Posts tagged ‘climate change’

PLANET A: Pentagon Seeks $3 Billion to Battle Climate Change; Marine Corps Base First to Reach Net Zero

PLANET A, because there’s no Plan B or Planet B

Climate change is reshaping the geostrategic, operational, and tactical environments with significant implications for U.S. national security and defense. Increasing temperatures; changing precipitation patterns; and more frequent, intense, and unpredictable extreme weather conditions caused by climate change are exacerbating existing risks and creating new security challenges for U.S. interests.

— U.S. Defense Department Pentagon’s Climate 2021Risk Analysis

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RISKS and CHALLENGES

2023 Defense Budget

For the first time, the U.S. Defense Department budget request is committing $3.1 billion exclusively to dealing with climate change, including $2 billion for installation resiliency and adaptation and $247 million for operational energy and buying power.

“We have to be resilient to cyber threats, we have to be resilient to climate change,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks told a March 28 livestreamed Pentagon press briefing on the budget request, SEAPOWER magazine reported at the time.

The $813 billion defense budget request included $773 billion for the Defense Department and more than $40 billion for defense-related activities at other agencies. Of the three vital national interests cited in the budget request, the last one is Building Enduring Advantages, which includes “modernizing the Joint Force to make its supporting systems more resilient and agile in the face of threats ranging from competitors to the effects of climate change.”

Investments in the $3.1 billion climate crisis request include: $2 billion for Installation Resiliency and Adaptation; $247 million for Operational Energy and Buying Power; $807 million for Science and Technology, and $28 million Contingency Preparedness.

There have been numerous examples in recent years of the need for installation resiliency and contingency preparedness due to severe weather, sea rise, wildfires and other environmental incidents.

 

Flooding Missouri River waters covered a large portion of the airfield at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska in March 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sergeant Rachelle Blake)

Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska suffered disastrous flooding in 2019 that damaged a third of the base. Hurricane Michael caused billions of dollars in damage at Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base in 2018. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in coastal North Carolina sustained billions more in damages to housing, information technology (IT) and sewage systems from another 2018 storm, Hurricane Florence.  Military bases like Guam in the Pacific are vulnerable to rising seas due to melting Arctic sea ice.

A Defense Department-funded report released in April indicated that increased natural disasters, high levels of rainfall and coastal erosion pose serious problems for the largest Marine Corps training facility on the East Coast, the iconic Parris Island recruit training depot in South Carolina, Military.com reported in late May. The growing effects of climate change has the Marines considering moving some of its bases, including Parris Island, to other locations.

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ALTERNATIVE FUEL and ENERGY

Marine Base, First to Hit Net Zero

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia is the first Defense Department installation to achieve Net Zero status.

Net Zero is defined as the production of as much electricity from renewable “green” energy sources as a facility consumes from its utility provider and is measured over the course of the year.

On average, MCLB Albany’s consumption peak is 4-6 megawatts of electricity in winter and 8-11 megawatts in the summer. The power consumption difference by season is why NET Zero is measured over the course of a year.

The base has two landfill gas generators that produce 4 megawatts. The biomass steam turbine generator located at the nearby Procter & Gamble plant generates 8.5 megawatts of energy with the steam generated from burning biomass.

The base also has 27 diesel backup generators that generate a total of 7 MW of power.

(right) listen at ceremony recognizing Marine Corps Logistics Albany, Georgia as the first Defense Department installation to meet the “Net Zero” energy-efficiency milestone. (Photo by Jonathan Wright, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany)

Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations, and Environment Meredith Berger and Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger (no relation) participated in a ceremony celebrating the accomplishment on May 24, 2022.

“From the shores of Tripoli, to the seawall at Inchon, Marines have shown leadership and taken decisive action in the face of every challenge,” Assistant Secretary Berger said. “It is only natural then that the Marines should lead the way here in Albany on energy resilience.”

“Warfighting is always first and most important,” said General Berger. “The more resilient a base is, which is where we project our power from, the better warfighting organization we’re going to be and the more lethal we’re going to be.”

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Pentagon’s fuel prices rose $3Billion in FY22

A senior Defense Department official says spiking fuel prices will cost the Pentagon $3 billion more than expected in fiscal 2022, and that will force the Pentagon to ask Congress for more money.

At an April 27 House Budget Committee hearing on the Pentagon’s $773 billion Fiscal Year 2023 defense budget request, Comptroller Mike McCord said fuel will cost $1.8 billion more than expected for the rest of the year.

Congress added $1.5 billion for increased fuel costs in the budget signed into law in March.

“Fuel is our most volatile and easily recognizable price increase when prices changed,” McCord told the Budget panel, Defense News reported. “Largely due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we estimate a bill of $1.8 billion for the rest of this year, so over $3 billion across the course of this fiscal year,” he said.

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ONR Global and Royal Air Force Conduct First Synthetic-Fueled Drone Flight

In February 2022, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Global and Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) conducted the first-ever drone flight using synthetic kerosene.

Performed in partnership with British company C3 Biotechnologies Ltd, the initial trial created 15 liters (four gallons) of synthetic fuel in laboratory conditions. This allowed the four-meter, fixed-wing drone to complete a 20-minute test flight in South West England, providing valuable data indicating the fuel performs consistently to a high standard.

“The U.S. Navy is committed to finding innovative solutions to operational challenges, and the ability to manufacture this fuel without large infrastructure requirements would be groundbreaking for deployed forces,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Admiral Lorin C. Selby.

This technology provides a viable solution today and leverages the nascent bio-manufacturing industry to create sustainable, secure and environmentally friendly products resilient to commercial market forces and geopolitical uncertainty, according to the Naval Research Office.

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PLANET A is a new, occasional posting on climate change and the global impact it is having national security and the U.S. military. The name is derived from activists who warn that climate change is an urgent threat to the world because there is no Plan B to fix it — nor a Planet B to escape to.

June 12, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

PLANET A: Glasgow Climate Change Conference; Climate Risk Analysis by DoD, ONI

Climate Meeting in Glasgow.

World leaders, including President Joe Biden, will gather in Scotland Sunday (October 31, 2021) to discuss the threat posed by climate change, its ramifications and — hopefully — what more to do about it.

Known as the Conference of Parties or COP26, the 26th United Nations annual climate change summit, it will run for two weeks. This year’s summit will focus on negotiations to limit emissions, and could be “the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control,” according to the summit’s website.

The meeting comes just a week after several U.S. government agencies, including the Defense Department, have issued reports expressing their concerns about the fallout from climate change — severe weather has caused billions of dollars in damage to U.S. military installations, like Tyndall Air Force Base on Florida’s panhandle and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, on coastal North Carolina. Other military bases on Guam in the Pacific are vulnerable to rising seas.

Damaged aircraft hangar at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, following Hurricane Florence in 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Allie Erenbaum )

And that’s not all, Pentagon planers are concerned that droughts, sea rise, ever fiercer cyclones and hurricanes will spawn massive migrations as people seek food, water, shelter and employment that could overwhelm other nations and spark political unrest and violence.

The Pentagon’s Climate Risk Analysis notes:

Climate change is reshaping the geostrategic, operational, and tactical environments with significant implications for U.S. national security and defense. Increasing temperatures; changing precipitation patterns; and more frequent, intense, and unpredictable extreme weather conditions caused by climate change are exacerbating existing risks and creating new security challenges for U.S. interests.

“Climate migration is absolutely affecting the United States directly, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks told  NPR in an interview October 26. In Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America, “where farmers can’t grow crops, their traditional approaches to sustaining livelihood are very challenged. We’ve also seen that happen, of course, from Africa going up into Europe, other regions of the world,” she said.

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DOD Won’t be There.

Defense Department officials will not be attending the global climate conference in Scotland, the Defense One website reports.

Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told Defense One that no one from the Defense Department will accompany the president, but said officials “remain hard at work building climate resilience throughout the department and the force.”

Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, and Joseph Bryan, the Defense Department’s senior advisor for climate, are participating in an event Friday (October 28) at the New America think tank to talk about the Pentagon’s new climate report.

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National Intelligence Estimate.

Another government report, by the National Intelligence Council finds that “climate change will increasingly exacerbate risks to US national security interests as the physical impacts increase and geopolitical tensions mount about how to respond to the challenge.”

An overloaded Haitian vessel with interdicted stopped by the U.S. Coast Guard on September 14, 2021, during extensive migrant interdiction operations in support of Operation Southeast Watch. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Christian Homer)

The report, which examines climate change risks to U.S. nation security through 2040 arrived at three key judgments:

Geopolitical tensions are likely to grow as countries increasingly argue about how to accelerate the reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions that will be needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals. Debate will center on who bears more responsibility to act and to pay—and how quickly—and countries will compete to control resources and dominate new technologies needed for the clean energy transition.

–The increasing physical effects of climate change are likely to exacerbate cross-border geopolitical flashpoints as states take steps to secure their interests.

Scientific forecasts indicate that intensifying physical effects of climate change out to 2040 and beyond will be most acutely felt in developing countries, which we assess are also the least able to adapt to such changes. These physical effects will increase the potential for instability and possibly internal conflict in these countries, in some cases creating additional demands on US diplomatic, economic, humanitarian, and military resources.

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PLANET A is a new, occasional posting on climate change and the global impact it is having national security and the U.S. military. The name is derived from activists who warn that climate change is an urgent threat to the world because there is no Plan B to fix it — nor a Planet B to escape to.

October 27, 2021 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 30, 2021)

Ice Palace.

(Photo by Benjamin Wilson) Click on photo to enlarge the image.

A soldier from the U.S. Army’s 52nd Aviation Regiment watches the mountains and glaciers of Alaska’s Denali National Park and Reserve pass below his CH-47 Chinook helicopter on April 22, 2021.

Members of B Company, 1st Battalion of the 52nd AR, known as “The Sugar Bears,” have permission to conduct training in the park in exchange for helping the National Park Service set-up base camp for the 2021 Denali climbing season.

The Army provides assistance annually to the Park Service by flying in supplies to the base camp, which is located at 7,200 feet.

While the landscape in this photo is breath-taking, new satellite imagery reveals that the world’s glaciers are melting faster than ever due to climate change — and half the world’s glacial loss is occurring in the United States and Canada.

According to a study in the science journal Nature, glaciers are melting faster, losing 31 percent more snow and ice per year than they did 15 years earlier, the Associated Press reported via NBC. The gloomy forecast is based on three-dimensional satellite measurements of all the world’s mountain glaciers. Scientists blame human-caused climate change, the AP noted.

A French-led team assessed the behavior of nearly all documented ice streams on the planet. The researchers found them to have lost almost 270 billion tons of ice a year over the opening two decades of the 21st Century, the BBC reported.

The research team, led by Romain Hugonnet from the University of Toulouse, France, used as its primary data source the imagery acquired by NASA’s Terra satellite, which was launched in 1999. Immense computing power was brought to bear on the process of interpreting these pictures and pulling out the changes in the glaciers’ elevation, volume and mass up to 2019, the BBC noted.

April 30, 2021 at 5:33 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Russian Migs vs. U.S. Drone; A Dedicated U.S. Arctic Fleet? Marines End Year-Round Norway Presence; Canadian Ice Shelf Goes

Defense & Homeland Security.

Russia Says it Intercepted U.S. Arctic Drone.

Russia’s military claims three MiG-31s fighter jets intercepted a large U.S. drone over the Chukchi Sea — part of the Arctic Ocean — on August 11, according to Air Force magazine.

Air Force, Navy join in RPV training

An RQ-4 Global Hawk soars through the sky to record intelligence, surveillence and reconnaissance data.  (Courtesy photo)

The remotely piloted aircraft — a Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk — remained in international territory and the MiGs, from the air defense forces of the Eastern Military District, returned to their bases when the U.S. drone changed directions without crossing into Russian airspace, according to state-run media, which also stated “the operation was performed in accordance with international law.”

The move comes just three weeks after the U.S. Air Force released its first-ever Arctic strategy, which acknowledges Russia’s efforts to militarize the region. Interactions between U.S. and Russian aircraft are also on the increase, raising the potential for dangerous miscalculations, Air Force magazine noted. North American Aerospace Defense Command aircraft have intercepted Russian aircraft at least 10 times this year just off the coast of Alaska, with six of those intercepts taking place in June.

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Does U.S. Need a Dedicated Arctic Fleet?

U.S. interests in the Arctic Ocean might be better served by creating a dedicated fleet for the region, rather that dividing it up between the U.S. 2nd, 3rd and 6th Fleets, according to a Navy Arctic expert.

The Navy is “facing a time/space/force problem in the Arctic,” with too many other challenges around the world, says Dr. Walter Berbrick — associate professor at the Naval War College and director of its Arctic Studies Group. He says the shrinking ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean is drawing nations looking to reduce maritime transit time from one continent to another. Maritime commerce is expected to double over the next 20 years, Seapower magazine reported.

arctic-ocean-map

In the meantime, Russia is increasing its military presence in the Arctic — modernizing old air bases, installing air-defense missile batteries, increasing submarine activity and building polar icebreakers armed with cruise missiles.

China wants to use Arctic sea routes to gain access to ports in northern Europe for commercial reasons. But China is also increasing naval deployments away from home waters, says Berbrick, and it could extend them, eventually, to the Arctic — including by Chinese subs making transits to the North Pole.

By comparison. the U.S. Navy would need days or weeks to respond to a crisis in the Arctic, Berbrick says. With  responsibilities in the region divided among three different numbered fleets, he noted, with

“Perhaps we should think outside the box and create a new fleet, an Arctic fleet,” Berbrick told a July 16 webinar, sponsored by CNA, a think tank in Arlington. He added that a total Navy battle fleet sized more toward 400 ships rather than 355 would be needed, which would allow for a fleet “permanently” spread out across the region.

The commander of the U.S. 2nd Fleet — whose ships have operated four times in the Arctic since the fleet was re-established two years ago — says there is no need for a new numbered fleet in the region. But Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis says an Arctic naval component command might be worth consideration,

“It an interesting viewpoint,” Lewis said August 4 when asked about Berbrick’s proposal. But “I don’t know that I would consider creating a numbered fleet for an Arctic fleet,” he added. “In the U.S. system, it’s another maneuver arm for the naval component,” he explained. “I don’t really own battlespace per se, as I own mission. If I’m given a mission, in the Arctic, or the North Atlantic or Western Atlantic or Southern Atlantic, I address that mission.”

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Marines Ending Year-Round Norway Rotation.

The U.S. Marine Corps is ending its year-round presence in Norway. Instead, the Marines will conduct more spread out and potentially larger deployments, Marine Corps Times reports.

Since 2017, Marines have deployed to Norway to participate in cold-weather exercises with Norwegian counterparts, to strengthen their skills for Arctic warfare, and provide a sizable U.S. presence near Russia.

Hope you don't mind if I turn up the heat

U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 20.2  fire a TOW anti-tank missile in Setermoen, Norway, on June 29, 2020. MRF-E conducts various exercises, including arctic cold-weather and mountain-warfare training, as well as military-to-military engagements throughout Europe. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Chase W. Drayer)

The new deployment cycle will be shorter and spaced out, attempting to line up deployments with Norwegian exercises and provide more flexibility within the Corps,  a spokesman for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.

“Marines will deploy from the United States to Norway for shorter deployments in order to better synchronize their training with Norwegian forces and to allow for increased opportunities for large-scale exercises of Marine Corps tactical units,” the spokesman, Major AdrianRankine-Galloway said in the statement. “We are not drawing down and, at times, will have a greater number of Marines here than before, within the terms of the agreement between the United States and Norway.”

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Envoronment & Climate News.

Canada’s Last Full Ice Shelf Collapses.

The last fully complete ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic has collapsed. The Milne Ice Shelf is at the edge of Ellesmere Island, in the far northern Canadian territory of Nunavut. The ice shelf, researchers say, lost more than more than 40 percent of its area in just two days at the end of July.

Milne Ice shelf

Eureka Sound on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic is seen in a NASA Operation IceBridge survey picture taken March 25, 2014. (NASA photo via Twitter)

“Above normal air temperatures, offshore winds and open water in front of the ice shelf are all part of the recipe for ice shelf break up,” the Canadian Ice Service said on Twitter when it announced the loss in earlier this month.

The only comparable formation, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, is larger but has already split into two separate sections. Over all, the ice shelf appears to have lost about 43 per cent of its total surface area. The largest piece to have broken away measures 55 square kilometer – nearly equal in area to the island of Manhattan.

The break up marks a turning point for the Arctic. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, it shows what lies in store for similar formations around the globe as a result of climate change.

The Arctic has been warming at two times the worldwide rate for the last 30 years. This year, temperatures in the polar area have been especially intense. The polar sea ice hit its lowest total amount for July in 40 years. Record heat and wildfires have burned Siberian Russia, the VOA website noted.

Ellesmere Island was once bounded by extensive shelves that had melded into a single structure. At the beginning of the 20th Century, this covered 8,600 square kilometers (sq km). But by the turn of the millennium, a rapidly warming climate had reduced and segmented the floating ice cover to just 1,050 sq km, the BBC reported. Further break-up events in 2003, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2012, and now in 2020, mean the shelf area is currently under 500 sq km.

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USS Toledo Arrives at Ice Camp Seadragon

U.S. Navy Photo by MC1 Michael B. Zingaro

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far North. The 2013 U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic Region describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the region. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

August 13, 2020 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Navy’s “Arctic” Fleet; Marines’ Cold Weather Boot; Arctic Report Card

Navy’s 2nd Fleet “Fully Operational”.

The U.S. Navy’s 2nd Fleet — reestablished to counter Russia in the north Atlantic — has reached full operational capability, the Stars and Stripes website reported Thursday (January 2, 2020).

The Norfolk, Va.-based 2nd Fleet, reestablished in 2018, will be responsible for overseeing ships, aircraft and landing forces on the east coast and the north Atlantic, reaching up into the Arctic.

USS Harry S. Truman and USS Normandy Transit the Atlantic

The USS Harry Truman (CVN75) entered Arctic waters in October 2018, the first time in 30 years a U.S. aircraft carrier ventured into the Arctic Circle. ( (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)

The declaration of “full operational capability” certifies that 2nd Fleet’s command-and-control infrastructure is capable of running its assigned operations, Stars and Stripes, noted.

“Our allies and competitors alike are well aware that many of the world’s most active shipping lanes lie within the North Atlantic,” 2nd Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, said  Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, who heads the fleet, said, according to Defense News.

“Combined with the opening of waterways in the Arctic, this competitive space will only grow, and 2nd Fleet’s devotion to the development and employment of capable forces will ensure that our nation is both present and ready to fight in the region if and when called upon,” Lewis added.

When the Navy stood up the fleet last year, it cited Russia as the primary concern for which the new force is to address, Defense News noted. At the time, then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said: “This is a dynamic response to the dynamic security environment.”

In a sign of how strategically important the High North has become, Stars and Stripes noted,  last September, the 2nd Fleet established a Maritime Operations Center in Keflavik, Iceland, where 30 staff members now are based.

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Marines Getting the Boot.

The U.S. Marine Corps could be getting its first new intense cold-weather boot since the 1960s, the Marine Corps Times reports.

The Marine Corps Systems Command is finalizing  testing and evaluation of two commercial options, with the winner expected to be delivered by summer 2020.

The two semifinalists are the Belleville Intense Cold Weather Boot and the Danner Acadia. Over the ­winter, systems command staff will conduct follow-on user evaluations to validate the two boot submissions in a real world environment.

1st CEB Hikes During MTX 2-17

Marines snowshoeing downhill  at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California on February 22, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Danny Gonzalez).

The Marines and Army have been using a big, white, 1960s-era rubberized intense cold weather boot — nicknamed the “Mickey Mouse” boot — for more than half a century. Officially known as the Extreme Cold Weather Boot, it is effective at preventing frostbite and ­keeping feet warm down to minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit. But it is heavy and traps moisture creating wet feet.

The new boot is part of efforts to upgrade cold weather gear as Marines are expected to ­contribute forces to Arctic regions, such as their regular ­700-Marine rotations to Norway. Another gear item in that kit was the 2018 purchase of a new ski system, which was awarded to Serket USA for its Scout model ski and Patrol ski binding, the Marine Corps Times said.

Click here to see a video about extreme cold weather boots (Mickey Mouse or Bunny boots are addressed at 3:29)

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More Bad News.

Temperatures in the Arctic region remained near record highs in 2019, according to a report issued in December by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The higher temperatures led to low summer sea ice, cascading impacts on the regional food web and growing concerns over sea level rise, according to the New York Times.

Mid-summer sea ice off Svalbard, Norway 2019.

Thinning Midsummer sea ice off Svalbard, Norway in June 2019. (Photo by John M. Doyle, copyright 2019, Sonoma Road Strategies)

Average temperatures for the year ending in September were the second highest since 1900, the year records began, scientists said. While short of a new high, it raised concerns over a continuing trend: The past six years have been the warmest ever recorded in the region.

The peer-reviewed assessment produced by NOAA takes a broad look at the effects of climate change in the region and compares current findings with the historical record. Climate researchers are concerned about the Arctic because it is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet — causing changes both in the ocean and on land, the Times reported December 10, 2019.

In July, Reykjavik, Iceland, experienced its warmest month on record. Similarly, Anchorage, Alaska, set heat records in June, July and August. Warming temperatures were just one of the concerning changes documented in the report. Ninety-five percent of the Greenland ice sheet thawed in 2019, driven partly by the onset of an earlier-than-usual melt, prompting growing concerns over sea level rise.

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sea_ice_polar_bear

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the region. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

January 2, 2020 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 18, 2019)

Arctic Puma.

Eye in the sky

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Justin Toledo)

A Marine launches an RQ-20 Puma unmanned aerial system (UAS), a tactical drone, in Setermoen, Norway, on October 10, 2019. Manufactured by California-based  AeroVironment, the Puma is a battery-powered, hand launched, small reconnaissance and surveillance drone. It weighs a little over 13 pounds and can stay aloft for two-and-a- half hours.

The Marine is part of a rotating contingent of Leathernecks based in Norway.

With a long history of service in the Asia-Pacific region from the mid-20th Century until now, the Marine Corps is looking to the future and gearing up for operations in Arctic conditions. Since 2017, a small force of 330 U.S. Marines, based near the town of Vaernes on Norway’s midwest coast, have been rotating in and out of the country every six months. Now with the agreement of the Norwegian government, that rotational deployment has more than doubled in size. “In times of crisis and war Norway will rely on U.S. and other allied military reinforcements. This is at the core of Norwegian security policy and is further emphasized by our NATO-membership,” Norwegian Minister of Defence Frank Bakke-Jensen said in June.

Melting Arctic sea ice, caused by climate change, has touched off a race to establish commercial sea lanes across the top of the world as well as accessing untapped fishing stocks and vast underwater petroleum and mineral stores.  Territorial disputes have also touched off a mini arms race in the polar region, with Russia, Norway, Canada and the United States all boosting their military presence at a rate not seen since the Cold War.

About 700 Marines took over the Corps’ mission in Norway on September 27, marking the latest troop rotation into a country where American forces have been focused on cold weather warfare tactics, according to the Stars and Stripes newspaper’s website.

Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment are now operating out of Setermoen — which is much farther North, above the Arctic Circle — as well as Vaernes,   where they will be training with NATO allies and other partners in the Nordic region. The unit replaced the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, which had been deployed to Norway for the previous  six months.

The 6th Marines are the sixth rotation to Norway. Known as the Marine Rotational Force-Europe, the unit’s headquarters is at Norway’s mountainous Setermoen Army base in the Troms region, which is closer to Russia’s Arctic territory on the Barents Sea.

That move hasn’t set well with Moscow, which has been beefing up its own Cold War-era bases and building new ones in the region — including a large base at Alexandra Island in the Franz Josef Land archipelago (see map below) about 160 miles east of Norway’s Svalbard island group.

In June the Russian Embassy in Norway warned of consequences.  Russia argues Oslo’s decision is in violation of agreements Norway made when it joined NATO in 1949. Norway agreed not to base permanent foreign forces in the country unless threatened or attacked, according to Defense News. But rising Russian belligerence from the Baltics to the Black Sea — especially its 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine — has unsettled all the militaries in Scandanavia.

Arctic Region

October 18, 2019 at 5:03 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Homeland Security Priorities in the Arctic UPDATE

Falling Behind.

UPDATE: Adds 6 new paragraphs at the end, to detail testimony on how the United States is falling behind other Arctic nations in asserting its role and status as an Arctic power. 

The American people and their leaders need to wake up to the fact that the United States is an Arctic Nation before it loses control of its commercial, environmental and strategic  interests in the rapidly warming — and developing — region, a panel of experts told a congressional subcommittee Thursday (September 19)

USS Comstock Arrives in Seward, Alaska to continue AECE

The amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock transits the Gulf of Alaska headed for Seward, Alaska during Arctic Expeditionary Capabilities Exercise 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas Burgains)

Changing climate reduces polar sea ice and opens up access to untapped natural resources as well as maritime trade routes across the top of the globe — including Alaskan waters. And many nations, including Russia and China, which have both identified increased presence in the Arctic as a strategic priority, are moving faster than the United States to take advantage of the changing situation.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Arctic  holds 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas. Russia, one of five nations that border the Arctic Ocean, has seen a five-fold increase in commercial activity along its Northern Sea Route. It has invested heavily in building ice breaker ships, and at more than 50, has the largest ice breaker fleet in the world

Meanwhile, China — which recently declared itself a “near Arctic state,” even though it is located nearly 1,000 miles from the region — is moving to take advantage of the commercial opportunities in the Arctic’s warming waters. It, too has an ice breaker construction plan, and is investing strategically in economic activity like liquid natural gas drilling in Russia’s Yamal Peninsula. Beijing is planning a virtual “Polar Silk Road,” of deepwater ports in friendly nations to help cut shipping time from China to Europe by two weeks.

sea_ice_polar_bear

Sea ice still thinning.
(Photo courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory website)

No longer an “emerging issue,”  Mike Sfraga, director of the Polar Institute, told the House Homeland Security Committee’s Transportation and Maritime Security subcommittee “the Arctic has emerged.”  The Arctic “is no longer an isolated or remote region: rather it is a critical component of our global political, economic, social, physical and security landscape,” added Sfraga, who is also director of the Global Risk and Resilience Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

He was one of four panelists from Washington area think tanks that research Arctic issues — the RAND Corporation; the Arctic Institute and the Heritage Foundation — called to testify about Homeland Security priorities in the Arctic.

Russia has invested heavily in militarizing its Arctic territory — which contains half of the world’s Arctic region and half of the Arctic’s population, said Luke Coffey, director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation. Over the past decade Russia has built or re-activated 14 operational airfields in the Arctic along with 16 deep-water ports, he added.

Arctic Region

Arctic Region (Source: CIA World Fact Book via wikipedia)

Meanwhile, the United States does not have a major deepwater port along 1,500 nautical miles of its Arctic coastline — from Dutch Harbor to Alaska’s North Slope. Without a viable string of ports in the U.S. Arctic commerce, search-and-rescue capabilities and national security interests will not be met, said Sfraga.

The U.S. Coast Guard has only two ice breakers, only one of which — the Polar Star — is a heavy ice breaker capable of dealing with Arctic ice. Congress has voted funding for an additional U.S. icebreaker, the Polar Security Cutter, but it won’t be available for years.

“How did this happen?” asked a stunned subcommittee member, Representative John Katko, a New York Republican. “How did we let our guard down to this extent?”

“It goes back to our lack of awareness of our role and our status as an Arctic power” in terms of the policy makers at the Defense Department, Homeland Security and NATO, said Coffey. He noted five of the eight Arctic nations are members of NATO but the latest NATO Strategic Concept, “which highlights all the challenges to the alliance, doesn’t even mention the Arctic.”

“The U.S. is often called the reluctant Arctic nation,” said Victoria Herrmann, president and managing director of the Arctic Institute. She noted the post of special representative to the Arctic region has been vacant for two years. “We do not promote ourselves as an Arctic nation. We are thousands of miles away from Alaska, and those voices just aren’t heard in these halls [of Congress],” she said.

*** *** ***

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the region. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

 

September 19, 2019 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 21/22, 2019)

The “Almost” Midnight Sun.

IMG_20190620_221920545_HDR

Midnight sun over the northern end of Storfjorden (Great Fjord) in Svalbard archipelago. (Photo by John M. Doyle, Copyright 4GWAR)

What’s wrong with this photo?

Taken Friday, June 21, 2019 off the eastern side of Spitsbergen Island, almost 600 miles north/northwest of Norway in the Barents Sea, this photograph shows the sun still up an hour before midnight. But that’s not unusual in the Arctic during summer solstice.

However, what’s wrong with this image is the nearly ice-free water. Even in summer, the waters around Spitsbergen would normally have presented a seascape thick with pack ice spread across miles of water, like this photo, taken a day later in a different area.

IMG_20190621_202434623_HDR

Arctic sea Ice in northern Storfjorden (Great Fjord). (Photo by John M. Doyle, Copyright 4GWAR Blog)

But warmer weather, due to climate change, has led to a dramatic decline in sea ice, posing both risks and opportunities for the region.  The Arctic is heating up at more than twice the rate of the rest of the globe and the northern Barents Sea is becoming much warmer, according to the Barents Observer. Also, new sea ice created over the winter months is thinner and melts in summer, resulting in an overall loss of sea ice.

The increasing climate shift affects the habitat and  food supplies of all types of wildlife from Polar bears and walrus, to birds, fish and other types of sea life. It also poses dire consequences for humans. In Longyearbyen (population 2,200) the largest town on Spitsbergen — and the northernmost permanent community in the world — houses are sagging as the permafrost beneath them melts. Take-offs and landings at Longyearbyen airport are surprisingly bumpy and rough — not because there’s anything wrong with the plane or the runway but because the permafrost beneath the runway is melting and spongey. Longyearbyen is something of a canary in a coal mine, warning of environmental dangers to come for the rest of the planet.

Meanwhile, the reduced sea ice is opening up opportunities for year-round commercial navigation through the Arctic Ocean as well as increased mining, fishing and oil drilling (it has been estimated that 1/5 of the world’s undiscovered petroleum reserves lie beneath Arctic waters).  However, those activities also raise major concerns about damage to the environment and indigenous communities’ way of life as well as, maritime safety and increasing national security issues.

June 22, 2019 at 6:09 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Horn of Africa; Hundreds of Tunisians Kidnapped; Hunger Crisis in Mali; UPDATES with Tunisian Soldiers Killed; Somalia Fisheries Plundered; Liberia Ebola-Free

Geopolitical Powder Keg.

The Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa

According to new research, the Horn of Africa is warming and drying faster now than it has over the past 2,000 years.

That research — into ancient marine sediments — contradicts global climate models, which show the geopolitically unstable region getting wetter as emissions boost temperatures worldwide, the Scientific American reported Tuesday (October 13).

The Jessica Tierney, lead author of the new paper, published in Science Advances last Friday (October 9), says the new findings “changes our view of how greenhouse gases will affect future warming in the Horn.” Tierney, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona, said scientists — herself included — believed that rising emissions “would lead to rainier seasons.”

Violent conflicts, droughts and famines have already wracked the area of Eastern Africa roughly encompassing Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan. Climate change could be a “threat multiplier,” Tierney and her colleagues said.

Peter deMenocal, a co-author of the paper and the director of the Center for Climate and Life at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, says the region is a “geographical powder keg” that has been experiencing tremendous food insecurity, water insecurity, geopolitical insecurity and now “we’re adding to that climate insecurity.”

*** *** ***

Mass Kidnapping.

An armed group in western Libya says it has released 30 of the approximately 300 Tunisian workers it kidnapped Tuesday (October 13), the BBC reported. The group says it is holding the rest in the town of Sabratha.

Kidnappings of Libyans or foreigners by any one of the country’s militia groups are routinely staged to extort money, encourage a prisoner exchange, or for political leverage.

Hassan Dabbashi, the head of the armed group that took the Tunisian workers, told the BBC that it wants the Tunisian government to release the Mayor of Sabratha in exchange for their captives.

The Libyan mayor was arrested in Tunis airport at the weekend after attending a workshop on local governance hosted by the United Nations Development Programme.

Tunisia and its neighbors. (Map from CIA World Factbook)

Tunisia and its neighbors.
(Map from CIA World Factbook)

Meanwhile, the Tunisian military said Monday (October 12) that Islamist militants killed two Tunisian soldiers near the Algerian border.

The soldiers were searching for a kidnapped shepherd in that western region of the country and four other soldiers were wounded during the search near Mount Sammama.

The army has been carrying out operations in western Tunisia, where dozens of security forces have died battling Islamic extremists, the VoA reported.

The military did not identify which group of extremists might have carried out Monday’s attack, which occurred just days after Tunisian civil society groups won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Associated Press reported. The Arab Spring reform movement originated in Tunisia in 2010 and 2011 and quickly spread to other nations.

*** *** ***

Insecurity, Violence … Now Hunger.

The United Nations says violence against aid groups and general insecurity have plunged the Timbuktu region of northern Mali into a hunger crisis. Tens of thousands of children are at an increasing risk of dying from malnutrition, the U.N. said, according to the Voice of America website.

A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle in convoy near Gao, Mali in the drive against Islamist fighters in 2013. (Copyright French Ministry of Defense)

A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle in convoy near Gao, Mali in the drive against Islamist fighters in 2013.
(Copyright French Ministry of Defense)

About one in six people in the region are suffering from acute malnutrition, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [UNOCHA] said. That includes more than 50,000 children under the age of five who are up to nine times more likely to die, because they are malnourished, the U.N. agency said.

 Conflict in Mali erupted in 2012, when a loose coalition of separatist rebels and al-Qaida-linked militants swept across the north of the country before a French-led military intervention in 2013 drove them from the main towns they had been occupying, according to VoA.

Armed groups drove the Malian army out of many posts in the north last year, and they are now fighting each other for control of land, which has uprooted tens of thousands of people and hindered relief efforts, aid agencies say.

*** *** ***

Somali Fishing Grounds Plundered.

Remember all the problems pirates caused around the Horn of Africa just a few years ago?

Well locals in the coastal trading town of Durduri, Somalia say there are no more fish in the sea. They blame not the pirates who brought the attention of international law enforcement to Somalia’s waters, but the foreign fishing boats that have plundered sea-life stocks, according to the Al Jazeera news site.

And if things don’t change, they say, a return to piracy will be their only way of survival.

Large foreign vessels “come at night and take everything”, one young fisherman told Al Jazeera. “With their modern machinery, there is nothing left,” he added.

His accusations are backed up by two new pieces of research, according to the website. The studies, conducted by separate Somali development agencies, suggest that international fishing vessels – particularly Iranian and Yemeni, but also European ships including Spanish vessels – are illegally exploiting the East African nation’s fish stocks on a massive scale. 

While piracy put a stop to illegal fishing, these findings suggest it was merely a hiatus. Now that international anti-piracy task forces have halted the seagoing hijackers, illegal fishing vessels have returned.

*** *** ***

Ebola-Free Liberia.

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

October 13, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Denmark’s Polar Claim

The Cold Rush is “On”.

The Greenland ice sheet. (NSASA photo by Michael Studinger)

The Greenland ice sheet.
(NSASA photo by Michael Studinger)

Denmark has joined a growing number of countries in the Far North laying claim to at least a part of the North Pole and surrounding region.

In a statement issued Tuesday (December 16) by Copenhagen, the Danish Foreign Ministry announced that the Kingdom of Denmark together with the government of Greenland (formerly a Danish colony) would file a submission with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf “to define the outer limits of its continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean.

“The submission of our claim to the continental shelf north of Greenland is a historic and important milestone for the Kingdom of Denmark. The objective of this huge project is to define the outer limits of our continental shelf and thereby – ultimately – of the Kingdom of Denmark. It has been a process characterised by the very good cooperation not only between authorities within the Kingdom of Denmark but also with our Arctic neighbours,” the statement said in part.

At stake are rights to fishing areas and maritime commerce transit lanes in the Far North now that climate change has ben steadily melting Arctic sea ice. but also the prospect of huge petroleum, natural gas and other minerals. As much as 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13 percent of the is estimated to lie beneath Arctic waters.

All countries’ borders currently end 200 nautical miles from their coasts in the Arctic, leaving a vast patch of land owned by nobody. Denmark is following Norway, Russia and Canada in submitting a claim under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to a portion of the Arctic, according to the Financial Times.

The five Arctic countries — the United States, Russia, Norway, Canada and Denmark — all have areas surrounding the North Pole, but only Canada and Russia had indicated an interest in it before Denmark’s claim, according to the Associated Press.

Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard told the AP that the Arctic nations so far “have stuck to the rules of the game” and he hoped they would continue to do so. In 2008, the five pledged that control of the North Pole region would be decided in an orderly settlement in the framework of the United Nations, and possible overlapping claims would be dealt with bilaterally.

Map of Denmark's polar claim (black lines) and the Lomonosov Ridge in green. (Map courtesy of Kingdom of Denmark)

Map of Denmark’s polar claim (black lines) and the Lomonosov Ridge in green.
(Map courtesy of Kingdom of Denmark)

The area Denmark is claiming consists o approximately 895,541 kilometers beyond the 200 nautical mile limit, 200 nm from the coast of Greenland. The focus of the dispute, according to the BBC,  is the Lomonosov Ridge, a 1,800km-long (1,120 miles) underwater mountain range that splits the Arctic in two [see map].

*** *** ***

Defense Dept. photo

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Arctic. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic Region, where we seek to meet our national security needs, protect the environment, responsibly manage resources, account for indigenous communities, support scientific research, and strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

(Polar bears explore a surfaced U.S. submarine in the Arctic. U.S. Navy photo. For a better look, click on the image to enlarge)

December 17, 2014 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

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