Take Five is The Arctic Institute’s news roundup that gives you everything you need to know about what’s happened in the Arctic this week. Short in length but big on insight, from politics and culture to the environment and security, we look beneath the headlines to see what’s really going on. Published each Friday, our quick and fun redux breaks down the five biggest circumpolar stories with fresh editorial analysis so you can get caught up on the region in under five minutes. Take Five means you’ll never miss a beat on what matters most.
Canadian government called out for slow progress on Indigenous issues
Last week, Nunavut youth Trina Qaqqaq asked the Canadian Parliament, “Where are our non-Indigenous allies?” (CBC). Representing her federal electoral district of Nunavut in an International Women’s Day mock parliament for young female leaders, Qaqqaq highlighted the ongoing suicide crisis among Inuit and the need for help with things like poverty and health care. And while International Women’s Day is a time for hope, it is also a time of frustration and grief, especially for Indigenous women in Canada. Last September, the federal government formed a National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls after considerable grassroots pressure. Still, the Inuit women’s group Pauktuutit found a number of fundamental issues with the Inquiry and remains skeptical of how effective it will be given the uncertainty around a number of key elements (cue: how Inuit experts will be involved) (TAJ)*.
TAKE 1: Qaqqaq, Pauktuutit, and the Inquiry are more or less univocal in their message: there’s a serious need for better systemic support in facing major challenges that have their roots in systemic problems. They also underline the importance of including Inuit in anything that involves their communities — or, as Qaqqaq puts it, don’t leave Inuit “on the back burner.”
Arctic Council meets in Alaska to talk cooperation, prep for Chairmanship change
Last week, Senior Arctic Officials from the Arctic Council’s eight member states and representatives of the Council’s six Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations met up in Juneau to discuss environmental protection, healthcare, telecommunications, and renewable energy. The meeting also set the stage for an even bigger ministerial meeting to be held in Fairbanks this May where the Council’s chairmanship gets handed off by the US to Finland as per its rotation every two years (APM).
TAKE 2: Given that environmental protection is a top priority for the Arctic Council, it’s no surprise that people had a lot of questions for US Ambassador and Senior Arctic Official Chair David Balton. Balton reassured attendees by bringing up recent history: since Clinton, he says, there haven’t been any large-scale shifts in US Arctic policy, which is generally more geared towards Alaska, anyway (Juneau Empire). But as Trump proposed to drastically slash the budgets of both the US State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, only time will tell.
The international relations of Porcupine caribou
While caribou can’t vote or speak for themselves, they’ve now got political representation. With all eyes on Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as state and US federal politicians attempt yet again to open up the Refuge to oil and gas drilling, the Vuntut Gwitchin village of Old Crow from the other side of the border in Yukon, Canada is taking matters into its own hands. Old Crow sending a delegation to Washington, D.C. to lobby on behalf of the Porcupine caribou (Yukon News). The herd calves in ANWR every summer, but roams internationally. And for the Vuntut Gwitchin, who live in Alaska, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, the caribou are an integral part of life and are considered “family” (Yukon News).
TAKE 3: The fight over ANWR keeps heating up. In the midst of a bad economic downturn, many Alaskan politicians are championing natural resource development as a key to pulling the state out of its slump. Last week, Governor Bill Walker and Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott, who support ANWR drilling, wrote an opinion piece calling on Alaskans to support “balanc[ing] our checkbook” and making “tough decisions.” Senator Lisa Murkowski, who has been working on legislation to open up ANWR, has Trump’s ear about overturning Obama’s ban on offshore Arctic drilling (Arctic Sounder, Bloomberg).
In spite of our best efforts, the Arctic might soon have no summer sea ice
Climate scientists have some sobering news: even if the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement are met, the Arctic might still get ice-free summers this century. A study recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change indicates that even if global temperatures rise no more than 2º C, there’s still a 39% chance that the Arctic won’t have summer sea ice (Reuters). But, If temperatures don’t go over 1.5º C, it’s almost guaranteed that ice will stick around (Yahoo).
TAKE 4: Reality check: we’re on track for a 3º C rise by the end of the century and are set to lose Arctic summer sea ice in about 40 years on the present trajectory. This should be another wake-up call (The Guardian). Sea ice isn’t just about polar bears: it affects global weather patterns in a big way. As the adage goes: what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.
“No way” from Norway on proposed EU Arctic oil and gas drilling ban
The European Parliament this week defeated by a significant margin a non-binding motion that would have banned future oil and gas extraction in the Arctic (Reuters). Naturally, the motion elicited the considerable consternation of Norway, which is heavily dependent on petroleum exports. Turns out, they meant business: as documents released last week show, Norwegian politicians teamed up with oil interests to lobby the European Parliament to vote against the ban, slamming it as a “symbolic” action (Mint Press News).
TAKE 5: The battle over Arctic oil might be over, but the war isn’t yet won—especially for Norway, which is facing an upcoming legal fight with Greenpeace over its approval of more offshore oil and gas leases on the heels of signing the Paris Agreement (EnergyDesk). And while Norway has a point in that banning Arctic oil and gas extraction won’t solve all the Arctic’s problems, it’s also true that every effort counts.
* The Arctic Journal (TAJ) went offline in June 2017.