Planet Watch
Alaska

Trump admin opens bids for ANWR drilling

The Trump administration announced formal proceedings to sell oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Bureau of Land Management Alaska State Officeissued a call for “nominations” on several lease tracts considered for the upcoming Coastal Plain Oil & Gas Lease Sale, covering approximately 1.5 million acres of the refuge along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Lease sales could begin by January—but will likely face legal challenge, or reversal by the incoming Biden administration. President-elect Joe Biden’s differing approach to public land management includes “permanently protecting” ANWR and “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.” (Photo: USGS via Flickr)

Planet Watch
Alaska

Ninth Circuit approves drilling within Alaska reserve

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in favor of the US government, allowing oil drilling to proceed in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA). The court rejected a claim by environmental groups that a 2012 impact statement prepared for earlier drilling within the NPRA was inadequate to cover new planned operations by oil companies elsewhere in the reserve, a critical caribou habitat. (Photo: US Geological Survey via Flickr)

Planet Watch
NORILSK

Russia: state of emergency after Arctic oil spill

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency after 20,000 tons of diesel oil leaked into a river within the Arctic Circle. The spill went unreported for two days, which may have caused irreparable damage to the ecologically fragile region. The spill was caused by rupture of a fuel tank at a power plant run by Nornickel, the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer. The Russian government has launched a criminal case over the pollution and alleged negligence. The spill has caused large portions of the Ambarnaya River to turn a dark crimson, and is believed to be the second-largest in Russian history. An area of at least 350 square kilometers has been contaminated. (Photo: Russian Civil Defense via TASS)

Planet Watch
air pollution

UN climate talks delayed one year by COVID-19

International climate negotiations will be delayed by a full year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UK government announced. The next summit, dubbed COP26, was due to take place this November in Glasgow, but has now been put off to November 2021. Delaying the talks could encourage governments, industrial concerns and financial institutions to adopt recovery plans with high climate costs—such as a bailout for the oil companies. The postponement is particularly critical given the failure of last year’s summit, held in Madrid, to reach any agreement. (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)

New York City
James Bay

Podcast: the struggle for James Bay

“Who is James Bay?” That’s the frequent reaction from New Yorkers when it is brought up—despite the fact that James Bay is not a “who” but a “where,” and a large portion of New York City’s electricity comes from there. In Episode 44 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s so-called “Green New Deal,” and how maybe it isn’t so green after all. The mayor’s plan is centered on new purchases of what is billed as “zero-emission Canadian hydro-electricity.” But supplying this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec’s far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region’s ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn’t even really “zero-emission.” Listen on SoundCloud,and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Orin Langelle)

New York City
Rupert River

NYC ‘Green New Deal’ to fund mega-hydro?

New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio is aggressively touting his “Green New Deal,” boasting an aim of cutting the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions 40% of 2005 levels by 2030. Centerpiece of the plan is so-called “zero-emission Canadian hydroelectricity.” The city has entered into a deal to explore new power purchases from provincial utility Hydro-Quebec. But this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec’s far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region’s ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn’t even really “zero-emission.” (Map: Ottertooth.com)

Planet Watch
air pollution

UN releases bleak report on ’emissions gaps’

The UN Environment Program has released its tenth annual report on “emissions gaps,” finding that the current rate of global carbon emissions will lead to an average temperature rise of 3.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels by 2100. The report was completed by international scientists and specialists to assess where countries are in terms of their emissions levels versus where they need to be to avoid the worst damage from climate change. Inger Andersen, the executive director of the program, wrote in the foreword that “[o]ur collective failure to act strongly and early means that we must now implement deep and urgent cuts… This report gives us a stark choice: set in motion the radical transformations we need now, or face the consequences of a planet radically altered by climate change.” (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)

Planet Watch

Dorian’s devastation portends climate disaster

Hurricane Dorian’s slow, destructive track through the Bahamas fits a pattern scientists have seen in recent decades, and expect to continue as the planet warms: hurricanes stalling over coastal areas, bringing extreme rainfall. Research shows that more North Atlantic hurricanes have been stalling as Dorian did. Their average forward speed has also decreased by 17%—from 11.5 mph to 9.6 mph—between 1944 and 2017, according to a study by NASA and NOAA. Researchers think the stalling is caused by a general slowdown of atmospheric circulation—in turn caused by global climate change. The temperature contrast between the Arctic and equator is a main driver of wind, and this contrast decreases as the Arctic warms. (Photo: NOAA via Inisde Climate News)

Planet Watch

UN report on climate change calls for urgent action

A Special Report on Climate Change was released by the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and its links to desertification, land degradation and food security. The report warns that the “rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressures on fertile soil,” risks “jeopardizing food security for the planet.” The effects of global warming have led to “shifts of climate zones in many world regions,” further exacerbating land degradation, and leading to extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. The reports warns: “The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases.” (Photo of Tantaverom region of Chad via UNDP)

North Africa

Lavalin-Libya sleaze at issue in Trudeau turpitude

Canadian opposition parties are crying foul after an investigation into the corruption scandal rocking the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was shut down by a parliamentary committee dominated by his ruling Liberals. The affair concerns Quebec-based construction giant SNC-Lavalin’s apparent attempts to secure leniency from the Trudeau government in various criminal investigations it faces. Obstruction of justice charges were stayed earlier this year against Lavalin executive Sami Bebawi, on the ostensible basis that too much time had elapsed since the offense under investigation—which involved alleged bribes to the Moammar Qaddafi regime to secure construction contracts in Libya in 2011. The company is best known within Canada for controversial mega-projects under contruction from British Columbia to Labrador. (Photo: BC Hydro via Journal of Commerice)

Planet Watch

Will world war be October surprise?

Will an "October surprise" in the prelude to the mid-term elections in the US be the outbreak of world war—that is, direct superpower conflict? Things are escalating fast on the frontlines with both of the United States' major imperial rivals. The US Navy's Pacific Fleet is preparing to carry out a "global show of force" as a warning to China, after a near-skirmish between a US warship and a Chinese destroyer in the disputed South China Sea. Meanwhile, NATO is planning to conduct its largest military exercises since the end of the Cold War, Trident Juncture 2018, along Norway's border wth Russia. This comes as Washington and Moscow are odds over missile deployments, accusing each other of violating the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. (Image: Lockheed Martin)

North America

Bay of Fundy flashpoint for US-Canada war?

In what the New York Times somewhat hyperbolically calls a “clash,” US Border Patrol vessels have over the past two weeks stopped at least 10 Canadian fishing boats in the Bay of Fundy between Maine and New Brunswick. Canada has responded by beefing up its Coast Guard patrols in what is being termed a “disputed gray zone” between the two countries’ territories. The maritime dispute dates back to the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolution, and is one of several between the US and Canada—including fishing waters at Dixon Entrance between Alaska and British Columbia, and areas of the petroleum-rich Beaufort Sea, near the Arctic Ocean. (Map: ResearchGate)