Russia's Pre-emptive Arctic Strike
(Moscow) Let’s face it, though the UN Law of the Sea Department has yet to confirm it, at least 60 percent of the Arctic is Russian territory. It’s no surprise, then, that The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue two-day conference (still underway at time of writing) held in Moscow has – with various Arctic Council members in attendance – rubber-stamped Vladimir Putin’s Russia as the de facto “chair” of proceedings on all thing Arctic, not least the region’s mineral riches.
What is new, however, is Russia’s adopting of Western ways of conflict resolution, as exemplified by repeated Russian commitments to resolve all Arctic-related issues through dialogue.
Now I remember why I stopped going to international conferences. Leaving out the opening addresses, we heard 20 speakers throughout the day. The downside to giving speakers ten minutes to speak, however, is that the succinct can only manage bullet points (that lack explanation) while the verbose plow on without PowerPoint regardless of the clock.
Not that most speakers were bad, by any means.
Day one of the conference was balanced between a morning of concern for the Arctic environment versus an afternoon of equal concern over how to exploit the region’s mineral wealth (albeit for the greater benefit of mankind). As regards both there was a distinct lack of skepticism over the alleged anthropogenic cause of the Arctic’s melting ice woes; or at least none prepared to make itself known. Surprising then, that so much of what was actually said exemplified the reigning confusion when it came to climate facts and data.
After numerous references to the Arctic’s eco-system, we heard that anthropogenic causes could, by the end of the century, lead to the Arctic ice “disappearing entirely.”
Alexander Bedritsky, an advisor to Putin on climate change, stated that “the Arctic is central to our global understanding” of climate, but revealed “global warming produced uneven temperature ranges” in the region. But it was Olav Orheim, a senior advisor at the Research Council of Norway, who got to the root cause for the lack of clarity in better understanding Arctic climate issues, lamenting the lack of cogent and reliable scientific data. If Climate-gate wasn’t the elephant in the room for many of the committed alarmist ideologues present, it should have been. The lament quickly became a refrain.
Vladimir Kattsov, president of the Voeikov Main Geological Observatory in St Petersburg, said that whilst the Arctic was “more vulnerable to climate change” than other regions, Arctic ice was “shrinking less significantly” and that it was “not clear what causes speedy melting.” Echoing the earlier call, Kattsov too reiterated the need for much better eco-data to be able to assess prospective “quantification of climate impacts.” All of this would thus, said Kattsov, enable us to “know when and what we should do” in response. In other words, we currently don’t know to do because the data isn’t up to scratch.
Jan-Gunnar Winther, Director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, referring to changes in the extent of the Arctic sea ice, next stated, “Last year showed us a different pattern to previous years.” Code for an increase in the extent of sea ice which was difficult to explain – in terms of anthropogenic causes, that is. Asked in the later plenary session why it is that “we hear a great deal about sea ice extent rather than “ice volume,” Vladimir Kattsov admitted that we simply didn’t possess the technology to produce ice volume data in the same way.
Yuri Matzov, Professor of Geography for Moscow State University next admitted “we have little knowledge of the Arctic in general.” In the plenary we also heard that data issues are the result of “a decline in the number of [data producing] research stations” and that “certain areas of the Arctic have not been visited in years.” Just for good measure, we also lack a “complete mapping of the Arctic.”
Now you must understand that none of the above speakers were majoring on uncertainty. In the opinion of every speaker during the morning, anthropogenic activity was a given as a factor in the melting of Arctic sea ice. The irony of a regular grievance over the lack of reliable data, however, merely adduced an assertion of a “different pattern.”
I have no doubt that many of the speakers at this conference do believe – as do those singularly caught up in the recent Climate-gate scandal – in the veracity of their cause, bad data or no bad data. Though the Russian reason for calling this particular conference of scientists has a very different political end than to debate further climate issues, it was only too apparent that eco-data – upon which the entire climate alarmist bandwagon relies in its message to urge us all to change our lives, even for climate alarmists, remains a major issue.
Put bluntly, the reality is the data is the science.
The afternoon was a very different affair. It was all about the exploration of the polar region’s mineral, particularly hydrocarbon, resources.
Leopold Lobvosky of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanography, said that to exploit the “100 billion tons of oil equivalent” in hydrocarbons present in Arctic waters, Russia and its partners had to work together to fund the high cost of exploration and drilling. Even so, Arctic hydrocarbon reserves could be “compared in extent to those in the Gulf.” Others reiterated much of what we already knew about the Arctic’s serious mineral and hydrocarbon energy wealth.
But perhaps the strangest involvement in the day was Lukoil’s vice president, Vladimir Mulyak, head of the Main Division of Oil and Gas Production and Infrastructure. Perhaps only too aware of the prevailing climate themes among the 300 or so delegates, and being Big Oil’s sole representative on the panel, his participation was fleeting, to say the least. I timed his address at around three minutes. Neither did he seem eager to play any further part in proceedings, even when asked directly by the panel chairman about Lukoil’s “plans for the Arctic.”
The sponsoring Russian Geographic Society has undoubtedly helped Putin’s Arctic strategy impact the work of the Arctic Council and the future of the Arctic itself. But heart-warming as it is to know that Russia won’t be freezing out not only its neighbors but anyone with a strategic stake in the Arctic, won’t have learned too much else from Day One of this conference. We already knew of the Arctic’s mineral wealth – and of the need to exploit them with greater care for the environment.
And anyone looking to this forum of over 300 delegates for climate certainties, in a year beset by IPCC screw-ups and the Climate-gate data scandal, will be disappointed – at least until the proper data is in.
Part two of this article will cover Vladimir Putin’s strategic Day Two address – and the impact of the conference as a whole.