arctic

Baltic brinkmanship amid NATO war games

Sweden's armed forces on June 15 issued a statement charging that a Russian military aircraft violated the country's airspace the previous day, calling the act "unacceptable."  The Russian SU-24 fighter plane reportedly entered Swedish airspace just east of the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, approximately 150 miles south of Stockholm. A Swedish JAS-39 Gripen jet was sent to intercept the Russian plane after a verbal call to retreat by the Swedish air command was ignored. The Swedish military said that the last violations of the Nordic country's airspace airspace by Russia were in 2022, when two Russian SU-27s and two SU-24s simiarly approached Gotland.

2023: 'bonkers year' for global climate

Records were once again broken last year for greenhouse gas levels, surface temperatures, ocean heat and acidification, sea level rise, and retreat of glaciers, according to a new global report issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) March 19. The WMO State of the Global Climate 2023 report finds that on an average day that year, nearly one third of the ocean surface was gripped by a marine heatwave, harming vital ecosystems and food systems—far beyond the already inflated levels seen in recent years. Antarctic sea ice reached its lowest extent on record—at one million square kilometers below the previous record year of 2022, an area equivalent to the size of France and Germany combined. Observed concentrations of the three main greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide—reached record levels in 2022 and continued to increase in 2023, preliminary data shows. (UN News)

Podcast: the looming breakup of Russia

In Episode 118 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the possibility that Putin's criminal adventure in Ukraine could backfire horribly, actually portending the implosion of the Russian Federation into its constituent entities, the "autonomous" republics, oblasts and krais. Troops from Russia's Far East were apparently involved in the horrific massacre at the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. But indigenous leaders from Siberia and the Russian Arctic are breaking with Moscow over the Ukraine war. Rumblings of separatist sentiment are now heard from Yakutia (Sakha), Khabarovsk, Kalmykia, Kamchatka, Tatarstan, Tuva, the Altai Republic, and the entirety of Siberia. China, which controlled much of what is now the Russian Far East until the 1850s, has its own expansionist designs on the region. Frederick Engels called for the "destruction forever" of Russia during the Crimean War, but it may collapse due to its own internal contradictions rather than Western aggression.

Russian indigenous leaders protest Putin's war

Exiled leaders of Russia's Itelmen, Kamchadal, Udege, Shor, Saami and Selkup indigenous peoples issued a statement on March 10 declaring that they are "outraged by the war President Putin has unleashed against Ukraine. At the moment, the entire population of Ukraine is in grave danger. Old people, women and children are dying. Cities and towns of an independent country are being destroyed because their inhabitants did not want to obey the will of a dictator and a tyrant." The statement adds: "As representatives of Indigenous peoples, we express solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their struggle for freedom and are extremely concerned about ensuring the rights of Indigenous peoples during the war on Ukrainian territory, including the Crimean Peninsula that remains illegally occupied by Russia."

Belarus 'votes' to abandon nuclear-free status

Belarus on Feb. 28 voted in a referendum to approve constitutional changes that include dropping the country's nuclear-free status. On the eve of the vote, President Alexander Lukashenko expressed his willingness to redeploy nuclear arms in the country's territory, saying: "If [the West] transfers nuclear weapons to Poland or Lithuania, to our borders, then I will turn to [Vladimir] Putin to bring back the nuclear weapons that I gave away without any conditions." 

UN climate report: 'Code Red for Humanity'

Climate change is "unequivocal" and rapidly intensifying, and some of the changes already in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years, finds the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released Aug. 9. The IPCC Working Group I report, "Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis," was approved by 195 member governments of the IPCC, having been prepared by 234 scientists from 66 countries. The report concludes that human influence has warmed the planet at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years. Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe—including heatwaves, droughts, and tropical cyclones.

Greenland suspends oil exploration, citing climate

The government of Greenland announced July 23 that it will suspend all oil exploration, saying the territory "wants to take co-responsibility for combating the global climate crisis... The future does not lie in oil. The future belongs to renewable energy, and in that respect we have much more to gain."  While no oil has been found yet, the US Geological Survey estimates there could be 17.5 billion undiscovered barrels below the territory's lands and waters. Many had hoped potential reserves could allow Greenland to achieve independence, compensating for the annual subsidy of 3.4 billion kroner ($540 million) the territory receives from Denmark.

Mining project behind Greenland political upheaval

In snap elections April 6, Greenland's indigenous-led left-environmentalist party Inuit Ataqatigiit (Community of the People) won 37% of the vote, overtaking the longtime incumbents, the social-democratic Siumut (Forward) party. At the center of the race was a contentious mining project that Inuit Ataqatigiit aggressively campaigned against. The Kvanefjeld rare-earth mineral project, near Narsaq in Greenland's south, has divided the territory's political system for more than a decade. Greenland Minerals, the Australian company behind the project, says the mine has the "potential to become the most significant Western world producer of rare earths," adding that it would also produce uranium. But the Chinese giant Shenghe Resources owns 11% of Greenland Minerals—raising concerns about Beijing's perceived design to establish control over the planet's rare earth minerals.

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