Tag Archive | "aRCTIC"

Greenpeace activists charged for protesting Arctic drill

Russia is moving the 30 Greenpeacers who tried to scale a Gazprom drilling platform in the Barents Sea from the Arctic port of Murmansk to St. Petersburg. Despite global demonstrations of support for the “Arctic 30,” Russia has piled charges of hooliganism and vandalism on top of piracy charges and shows no signs of leniency towards what Greenpeace calls “a peaceful protest.”

Greenpeace says this location makes the arrest of the Arctic 30 and seizure of their Dutch-flagged ship, the Arctic Sunrise, illegal because the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea guarantees foreign vessels the freedom to navigate in the Exclusive Economic Zone of another country without interference.

The Prirazlomnaya platform targeted by the Greenpeace protest was being used by Gazprom, the world’s largest extractor of natural gas. The Russian government controls most of the Gazprom shares and private parties hold the rest.

Greenpeace warns that production from this platform raises the risk of an oil spill in an area that contains three nature reserves protected by Russian law. But this warning has not affected Gazprom’s plans for development of the area.

The 30 detainees were brought before the Committee over the course of the past week, the piracy charge was not withdrawn. Instead each of them was  served with the additional charge of hooliganism, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years. They now stand accused of both offenses.

Greenpeace rejects all charges and argues that the activists protested peacefully.

Greenpeace spokesman Ben Ayliffe said in September, “Make no mistake, the real threat to the Arctic comes not from Greenpeace International but from oil companies like Gazprom that are determined to ignore both science and good sense to drill in remote, frozen seas.”


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Acid attack

New research in the waters of the Arctic reveals a growing threat unique to the cold ocean which helps protect the planet by absorbing milions of tonnes of CO2 but suffers increased acidity as a result.

Acidity is rapidly increasing in the waters of the Arctic region and poses a huge risk to the survival of marine animals. Acidity has a major effect on the rates at which corals and rocks grow or are dissolved. “A remarkable 20% of the Canadian Basin has become more corrosive to carbonate minerals in an unprecedented short period of time,” said US Geological Survey oceanographer, Lisa Robbins. “Nowhere on Earth have we documented such large scale, rapid ocean acidification.” CO2 emissions increase the acidity of the sea if it absorbs too much and that affect decreases calcification rates in many organisms. Calcifying is an important part of growth to marine organisms as it helps to build shells and skeletons.

If reduced, the organisms are most likely to dissolve into extinction. Corals, shrimps and plankton, among other marine creatures, are severely affected by this change. Any threat to them causes potential imbalance in the whole ocean food chain and the consequences are potentially devastating. “In the Arctic, where multi-year sea ice has been receding, we see that the dilution of seawater with melted sea ice adding fuel to the fire of ocean acidification,” according to co-author, and co-project chief, Jonathan Wynn, a geologist from the University of the South Florida. “Not only is the ice cover removed leaving the surface water exposed to man-made CO2, the surface layer of frigid waters is now fresher, and this means less calcium and carbonate ions are available for organisms.”

CO2 emissions can reach the deep seawater especially in the summers when sea ice in the Arctic declines. The freshwater melted from sea ice dilutes the seawater, further increasing acidity levels and reducing the concentrations of calcium and carbonate, which are the constituents of the mineral aragonite. Aragonite is one of the main minerals which make up the hard part of many marine microorganisms’ skeletons and shells. Species depending on these organisms for food are vastly affected by the reduction of calcium and carbonate concentrations. Ocean acidification models show that with increasing atmospheric CO2, the Arctic Ocean will have crucially low concentrations of dissolved carbonate minerals, like aragonite, in the next decade. Researchers were able to investigate seawater chemistry at high spatial resolution during three years of research cruises in the Arctic, alongside joint US-Canada research efforts aimed at mapping the seafloor as part of the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf programme.
Research shows that acidification in surface waters of the Arctic Ocean is rapidly expanding into areas that were previously isolated from contact with the atmosphere because they were covered with thick ice. Compared with other oceans, the Arctic Ocean has not had the same research attention. “It’s a beautiful but challenging place to work,” said Robert Byrne, a USF marine chemist. Using new automated instruments, scientists were able to make 34,000 waterchemistry measurements from the US Coast Guard icebreaker. “This unusually large data set, in combination with earlier studies, not only documents remarkable changes in Arctic seawater chemistry but also provides a much-needed baseline against which future measurements can be compared.” Byrne credits scientists and engineers at the USF college of Marine Science with developing much of the new technology.”

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Current Issue October 2013