The Heat Is Online

Nations Decline to Address Arctic Meltdown

U.S. and 7 Countries Weigh New Findings on Arctic Climate


The United States and the seven other countries with Arctic territory today expressed concern about profound changes in the Arctic climate and said they would consider new scientific findings concluding that heat-trapping emissions were the main cause.

But, in a move that disappointed environmental and Arctic indigenous groups, they did not agree on a common strategy for curbing such emissions.

The joint statement on Arctic climate, emerging after several days of negotiations in Reykjavik, Iceland, reflected the continuing opposition by the Bush administration to anything other than voluntary measures to slow the growth in such gases. This put the United States at odds with the other Arctic countries, all of which are among the 128 nations that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty poised to take effect in February that requires participating industrialized countries collectively to cut emissions below levels measured in 1990.

The other Arctic countries are Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, and Finland.

The talks took place at a meeting of the Arctic Council, which was created in 1996 to foster cooperation among the world's northernmost countries and six Arctic indigenous groups that participate in sessions but do not vote.

The statement followed the release on Nov. 9 of "Impacts of a Warming Arctic," a summary of a four-year assessment of high-latitude climate shifts done by 300 scientists at the request of the council.

The study documented an array of shifts in climate, ecosystems and ice conditions and concluded that "human influences, resulting primarily from increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, have now become the dominant factor."

The report said the changes could imperil traditional native communities and many species while offering some benefits like longer growing seasons and new shipping routes in ice-free waters.

In a speech to other senior officials at the meeting, the United States under secretary of state for global affairs, Paula J. Dobriansky, said that once the full science report is released early next year, "the United States will take the findings into account as it continues to review the science on climate change."

Environmentalists and representatives of Arctic traditional cultures said that the science was clear enough to justify stronger actions to stem gases linked to the changes.

"In terms of what the planet needs, this is far from enough," Sheila Watt-Cloutier, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, told Reuters. The group says it represents 155,000 Arctic residents in Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Russia.