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Executive Summary for December 23rd

We review the key Arctic news, including a plan by the U.S. and Canada to ban drilling in much of their Arctic waters, scientists’ concern over a temperature spike and Norway’s plans to let a mining company dump waste in a sensitive fjord.

Published on Dec. 23, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Arctic Drilling Ban Faces Northern Push-Back

A joint agreement by the United States and Canada to ban drilling for oil in much of their Arctic waters has been praised by environmentalists – but some northern leaders are unimpressed.

Alaska’s Republican lawmakers denounced the decision in fiery terms, Alaskan Dispatch News reports. “Hell-bent on locking away our resources and suffocating our already weakened economy, President [Barack] Obama is one step closer to solidifying his place next to Jimmy Carter as Alaska’s worst nightmare,” said Republican Congressman Don Young. And Sen. Lisa Murkowski commented: “The only thing more shocking than this reckless, shortsighted, last-minute gift to the extreme environmental agenda is that President Obama had the nerve to claim he is doing Alaska a favor.”

In Canada, the premiers of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have also complained they weren’t consulted, and they worry the move may deprive their territories of badly needed jobs and government revenue, CBC reports.

Freakish Warmth Near the North Pole

The North Pole was close to melting point this week. It’s part of a trend over the past two months that has seen the Arctic north of 80 degrees experiencing temperatures up to 20C (30–35F) above normal, the Washington Post reports.

This warmth has led to a later than usual freeze-up of the Arctic Ocean, the New York Times explains. That may lead to record-low ice coverage this coming spring and summer. And that could in turn could trigger even more warming: as sea ice dwindles, the Arctic Ocean absorbs more heat from sunlight.

Norway Approves Plan to Dump Mine Waste in Northern Fjord

The Norwegian government has given the green light to a copper mining project that would see 2 million tonnes (2.2 million tons) of mining waste dumped in an environmentally sensitive fjord, in the country’s northernmost region of Finnmark.

The government is defending the approval on the grounds that it would create about 150 new jobs, the Independent Barents Observer reports. But environmentalists say an area of 8 sq km (3 square miles) slated for slag disposal means they’ve been given a “dead fjord for Christmas.” Saami representatives have also expressed their strong opposition to the project, reports the High North News, and are debating how best to continue the fight.

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