible, even in fairly safe waters, to operate oil and gas rigs without a steady release of oil and other chemicals leaking out into the sea. You can watch the six-Greenpeace climbers on their journey up the Shard from the live-stream here. Photo Gallery: Meet the six brave women who scaled Europe's tallest building to save the Arctic