Recap: The Changing Arctic: International Cooperation and Development


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The Changing Arctic: Int’l Cooperation and Development,
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Part 2]

The changes in the Arctic are relevant right here in the “North Star” state, where there’s a rich tradition of polar exploration, as well as Arctic scientific and educational work. Canada and the United States have long collaborated in the Arctic as neighbours and friends. In the harsh environment of the Arctic, the two nations break ice for each other, fight forest fires, perform search and rescue, build transportation and technologi- cal infrastructure, and maintain a sophisticated system of early warning to reinforce continental security.

 

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Over 80 people joined the Will Steger Foundation and partners for a thought-provoking conversation on The Changing Arctic on October 27th at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The half-day event explored what a changing arctic, mainly an ice-free arctic, means for economics, the environment, diplomacy and security.

Recognizing that the polar sea has lost more than one fourth of its thickness and half its area in the last two decades, its once reflective surface is now exposing darker ocean surfaces. Because darker surfaces absorb more energy than lighter ones, warmth is accelerated. The summer sea ice is predicted to virtually disappear by 2030 if not a lot sooner.

Speakers from Minnesota and Canada explored these questions during three panel discussions: Who owns the vast resources beneath the Arctic Ocean? What’s the role of international cooperation and diplomacy in the far north? How will climate change and decreasing sea ice levels impact Arctic waterways, infrastructure and ecosystems? What does current research about the Arctic tell us about climate change? How has the Arctic inspired expeditions and educational programs? How will changes and development in the Arctic impact Minnesota?

The Changing Arctic Event Program
Download the event program (PDF 533KB)

In a video message Senator Klobuchar, who sits on the subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard, told participants that the U.S. needs to sign the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and that continued partnership between the U.S. and Canada is important for arctic policy, commerce and diplomacy.

Keynote speaker, Whitney Lackenbauer, from the University of Waterloo, gave an overview of sovereignty and diplomacy in the Canadian Arctic. He emphasized that native peoples are the primary stakeholders in decisions regarding the Arctic, a theme that was revisited throughout the day.

The issue of capacity was also discussed, from infrastructure, to human skills capacity (economic opportunities, via jobs and the employment rate), demographic challenges, to political capacity (i.e. the North is out of sight/out of mind).

The speakers emphasized the long tradition of international scientific cooperation in the Arctic. That tradition must be preserved and expanded, even as nations in the region push forward with territorial claims under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Changing Arctic is a dynamic situation and with these continual changes brings new challenges to international cooperation and diplomacy. As important as it is to continue to talk about the Arctic within the context of climate change and these other issues, it is also important to listen to the voices from the Arctic.

Feedback from attendees:

[blockquote]I truly enjoyed the conversations, and the presentations.  I’ve been to a lot of talks and meetings over the years, and can honestly say this ranks among the best.  The breadth and knowledge of the speakers was very impressive, and it was a nice mix of disciplines and backgrounds.[/blockquote] [blockquote]I was moved and impressed by Will’s presentation and his comment that only by making the argument on economics can we defeat this monster, much greater than even we thought given the testimony of climate scientist, Dr. Peter Snyder…We must work even harder.[/blockquote] [blockquote]It was excellent, but so sobering.[/blockquote] [blockquote]It really provided a holistic perspective of the sensitive Polar Region, and like so many climate change issues, it was quite sobering.[/blockquote] [blockquote]It was a fantastic event and so important to engage people in what we are dealing with on a global level.[/blockquote]

 

[important color=blue title=Melting the Arctic: Causes and victims]Don ShelbyDon Shelby, Minnesota news reporter and former WCCO anchorman, attended the event and posted an article to MinnPost.com – “Melting the Arctic: Causes and victims.Read the full article at MinnPost.com.

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[Read “The Changing Arctic: International Cooperation and Development” event announcement]

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