Russia

How Climate Consensus Could Cool Appetite For Arctic Exploitation

As global warming melts the ice covering parts of the Arctic Ocean, new opportunities are opening up for the exploration of natural resources, including oil. But the accelerating cooperation on climate objectives could wind up saving the Arctic from both business and military interests.

Analysis

PARISMoscow is militarizing the North Pole ... China claims near-arctic state status ... Trump wants to buy Greenland ...

That sampling of headlines from the last few years is a testament to the emergence of the Arctic as a frosty point of potential conflict among the major geopolitical force reshaping our world. Most would still struggle to imagine why this distant place of drifting ice blocks and polar bears, historically considered a place too inaccessible and distant for governments to pay any mind, is suddenly emerging as a frontier of global power play.

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Norway’s Bow-And-Arrow Attack: Muslim Terrorism Or Mental Health?

The bow-and-arrow murder of five people in the small Norwegian city of Kongsberg this week was particularly chilling for the primitive choice of weapon. And police are now saying the attack Wednesday night is likely to be labeled an act of terrorism.

Still, even though the suspect is a Danish-born convert to Islam, police are still determining the motive. Espen Andersen Bråthen, a 37-year-old Danish national, is previously known to the police, both for reports of radicalization, as well as erratic behavior unrelated to religion.

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Afghanistan Mosque Blast, Widest Vaccine Mandate, Banksy’s Record

👋 Bonjou!*

Welcome to Friday, where a deadly blast strikes a mosque in Kandahar, Afghanistan during Friday prayers, Lebanon death toll rises, and Banksy sells 15 times better when shredded. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt reporters take us on an eerie tour of the deserted Camp Marmal, the German army's former headquarters in Afghanistan.

[*Haitian Creole]

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Taiwan Tower Blaze, Norway Bow-And-Arrow Attack, Walruses From Space

👋 Bună ziua!*

Welcome to Thursday, where a blaze at a Taiwan tower kills at least 46, a suspect is in custody in the deadly Norway bow-and-arrow attack and scientists try to count walruses from space. We also take a look at what unites and opposes Russia's Vladimir and Ukraine's Volodymir.

[*Romanian]

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Green
Carl Karlsson

Can Oil-Producing Nations Move To Renewables? Grading 7 Petrol States

The possibility of transitioning to a greener energy future varies among economies that are fossil fuel-dependent , which represent nearly one-third of the world's population and one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. For some, the question is purely financial; for others, political factors are slowing the shift.

In Norway, a left-wing landslide election win last week is calling into question the future of the country's oil production. Two weeks earlier, Iraq's finance minister made an unprecedented call to fellow OPEC countries to move away from fossil-fuel dependency.

The two recent headlines are emblematic of the challenges facing major oil-producing nations around the world. Last year's crash in oil prices coincided with unprecedented public demands for a commitment to a cleaner energy future, while the pandemic exposed the fragility of economies heavily dependent on a single commodity.

And yet, the ability to adapt to a greener energy future varies drastically among fossil fuel-dependent countries, which represent nearly one-third of the world's population and one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. For some, the question is purely financial; for others, political factors are slowing the shift.

"We are basically undoing over a century of interdependence between these nations and the global economy," says Deborah Gordon, leader of oil and gas solutions at global energy and climate think tank RMI. "Unwinding this tightly integrated, global market needs to be surgical."

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In The News
Clémence Guimier, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Norway Votes Against Its Oil, Putin Self-Isolating, Potty-Training Cows

👋 Ia Orana!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Norway veers left, Putin is self-quarantining, and German scientists try to potty-train cows. Meanwhile, Delhi-based news website The Wire applauds India's recent Olympic gold medals but asks why it can't win Nobel Prizes?

[*Tahitian]

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Sources
Carl-Johan Karlsson

An Ill-Advised Fish Tale From Downtown Oslo

It was a sunny, Scandinavian afternoon when Even Nord Rydningen spotted something in the still waters beneath Oslo's Gullhaug bridge.

"It looked like a trout, but it also looked a bit like a shark," he told Norwegian daily Aftenposten.

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Sources
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Ten Years After Utøya, How A Democracy Faces Evil

Exactly a decade after Anders Breivik’s calculated massacre of terror shocked the world, we still struggle to make sense of the evil that cut short 77 lives.

"If I could've killed him with impunity, I would have."


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WHAT THE WORLD
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Norway's Second Biggest City Bans Naming Streets For Men

With 9 out of 10 current streets in Bergen, Norway honoring men, the city council has decided that every new street name will be a woman's.

The southern Norwegian city of Bergen has approved a ban on naming future streets and public spaces after men.

Norwegian daily Dagbladet reported last week that the decision came after a years-long debate over historical sexism, as 9 out of 10 streets dedicated to figures of the past have male names, including the likes of 19th century Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen and Olaf Kyrre, or Olaf III, the 11th-century King of Norway credited with founding the port city.

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Sources

From Astrophysics To Zebras, A World Tour Of Weird Livestreams

Remember when time was one of the most limited resources anybody could have? Juggling our agendas, we rushed between work meetings, weekend trips, shopping, dinners and countless other social obligations, as business gurus built an entire industry around time management.

Of course COVID-19 lockdowns and curfews have pushed us into a new, suspended period that Belgian philosopher Pascal Chabot calls "hypertime," where some have kept calm and carried on by baking bread as others sink deep inside the Netflix catalogue.

But with our collective cabin fever now over the one-year mark, the number of at-home pastimes to occupy us seems to be dwindling. That leaves us time (eternity?) for the internet's ultimate time suck and virtual link to the outside world: the livestream. From watching zebras gallop in South Africa to terrible driving in Salem, Massachusetts, here is a round-up of some of the most random real-time feeds from around the globe.

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NRK
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Skiing Across Sweden-Norway Border To Slip Past COVID Lockdown

There was only one problem: the weather.

How does a Scandinavian get around COVID restrictions? On skis.

It sounds like a bad joke, but on Saturday, a 50-year-old Norwegian man had to be rescued after attempting to circumvent quarantine requirements by skiing across the border from Sweden, reports Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

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Coronavirus
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Even Scandinavia Can’t Get Along: On COVID's Cold Diplomacy

-Essay-

What does it say at the bottom of a Norwegian ketchup bottle?

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Geopolitics
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

COVID-19 Stirs Prison Policy Around The World

Social distancing, disinfecting common areas and accessing health care: All three key tactics for curbing the spread of coronavirus are particularly complicated inside jails and prisons. While it might seem like an already self-isolating bubble, life inside prisons has changed dramatically since COVID-19 arrived. In an effort to keep healthy, many have lost their rights to socialize, make extra money through jobs and receive visitors. At the same time, many are looking at the option of releasing some prisoners as a way to alleviate overcrowding and limit the spread of the virus. Here are examples of how some countries are taking on the issue:

Releasing & Escaping: Countries like Iran and Turkey have responded by releasing tens of thousands of minor offenders to increase space in prisons, but also raising the question of why so many need to be jailed in the first place. While in Brazil, prison riots led to mass escapes from dirty, inhuman facilities. The last few months have shown how a highly infectious disease can exasperate exploitive systems where human rights abuses are engrained. Along with momentum from the Black Lives Matter movement, there are now global calls for criminal justice reform, from interactions with police to incarceration to reintegrating into society.

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Green Or Gone
Sukriti Kapur*

Global Warming North: A Balmy Research Journey To The Arctic

Warmer temperatures and plastic waste lying about reminded an expedition to Svalbard that no part of Earth is untouched by the activities of its humans.

SVALBARD — The mere mention of our planet's polar regions brings to mind masses of frozen ice, hostile conditions and a general absence of all living things. This is unfortunate, because although the areas above the Arctic circle and below the Antarctic circle are indeed remote, they are teeming with all sorts of life, from microflora to megafauna.

I was a part of an 86-member team that journeyed to the Arctic region to study climate change in real-time, as part of the Climate Force Arctic 2019 expedition. This expedition, led by Robert Swan, the first man to walk to both of the Earth's poles, is conducted every year. Swan also launched the 2041 Foundation, whose mission is to develop leadership skills among individuals by helping them take responsibility and act sustainably toward a more resilient future.

The name of Swan's foundation revolves around the Antarctic Environment Protocol. Signed in Madrid in 1991, it bans all drilling and mining in Antarctica. It will reopen for negotiations in 2048, and Swan hopes to increase awareness and gather support by 2041 — the 50-year anniversary of the signing.

The temperature on some days was as high as 12 °C.

The Arctic is composed of all areas north of the 66°33'44" N latitude. After three days of briefing in Norway's capital, Oslo, we set off to Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Sea between Norway and the North Pole. At Svalbard, we boarded a ship, ready to sail around the islands for a full week.

Each day on the ship began with a series of talks where participants shared inspirational stories, before experts spoke about the Arctic landscape and how the climate crisis has been altering it. After that, we would go on hikes, photo walks and cruises, each of which brought us second-to-none insights into the Arctic realm. Every afternoon, there were discussions on the Paris Agreement, climate change mitigation and carbon trade, involving climate experts. The day would end with a recap of the day's events before undertaking free-ranging trips or speaking to other participants.

Climate change is not new to any of us. But the surface air in the Arctic is now warming twice as fast as in the rest of the world. Arctic ice (like all ice) strongly reflects solar radiation. And as it melts, it exposes the underlying tundra soil and ocean to heat, the latter absorbing the heat instead of reflecting it. The tundra soil is very rich in organic matter because decomposition is slow, meaning that as the soil warms, the permanently frozen subsoil melts and releases a large amount of methane into the atmosphere, which causes Earth's atmosphere and surface to warm further. As a greenhouse gas, methane is more potent than carbon dioxide.

Another conspicuous consequence of a warming Arctic is the loss of sea ice. Sea ice forms each winter when the ocean surface freezes. Some of this ice melts in the following summer and some doesn't, to weather another winter. But in a warmer world, more ice melts each summer, and ice forming in the winter does so later and breaks up earlier than it has before. Not to mention that the ice build-up isn't as thick.

Less sea ice means a smaller feeding habitat for polar bears. So the bears are forced to concentrate over ever-smaller patches of the surviving ice, leading to heavy predation pressure on the local seal population.

Our group was lucky to encounter a lot of wildlife on our expedition, some of which hadn't been spotted in the Arctic for over 30 years. These included the beluga, bowhead, humpback and fin whales, bearded seals, arctic walruses and polar bears. Each of these species is facing a loss of habitat, declining food sources and sea acidification due to global heating.

The surface air in the Arctic is warming twice as fast as in the rest of the world.

At the start of the trip, we were given a list of clothing items to bring on the trip but we didn't use many of them by the end. The temperature on some days was as high as 12 °C, and the average was around 1-3 °C. This is significantly high for this region, and a subtle, yet persistent reminder of how the world is changing.

There was one day, however, we were reminded of that in a much more sudden, and terrifying way: During a hike, many of us came across pieces of plastic strewn across the Arctic tundra. These items included discarded fishing equipment, cans and containers and plastic wrappers. We'd all read accounts by experts and journalists who had documented the menace of single-use plastic, but none of us had expected to find it in this part of the world. There is really no part of Earth that is left untouched by our activities.

This expedition was an eye-opener. We returned home inspired by the beauty and serenity of the Arctic landscape, and more motivated to protect it — together with the rest of our fellow humans. While the world debates the grainier terms of a global shift to an eco-friendly life, there are many small-scale solutions that we can put into practice every day to drive change from the bottom. They include giving up single-use plastics, shifting to buying and eating local, creating awareness among your friends and family, and voting for leaders that have a strong environmental mandate.

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food / travel
Bertrand Hauger

The Gateway To Norway

Svolvaer is one of the first scenic stops upon entering the famous Lofoten archipelago of northern Norway. The fishing village, with its typical wooden red houses, offers a nice warmup to the insular (and chilly!) world of dramatic mountains and pristine bays.

Green Or Gone
Frédéric Faux

Russia And China Lead New Rush To The Arctic

With the melting of the ice, maritime traffic is growing, which means new economic opportunities, but also some cold and hard questions.

TROMSO — On the maps we all studied in school, the Arctic appears as a huge white spot separating Asia from the Americas — wild, untouched, impassable. But is that still an accurate representation?

The area is changing, and changing quickly, says Ole Arve Misund, director of the Norwegian Polar Institute. "In 20 or 30 years, probably, there will be no more ice at the North Pole during the summer, and the Arctic Ocean will become accessible," he says.

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