CHAIRED BY: SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA)
WITNESSES: SENATOR LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK); SENATOR MARK BEGICH (R-AK); DAVID CARLSON, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL POLAR YEAR INTERNATIONAL PROGRAM OFFICE, LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM; SCOTT BORGERSON, VISITING FELLOW FOR OCEAN GOVERNANCE, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS; LAWSON BRIGHAM, CHAIR OF THE ARCTIC MARINE SHIPPING ASSESSMENT ARCTIC COUNCIL; LISA SPEER, OCEAN PROGRAM DIRECTOR, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL; MEAD TREADWELL, CHAIR, U.S. ARCTIC RESEARCH COMMISSION
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SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): The hearing will come to order. Thank you all for your patience. I appreciate it. We had a business meeting at the same time as we had a vote on the Senate floor so we've been a little bit pushed back and I appreciate your patience very, very much. We're really delighted to welcome you here and I'm pleased to welcome back to the committee Senator Lisa Murkowski who for all the obvious reasons has an enormous interest in this topic. And I think Senator Begich's going to be dropping by at some point.
This is the fourth in a series of just roundtables that we're having on the committee, which gives us a little more chance to sort of interact and allow you all to interact with each other. And the rules are pretty free flowing in that regard. I want you to feel free to, you know, just ask for the floor at any time or you know just politely weigh in, and if it gets out of hand, I will weigh in. But we'll try to keep a good discussion going to flesh out as much as possible the facts and implications regarding a broad range of public policy issues.
We also are going to discuss today the appropriate governance structures to manage the rapidly shifting Arctic landscape. As you all know and a lot of people in the public don't know, last month NASA released new data showing sharp declines in the extent of winter ice cover in the Arctic. In then past six years have produced seriatim the sixth lowest levels on record and the new data show that the percentage of thick and persistent ice shrank to its lowest level ever, just nine point eight percent of the total winter ice cover compared to 40 percent in previous decades.
This roundtable comes on the heels of the latest ministerial level meetings of the Arctic Counsel which took place last week in Fonso, Norway and the counsel's declaration expressed quote, "deep concern about the escalating warming of the Arctic and recognized global climate change as one of the greatest challenges facing the region." I was pleased to see the Counsel specifically recognize the threat taking place in the Arctic and we're very glad that you've been able to take time out of your schedules in order to join us today.
Dr. Lawson Brigham is an internationally renowned expert on Arctic shipping and transport issues and for the past four years has served as chair of the Arctic Counsel's Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment. The assessment was released at the Arctic Counsel's Ministerial meeting last week.
Scott Borgerson is a visiting fellow on ocean governance on the Council on Foreign Relations and has written extensively on arctic governance issues. He's the principle author of the council's recent special report on law of the see.
Dr. David Carlson is a veteran oceanographer currently based in Cambridge, England, and since 2007 he's served as the director of the international polar year program office where he's overseeing the work of thousands of scientists from over 60 nations working on a broad range of physical, biological, and social research topics focused on the Arctic and the Antarctic.
Lisa Spear is one of our nation's top experts on oceans and fisheries issues. She serves as director of the International Ocean's Program, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and her work there focuses on domestic and international marine fisheries conservation and management of short lived pollutants like methane and black carbon which have the potential to disrupt climate patterns over a very short time period.
So we have a diverse and impressive group of guests assembled here to help shed light on what is happening in the Arctic and how we should proceed. And as I mentioned, Senator Murkowski is a former member of the Committee and we're delighted to have you back here today and why don't I just turn to you, if you want to offer some opening words there.
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): Well thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the invitation to be back with you and to just I guess help guide initially the discussions on a warming arctic. It is a subject that I speak often about and I obviously speak passionately about because it is my home. I do want to acknowledge a friend of mine, a fellow Alaskan Mead Treadwell who's chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission who's also part of the panel today. We've got a great group of individuals to speak to what is happening up north and the consequences. So I appreciate your leadership on this and the opportunity to draw greater public attention to what is happening.
You have mentioned the recent NASA data and that is important and we all want to be guided by science but I will tell you as I am back home and talking to elders and people out in the villages that live along the coast line about what they are seeing, they haven't been waiting for any data from NASA. They're telling, you know, we can see that there are changes in the Arctic. Their hunting patterns are changing, whaling is getting to be a more dangerous activity as they have to go further and further off shore. They are living the changes that we are seeing and recording scientifically.
I will let the panelist speak to some of the specifics in terms of what we're seeing with marine transportation. I welcome and am so pleased that the shipping assessment which has been underway for so long is now before us, but I think that we recognize that the maritime activities that we are seeing up north related to the transportation of goods, oils and gas, tourism, research, as the Arctic warms, all of these are going to increase.
I'll share a story with you, Mr. Chairman.
Folks in Barrow a pretty isolated community at the top of the world there several years back woke up one morning and there was a boatload of Germans in town. Well, you might not think that that is odd, but there has never been a cruise ship up there, they didn't know that the cruise ship was coming through, but the German tourists were offloaded and got to spend the day, maybe they spent more than a day, but it's kind of like this is a time warp, where did these people come from? Well this is what happens when you have opportunities as they present themselves. But as we know, these opportunities also present great challenges.
I had an opportunity when Senator Clinton was before our committee at the beginning of the year for confirmation to bring up the issues of the Arctic, to bring up the issue of ratification of the law of the sea treaty. And I am so pleased that she as the Secretary of State understands and fully appreciate the geopolitical issues that we face up north. This is not just about increased shipping traffic, this is about, and some will say it's a race for resources. In terms of the dispute over boundaries, we look at the Arctic up there and once you go offshore, there's no clear definition as to where those boundaries are. And until there comes a time when it's important to define those, it's okay and we can be pretty happy with our neighbors to the right, the Canadians, our neighbors to the left the Russians. But when there's a resource at stake, whether it's the fisheries or whether it's the mineral resource, all of the sudden the geopolitical issues become that much more focused.
I will point out a few things that I would hope that as a committee and as a Senate we could be looking to as we look at the Arctic. Lots of issues of priority but one where I think the Committee can really take leadership is ratification of the United Nations Convention on the law of the sea. I would suggest that the Committee expeditiously hold a hearing to frame this issue, inform new committee members and allow them to see the broad support for ratification. We've had an opportunity to speak to that. I would also hope that the committee could further engage the White House and get the administration to strongly support ratification and put resources behind that effort. Mr. Chairman, I will stand by you to help in this effort.
Another priority that I'd like to mention is the recently released National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive on the Arctic Region Policy. This is the first Arctic policy since 1994. There were many here at this table who worked very, very hard to advance that. It acknowledges the United States as an Arctic nation. We are an Arctic nation, we need to act as one, and the policy recognizes that the recent developments in the Arctic primarily due to the impacts of climate change and reduction amidst the ice are happening at a rapid rate and I would certainly encourage the committee to familiarize themselves with the policy and to support the implementation. The Committee could also assist the State Department in the development of an Arctic treaty for fisheries in response to the Senate resolution that was passed last Congress.
And then one final item if I may, Mr. Chairman, is the issue of ice breakers, polar ice breaking capabilities. If we're seeing a global chess game playing out in the Arctic, then I would suggest that the U.S. is playing with a serious shortage of pieces. At present, the Russians have 18 ice breakers and they're planning on building three more, Finland has seven, Canada has six, here in the United States we've got two ice breakers, one of which, there's a third one but it's in caretaker status. Even China, which has no Arctic waters, has an ice breaker, so I would encourage the committee to strongly support increasing the U.S. ice breaker fleet and replacing the two aging polar class vessels.
Mr. Chairman, we've got great comments that I know will be added, but I have additional meetings this afternoon so I won't be able to stay much longer, but I thank you for your leadership in putting the spotlight on so many of these important issues to us.
SEN. KERRY: Well thank you, Sen. Murkowski, we really appreciate those opening comments. It's a great intro and personalized and I just hope you are going from table to table in the Republican caucus and spending a lot of time sharing it with them.
SEN. MURKOWSKI: I hear that you gave an impassioned pitch at your lunch today, so --
SEN. KERRY: I did.
SEN. MURKOWSKI: I heard good reports back already.
SEN. KERRY: That's great to hear it. Word is spreading.
Though we're counting on you and I've talked to Dick, but we're going to try to line up our ducks and put pieces in order. I didn't forget -- (inaudible). I was going to come back after introducing her and conclude the task but I'm glad she introduced you well. And Senator Begich thank you for coming in. You want to make a couple of opening comments, too?
SEN. MARK BEGICH (D-AK): Thank you very much and Senator Murkowski laid it out very well, it's unique in a lot of ways as only two Senators that are of an Arctic state and some people in laughs would say an Arctic nation but it is a very unique opportunity. And the comments I just want to echo what Senator Murkowski said and when she mentioned ice breaker I was just going through some of my old mental notes that in the House Transportation Bill there's an ice breaker for the Great Lakes but not for the Arctic which you have to wonder about that and where it fits in the long term priority so it is an issue of grave concern.
Along with that, and again if I echo anything that Senator Murkowski has said already I just want to maybe put an emphasis point on it and that's the whole issue of the Coast Guard also up in the region which is going to long term. As the Arctic, when you thought about the mission of the Coast Guard a decade ago the Arctic would be not even really on their radar screen today, it is now on their radar screen they are not prepared to deal with the ever changing Arctic conditions and what that means in the sense of their lone responsibility where they will base or not base up there is going to long term impact us and something that we have to look toward.
The other, you know again if you went back 10, 15 years ago you wouldn't think of the Arctic as it is today and it's rapidly changing in the Alaskan Sea. If you look at the first people of Alaska, the Alaskan native community has seen this happening for generations. And they have already made grave concerns of what it means for their lifestyle, their culture, and what will happen decades to come. So having this roundtable and what will happen in the future around Arctic policy is exciting to me as someone who is new to U.S. Senate but something that I'm looking forward to because all the issues that Senator Murkowski laid out from the energy issues, the resource issues, transportation, the cruise ship one is a great story. I think it surprised not only the folks up north but many of us throughout Alaska that it's a new corridor of opportunity so again Mr. Chairman thank you for the opportunity to be here. I'm going to step out for just a couple minutes and be back in here, but I'm looking forward to the presentation and you definitely have a good round group here of presentations about the need in the Arctic and what it means over the next generations. Thank you very much.
SEN. KERRY: Well thank you very much. We're delighted to have you.
Lawson Brigham, do you want to lead off and then is there a particular order you guys want to go in? Then we'll just shoot around, how's that? Go ahead.
MR. BRIGHAM: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Murkowski, Senator Begich, thank you for the opportunity to speak about Arctic shipping.
SEN. KERRY: Let me just urge everybody if you can try to keep your opening comments around five minutes, that certainly will leave more time to kind of get into it back and forth.
MR. BRIGHAM: And as you said the timing of the roundtable was fortuitous. We just had the Arctic Council Ministerial and the Arctic ministers did approve this large and complicated study, Arctic lane shipping and assessments, the four year effort it focuses on marine safety and environmental protection and it was conducted in the counsel's group on protection of the Arctic marine environment. Just so you know that the main U.S. agencies involved in the Arctic research commissions Mead Treadwell, NOAA, Coast Guard, the Maritime Administration and the Minerals Management Service. The Department of State was a solid supporter throughout and as a funder. In terms of outreach and stakeholder involvement, this particular study is perhaps the most comprehensive study to date. We held 13 major thematic workshops around the Arctic and 14 town hall meetings in Arctic communities in all but Russia.
The AMSA (ph) report is a negotiated document, the recommendations, the findings, the narrative have all been accepted by the eight Arctic states following a very long and challenging negotiation process over five months.
Before I say more about the AMSA, a few comments about the context of Arctic marine shipping today, there are three main drivers. The first is globalization of the Arctic, natural resource development and trade with the attendant supporting marine transport systems as we heard already, the growing presence of the global marine tourism industry in the Arctic.
The second major point of course is the unprecedented Arctic sea- ice retreat, providing increased marine access potentially longer seasons for navigation.
And the third is the exploration, operations associated with determining the limits of the outer continental shelf during the last few summers. Operations of ice breakers have been throughout the central Arctic Ocean unprecedented in history of the Arctic.
I've selected just seven points that are more than 90 findings just to bring to the committee. The Global Maritime Industry is in the Arctic in the 21st Century in a big way. The vast majority of the voyages are destinational and regional in nature.
Second point, there is a lack of uniform and mandatory and nondiscriminatory Arctic ship construction regulations in mariner standards. Although the International Maritime Organization has a set of voluntary guidelines which is updating and improving, a lot more needs to be done in IMO. Today in the Arctic there are no specifically tailored mandatory environmental standards developed by IMO for ships in the Arctic.
Third point, future marine activity will include mostly non- Arctic stakeholders, multiple users in Arctic waterways, and perhaps most importantly potential overlap of new operations with traditional indigenous uses.
A fourth point the large number of uncertainties that define the future of Arctic shipping are essentially global in nature, legal in governance regimes, oil prices, the prices of hard minerals, climate change, sea ice variability, certainly new resource discoveries, transit fees, world trade patterns, the role of the reinsurance industry, technology, and many more factors, both regional and global factors. The answer also highlighted that UNCLOS (ph) provides the fundamental framework for governance of the Arctic marine navigation and IMO is the competent U.N. agency with a responsibility for issues related to the global maritime industry.
But despite the extraordinary retreat of sea ice, most of the potentially navigable regions in spring, summer and autumn should remain partially ice covered and the ice will be more mobile. Also importantly, the Arctic's winter ice cover will remain; therefore it's highly plausible most future ships operating in the Arctic would have some polar or ice class capability, that's the practical issue.
And finally, the seventh point, perhaps one of the most important ones in this study, is the general lack of marine infrastructure in the Arctic except for areas along the Norwegian cost and in northwest Russia missing and lacking include hydrographic data, charts, communications, adequate environmental monitoring of weather, sea, icebergs, search and rescue, aids to navigation, port facilities, environmental response capacity and more.
Two major points here, the vastness and harshness of the environment make conduct of emergency response significantly more difficult in the Arctic than anywhere else on the planet. And also the observation that work, I'm sure Dr. Carlson mentioned this too, the observation network of maritological (ph) and oceanographical observations important for safe navigation is extraordinarily and extremely sparse.
The answer has us recommendations in 17 categories. The three areas which we have addressed, enhancing Arctic marine safety, protecting Arctic people and the environment, and building the Arctic marine infrastructure, responding to each theme requires extensive international cooperation and very forward reaching public/private partnerships.
I'll summarize that the answer's a baseline assessment, in many ways a strategic guide for not only the Arctic states, but for the global maritime industry. For the United States as the lead country in this effort, the answer is not only an important and lasting contribution to the future of the Arctic and its people, but a key guide for addressing the many challenges of marine use along Alaska's extensive maritime Arctic.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much, very helpful. Mr. Borgerson.
MR. BORGERSON: Thank you Mr. Chairman and Senator Murkowski and Senator Begich. It's an honor to be here and applaud your leadership for turning our attention as a country to the Arctic. We are one of the last Arctic coastal nations to take the melting Arctic seriously and as I'm sure we'll hear from others, the Arctic sea ice is melting far more rapidly than policy is able to keep up with it. The dynamics of the climate change are quite complex, we don't fully understand them but the models have been consistently too conservative on predicting actual observed sea ice loss and just at current rates of melt, the Arctic will be ice free in summer by 2013.
So whether it's a few years before that or a few years after that, that's not 2050 or 2100, that's sooner rather than later and it's past time our country gets serious about what we have to do there.
Second I think we're also at a unique moment in history with regards to the geopolitics of the Arctic. I think there's a lot of science for optimism there. The international polar year was a tremendous experience of cooperation along many countries, not just those with Arctic coastlines and sharing scientific information. There is a collaboration on mapping the seafloor for the submission process for the commission along this continental shelf.
There are a lot of reasons for which to think that the Arctic will unfold peacefully. There are also I think a lot of reasons to believe that the Arctic and Senator Murkowski I think pointed out some of these, that there is cause for concern. There's unclear jurisdiction in bordered lines of sovereignty not just in terms of potential continental shelf overlap, but also in terms of application along the sea treaty to northwest passage or sea route, the article of the treaty that pertains to ice covered waters, article 234, disputed maritime boundary lines including with our neighbor and largest trading partner Canada, and Russia I think particularly leaves reason for concern. They've recently resumed strategic bomber flights over the Arctic. Interestingly and some think ironically or I think it's to be determined, on the eve of President Obama's first foreign visit to Ottawa, the Canadians had to scramble fighters to turn Russian bombers back away from Canadian airspace.
They deployed naval combatant vessels to the waters off the Svaalberg (ph) Islands, where they dispute the treaty with Norway and some of the rhetoric that's come out of some of the Arctic countries, some of it for political ends, but it's less, it hints at a future that perhaps is one not of cooperation and the Arctic has all the ingredients history would tell us of great resource potential with nearly a quarter of the world's undiscovered but technically recoverable hydrocarbons, shipping choke points and key shipping strategic routes, and borderlines of sovereignty that could be a toxic brew.
So with that geopolitical sort of context, I go into far greater detail on those issues both in my formal remarks that I've submitted for the record as well as the report that the council published yesterday that I know you have a copy of on the log at sea, I go into farther detail on those publications. But those general are a few points of context I'd like to offer in concluding here, just a few suggestions on perhaps a way ahead for U.S. policy.
So first I think the overall theme of our foreign policy approach to the Arctic should be one of cooperation, robust diplomacy, but also hedging to protect and safeguard U.S. interests.
And I'll give some specific examples of what I mean by that.
First and foremost I totally echo Senator Murkowski's point that it's past time that the United States finally accede to the U.N. conventional law of the sea. It's not just germane to the Arctic but germane to many national security, economic, environmental interests that are directly tied to U.S. national interests and we are among the company of Syria and North Korea and Libya as remaining outside being official state party to the treaty, we need to sign that treaty to protect U.S. interests in the Arctic first.
Second, I think the renewed Arctic policy the NSPHSP that was mentioned was a vast improvement on the previous '94 policy. I gave it a B+ overall. But in one area that it fell particularly short was ice breakers. It did not mention the need for funding for new ice breakers, we desperately need them. Because of some ship building deficiencies in this country, I think it will take at least a decade to build a new ice breaker at considerable cost which could be five years after the Arctic is already ice free in summer. So we need to get on with building ice breakers yesterday.
Third, while there's much discussion given to a mitigation strategy for climate change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there has been less attention given to a national adaptation strategy to deal with those issues that we will face as a country such as rising sea levels and droughts, contests for fresh water, Arctic is near top of our list and I think Alaska gives us much to learn, particularly from the indigenous communities there on a national adaptation strategy in which the Arctic should figure prominently in.
Fourth, Canada is a special partner for the United States and I think where there are some areas of disagreement, for example northwest passage, there's tremendous opportunity to work collaboratively with our Arctic partners in Canada on addressing these issues, whether it be shipping, science, pooling search and rescue resources, policing the waterways and I think we should make the policy priority to cooperate with Canada.
And the last two, in the spirit of robust Arctic diplomacy, I think because the sea ice is melting and there's a literal sea change in that region, but there's a unique opportunity for renewed American multilateralism there to pursue new ideas in American diplomacy that is a great American foreign policy tradition. I've written on some of these ideas like throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks, but one idea might be championing a marine polar preserve, a polar park at the North Pole, it's a few degrees of latitude procedurally this could be done via the law of the sea convention for a protected marine area for scientific research in the Arctic. Or creating a --building on the Luseat (ph) Declaration, a voluntary set of guidelines coming out, a statement on Arctic cooperation, try to point the geopolitical development of that region in a cooperative direction by the Arctic coastal states or building on a foundation of the Luseat (ph) Declaration and there are others.
And lastly I'd like to particularly mention the indigenous communities who live in the Arctic. On the lower 48 we tend to forget that there are many people and patriotic Americans who make their home there. Constituents of Senator Murkowski and Senator Begich and they are the people who are first hand experiencing these changes and I think have a tremendous amount to offer us in the lower 48 both in terms of the resources that they can help with in terms of search and rescue or monitoring or other sorts of issues to just a general world view in building on their millennium of experience and with a sense of humility I think we should listen to the wisdom of those elders as we shape our foreign policy as a country as we approach this region.
So the general sort of theme I'd like I guess to end with is that this is a unique moment in the development of the Arctic region in terms of its geopolitics. A unique moment as a country for the United States. We need to first and foremost my strongest recommendation echoing Senator Murkowski is to finally get on the with the business of acceding to the Law of the Sea Convention, and that the overall spirit of U.S. foreign policy in this region should be to cooperate but still hedge in order to safeguard U.S. interests.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much. Mr. Carlson.
MR. CARLSON: Thank you very much.
SEN. KERRY: Just push the, is the button not working there? Push the button, it'll turn red. Is it working?
MR. CARLSON: We don't see any red, we'll work this way. Thank you very much for inviting us. On behalf of the thousands of researchers around the world and the many countries who participate in an intentional polar year it's a pleasure to speak.
The International Polar Year has stimulated intense focus on the Arctic. The number and capability of modern research tools that are in, around or above the Arctic, the skills of the observers and the modelers, and the international cooperation exceed any deployment in any ocean to date. I'm going to talk quickly about the three major ice masses in the Arctic. We've talked about sea ice, we must also talk about the Greenland ice sheet and we must also consider permafrost. I will also report very briefly on the marine ecosystems and the terrestrial ecosystems which are tied to those ice masses and I will, like Scott, make a comment on northern communities.
For each of these systems, I will bring you the IPY assessment in terms of probable, very likely changes, and also plausible changes.
I must start with a word of caution, however, for three reasons. Making predictions in the Arctic is extremely difficult. The first factor we've heard about is the speed of change, all of these ice masses change must faster than we even thought possible. It's very likely that the ecosystems are changing that quickly as well.
Second, these systems will continue to show very great variability from year to year and from region to region. In fact, one of the things the models show very clearly is that this variability is going to get greater.
The third factor involves the interactions among these components; sea ice related to permafrost, ecosystems related to social systems, etc.
So, with speed of change, extreme variability, complicated interactions, the Arctic puts great challenges in front of us just when we most need this predictive skill.
So, let's start with sea ice. Most people in this room know that Arctic sea ice shrank to its lowest summer extent in nearly 30 years in 2007 and 2008. We can also report that Arctic sea ice has lost half its thickness in the last decade. The probable future: summer time ice free conditions across most of the central Arctic -- not the peripheral Arctic, the central Arctic -- within the next three decades. A plausible outcome -- the one that Scott reported -- is that those summertime ice reconditions are much sooner within the next decade.
But, again, Arctic sea ice will remain highly variable from year to year. It will shift to one side, its extent will vary from year to year and so prediction and real time monitoring, as Lawson described, will remain a highly challenging requirement for the future Arctic.
Let's talk next about the Greenland ice sheet. A clear consensus has emerged during IPY that the Greenland sheet will disappear as a consequence of this current global warming.
The Arctic Council has underway an urgent assessment of that change to understand the net mass balance change of the --
SEN. KERRY: Is that a new -- is that an IPY assessment or is that previous confirmation?
I have not heard the judgment that it will to a certainty disappear -- (inaudible) --
MR. CARLSON: My language is -- it's actually very clear to pertinent to your question.
The consensus during IPY has emerged that it will disappear during this warming.
An urgency to answer the next question, which is how fast -- the Arctic Council has an assessment underway at this moment looking at the net changes in the Greenland ice sheet and I don't want to prejudge that, but I can give you a plausible -- very plausible -- outcome, which is a meter or more of sea level rise in this century from Greenland alone.
That is a -- will be an IPY outcome.
SEN. KERRY: A meter or more from Greenland this century?
That I've seen, but when do you get -- when you get the west Arctic -- Antarctic ice sheet coupled with the Greenland ice sheet, that's when you get to your 16 to 23 feet when they've totally disappear?
MR. CARLSON: Not in this century.
SEN. KERRY: Correct; right.
But that is a total eradication of those sheets -- the combined sheets?
MR. CARLSON: Yes.
SEN. KERRY: The combined sheets.
MR. CARLSON: Those two sheets -- 10 meters of global sea level.
But, I'm only treating Greenland in this assessment.
The IPY assessment on west Antarctica will not be as clear as the assessment on Greenland.
SEN. KERRY: Is there a consensus with respect to the increased rate of melt?
MR. CARLSON: Yes; absolutely. In both regions.
SEN. KERRY: And, is that quantified?
MR. CARLSON: Yes; from where we were in IPCC four years ago of centimeters per decade to tens of centimeters per decade.
If you were a betting person, we haven't hit the maximum yet. That's where we are.
Again, Greenland is the one that we have the most urgent focus on at the moment.
Permafrost; permafrost occurs throughout the Arctic. The Alaska senators and the Alaska representatives can talk about infrastructural changes related to permafrost.
New modeling results in IPY show that permafrost -- the faster the sea ice changes, the faster permafrost changes. It's a very interesting coupled system. So, the probably outcome is permafrost will do exactly what sea ice has done; it will disappear faster than we though possible and the permafrost under the ocean floor, the sea floor permafrost, is probably the most vulnerable.
Now, a plausible outcome is that it's possible that methane from that permafrost is already having an effect on the global greenhouse gas budgets. Two new reports from IPY this last fall, suggested that we're seeing methane emissions that are surprising and probably at least (hemisperically ?) significant.
SEN. KERRY: Does that also factor in the Siberian ice shelf study that showed columns of methane coming up in the Arctic out of the sea bed?
MR. CARLSON: Yes, exactly.
That's one of the studies and the other one was done in Greenland, which showed the methane emissions continue into the fall when we thought they stopped in the summer.
Let's turn to the ecosystems --
SEN. KERRY: I'm glad I came today.
MR. CARLSON: The focus of IPY in the Arctic has been to discover really exquisite interactions and dependencies on sea ice; everything from the small organisms at the base of the food chain to the top predators.
In several regions, we already observe a shift from a sea ice ecosystem to an open water ecosystem and in both the Pacific and the Atlantic, we see the invasion of North Atlantic and North Pacific species into the Arctic. So, a very probable future for the marine ecosystems is that many ice adapted marine species of the Arctic will go extinct.
Terrestrial ecosystems; we can think of the Arctic terrestrial system as a vast northward migration of plants and animals. They come with a host of infestations, parasites, pathogens; all the things that annoy us in the temperate regions. In this migration, the northern most plants and animals have no where else to go. They've run out of territory.
So again, a probably outcome is that the high Arctic plant and animal ecosystems will go extinct.
Finally, northern communities; its clear that for millennia, the northern residents have experienced and adapted to very local changes in climate, in food resources, in governance, in disease exposure and in both internal and external forces on their economics.
A very probably outcome is that the resourceful northern communities will survive and perhaps even thrive, but with substantial changes in their language, their traditions, their cultures and their social systems.
A plausible outcome -- and I'm glad Scott mentioned this -- is that global citizens will learn from what's happening in the Arctic and respond to the changes that our northern neighbors already see.
So, a very short summary; I've ignored a lot of other things that I'd be wise doing on global weather systems, on contaminants, etc., but I wanted to give you a glimpse of the very rapid changes that are underway in the Arctic with high variability and this extensive interconnection.
The information I present represents the hard work of careful analysis and creative insights of hundreds of researchers. I have to say I admire their energy and enthusiasm and I appreciate the gracious support and information that they've provided to me. Any errors in fact or interpretation, are mine alone.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much.
MS. SPEER: Thank you, Senator Kerry.
I too, wanted to echo something Scott said, which is that an awful lot of attention of being paid these days to the Arctic as a poster child for the need to deal with CO2 emissions, carbon, etc, and very little attention, comparatively, is paid to how to help this region cope with the incredible changes that are coming.
Those changes are happening much faster than our policy can keep up with, our science can keep up with and even our modeling can keep up with. We're truly in an era of unprecedented levels of change.
I'm going to talk about fisheries very briefly and it's sometimes helpful to just show a map briefly and I apologize to the people in the back of the room. Just to give you an overall sense; this is the picture -- I'm sorry about the quality of this map, but -- there are about 150 species of fish, depending on who you talk to. Most of them are not endemic, what contrasts with the Antarctic.
Three of them tend to be very circumpolar oriented; Greenland Halibut, Capelin and Polar Cod. The rest of the species can occur both within the Arctic and further south; those include the Pacific Cod, North Atlantic Cod, Capelin, Herring and a few other species.
The governance regime that controls these fisheries right now consists of the East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, which is NEAFC; it covers roughly this area here. NEAFC has done a reasonable job in trying to attempt to deal with IUU fishing; they have a number of positive attributes to their management regime.
On the other hand, a lot of the species that NEAFC manages have not been doing well. They have the typical problems that regional fishery management organizations suffer from; lack of agreement on quotas, opt out provisions, tax exceeding beyond typical science advice, etc.
Then you have NAFO to the east; same problems largely. Then, in the doughnut hole of the central Bering Sea, which manages Pollock, you have the doughnut hole agreement, which is a very forward looking agreement.
In the west of this area, there is nothing; there is nothing that controls fishing in the Arctic outside of those regions, with the exception of if you count the Western and Central Pacific Convention, which has no determined northern boundary as does the NASCA agreement that deals with salmon.
So, the question is then, how are CO2 changes going to affect fish in the Arctic and there are several ways; one is warming temperature, one is decreasing salinity, loss of sea ice is obviously critical, acidification and then increasing industrial activities that are made possible by the loss of sea ice, including oil and gas development, shipping, cruise ships, etc.
How those changes are going to affect different fish populations is very difficult to predict with any great deal of accuracy. But, what the Arctic climate impact assessment has told us is that those fish that have a southerly range and are limited by temperature will tend to expand north and their populations will increase; this includes Pacific Cod, North Atlantic Cod and some of the herring species -- some of the flat fish.
The species whose ranges are constricted to the Arctic will, as David pointed out, run out of space; their ranges will contract and their populations are likely to decline. The think about Arctic marine ecosystems is that they tend to be fairly simple; they're species poor. There is not as much trophic redundancy as there is in many other marine systems or our terrestrial systems further south.
So, each piece of the Arctic if important to maintain and hang in there because there are not a lot of replacements. In the west, for example, if you pull out the mountain lions, you have coyotes, foxes, wolves; that's not the case in the Arctic. You don't have as many replacement species that can come in and fill trophic roles as you do in southern areas.
So, that's one characteristic. The other characteristic is that we know very little about these fish. We really have a very severe shortage of information; particularly about the fish on our side of the Arctic as opposed to the other side of the Arctic where there has been fishing going on for quite a long time.
It's this lack of information and this fragility of Arctic ecosystems that led the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to take a very proactive and precautionary step when it adopted in February a plan that essentially would stop commercial fishing north of the Bering Strait -- essentially stop commercial fishing there; there are a few exceptions -- north of the Bering Strait and until we have enough information to assess what's up there now, how climate change is going to affect what's up there and whether those species can sustain fishing, if so, how much, by which gear and which species.
Alaska's taken this extraordinary step and it was paralleled by the Senate Resolution that was mentioned earlier that called on the United States to negotiate agreements for the high seas and the Arctic, but also to support a halt to fishing on the high seas until we get a management regime in place; which we think is really very important.
Given what Alaska has done and given the urgency for change, what needs to happen?
First of all, what Alaska has done will not be as effective as one might hope if we don't have a rational plan for managing in an integrated way multiple human activities that have the potential to affect the same ecosystems. For example, if we put off limits to trolling in particular spawning areas, but then an oil and gas rig goes in there, it's not going to help.
Similarly, if the U.S. takes a very proactive role in planning for its own zone, but we cant get the rest of the world to come along with us, its not going to do us a lot of good.
SEN. KERRY: Come along with us with what?
MS. SPEER: Well, a couple of things.
The U.S. has begun to, as I understand it, talk to other countries about taking a similar approach to Arctic fishing as Alaska has taken. My understanding is they are not getting anywhere. I think part of the problem is the conversation is happening at the wrong level. We really need leadership; that's the single most important thing.
This conversation has to be jacked up about six levels; we need to be having this conversation with Secretary Clinton. President Obama is meeting with Medvedev in July; this ought to be on that agenda.
Unless that conversation really gets elevated, I'm afraid we're not going to be able to achieve the kind of changes we need to achieve.
So, if I can leave you with one message, it would be that a role -- a very important role -- for you, Mr. Chairman, with Senator Murkowski, Senator Begich, would be to really try to push the administration to take this issue on and -- I think it's -- the political stars are lined up, domestic, politically; you've got Democrats, Republicans, fishermen, environmentalists; you've got a good alignment domestically and it's a good opportunity to hit the reset button with Russia.
SEN. KERRY: Well, let me come back to you.
I want to come back to this other witness -- the specifics of that are -- Mead, why don't you do your opening here --
MR. TREADWELL: Senator, thank you.
I'm going to start exactly where Lisa left off and just note that here we are in the Foreign Relations Committee, I've met you in a position when you had a Special Oceans Committee, I've met you in the Commerce Committee before; its my first time before this committee, but --
What's very interesting is we marked the 21st anniversary of opening the border between Alaska and Russia this coming month. During that time, it has been drivers essentially that have come out of this committee that have helped (science ?) cooperation between us and Russia. I can go back even beyond that to the 1972 Kissinger Agreement on the Environment, but it was the Nunn-Lugar Nonproliferation that got us money to work on nuclear contaminates.
It was supporting democracy development in Russia that helped bring together the whalers on both sides of the Bering Strait to go to the International Whaling Commission with much better data. It has been the common interest of the United States and Russia's Antarctic energy development; especially in Russia for energy security that brought together a lot of work on environmental issues there.
We lack a driver today. I think what Lisa said about pushing the reset button with Russia is very, very important and I would say that whether it's following up on the Senate Resolution on Fishing, whether its what we need to do on climate, we need to have a much broader basis for continuous relations with Russia.
(I can ?) in the Arctic Council as a leader of this commission sit on, in essence, a working group -- Antarctic Policy group -- that is a board of directors for the U.S. effort on the Arctic Council, but our efforts with Russia are stove piped across the government. You have the Park Service doing their thing, NOAA doing their thing, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service doing their thing; your committee dealt with the Polar Bear Treaty.
But, there's no real comprehensive coordination on our side either in terms of our scientific relationship with Russia in the Arctic, so we're going to try to encourage that as a commission and hope to work with your committee as that goes forward.
We've given some suggestions to Secretary Clinton as she goes to prepare for that meeting in Russia; the one issue she should look at, especially with Law of the Sea coming on, is access to sea Arctic waters. A very interesting point in Law of the Sea is -- and the commission supports it and has been working very hard with your committee on ratification -- but right now in the 1996 to 2006 period, 11 of 13 times Russia has denied requests by U.S. vessels to go into the Russian EEZ for research.
If you look at Antarctica, we can go anywhere. We can't in the Arctic and likely, after Law of the Sea as Russia's continental shelf grows, they're asking for 45 percent of the Arctic Ocean; scientific access will be reduced. So, this is something that the Arctic nations need to take on fairly quickly.
A second issue -- and this goes back to the first time I met you, Mr. Chairman -- was during the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 considerations, we sat up and we promised the American people a very strong effort for oil spill research. We set up an interagency committee, which does not meet now with any regularity.
We don't have much in the way of a continuous Arctic-Subarctic oil spill research program; we have a program at NOAA in New Hampshire and a program in Cordova, Alaska called the Oil Spill Recovery Institute. In about two weeks, there will be an on-water spill in Norway up in the ice with the amount of oil that you could probably fit into a cistern the size of this square, that will be -- it's a joint industry program, a very important program, but the fact is, is that we do not have a rigorous and continuous oil spill research program and we're relying on international cooperation to do it.
We're urging the government -- and I made this point at the White House this morning, we'll make it here, we'll make it -- I've made it with our delegation -- that its time to get the oil spill program back on track. We can do everything we can for prevention of oil spills in the United States, but the fact is Antarctica's energy problem is one where the Greenlanders are looking at drilling, the Russians are looking at drilling in the Chukchi Sea just near Alaska and ships may be coming through.
We need to have a much more robust program in research and we also need the ice breakers there to do that.
The third area in science cooperation I wanted to highlight for the committee is some of the work that the Arctic Council has pointed out that's very important. The Arctic Council Ministers, it's been mentioned slightly this afternoon, has set up a Black Carbon Task Force.
It turns out that some of the scientific assessment is showing us that perhaps half of the change in Arctic ice is coming from soot, black carbon and that these short terms forces may be things that we can reduce more quickly and with different mechanisms than we are searching for on CO2. That task force is one that will have a very important piece of work very quickly and I urge the committee to watch that.
Second, the point that Dave Carlson made about methane and, as you mentioned, in terms of Siberian shelf studies, the overhang of methane that could be released into the atmosphere with a 10 degree temperature change could equal in carbon effect what we have in the atmosphere today. It is a huge overhang there and understanding that is very, very important; it also another reason why we need to have strong relationships with Russia.
I have -- very seldom has the issue of contaminates been mentioned with climate change, but the bio accumulation of contaminates in the Arctic is a significant issue for Arctic residents; it comes up every single time we have a public hearing or public meeting in the Arctic. This committee has before it the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty, which has not been ratified.
For the sake of Arctic residents, it's probably the best international attempt to try to reduce those contaminants that build up in the Arctic and that move around more effectively in the food chain with the changes that are happening. So, I would urge the committee to put that on its agenda, as well as Law of the Sea.
Acidification has been addressed; the boundaries issue has been addressed. I would just say -- turn to governance for a second and say that besides Law of the Sea, one important phrase in the Arctic policy is that we seek a shipping regime that is safe -- that allows shipping to be safe, secure and reliable. I would put it this way -- you may want shipping and you may not want shipping, but this is not an ocean you can put a "Keep Out" sign on; it is an international ocean, so, we need to have rules to move forward.
What the U.S. plans to do with the Maritime -- with the IMO on the Maritime Code and on Search and Rescue I think are very important starts. I would bring to your attention the St Lawrence Seaway Agreement where (a master ?) sailing from the mouth of the St Lawrence to Chicago crosses the U.S./Canadian border 23 times. If there's one number to call to get your ship inspection to look at the set of rules and go forward and I think we could have this kind of organized cooperation with our partners in the Arctic.
That leaves me with just two other points, Mr. Chairman. First off, I have the privilege of sitting with Lisa Speer and some others in this room on an Aspen Institute group which is looking at the issues of Arctic governance and I would say, as someone who's been involved with Arctic governance for a long time, that we have a very special relationship there at the Arctic Council between the (issue ?) states and the permanent participants.
I think rather than necessarily building -- having the world impose new governance on the Arctic, that we look at the Arctic Council, strengthen it and then invite Arctic partners in -- other nations who will be working with the Arctic group and help bring in the investment. So, that's at least an idea that I wanted to put on the table that has many benefits in my mind, but including keeping the special indigenous relationship that we have.
The last point I'd make is that this is not a committee that deals necessarily with infrastructure; the ice breaker point has been made very well today. But I guess I would underscore the point that the infrastructure that we have in the Arctic and that we need for Arctic research relies not just on strong investments by the United States, but very strong international cooperation.
We finished a commission trip to Japan this fall; Korea will bring a new ice breaker to the front shortly. The oil research I mentioned is happening in Norway; we worked with Norwegian facilities and the (Allison-Russian ?) facilities, Canadian facilities and the international cooperation that's necessary to understand this.
If we don't have this and if we don't have the monitoring network, we may all go to Copenhagen and come up with numbers that are very important and very expensive to achieve, but if you don't watch what's happening in the Arctic background -- this overhanging methane, what's happening to sea ice and so forth -- we may find ourselves surprised.
So, there's a global interest in this.
SEN. KERRY: Well, there is a global interest and I'm becoming more and more alarmed by it, but what's the immediate governance option with respect to the methane?
MR. TREADWELL: I'd say -- well, I'd say that most important thing right now is to make sure we've got a good strong open door with Russia to track it.
The methane research program that several leading global methane scientists laid out in a GS article recently suggest that much more research needs to be done on taking that methane as a fuel, one way or another; its not an easy task, but its one where there should be some research.
In terms of the black carbon initiative, I'd say that has probably the greatest short term promise to maybe change some of the effects in the Arctic and if you reduce the warming that's caused by black carbon, you may have some benefits in keeping the methane in the ground -- the carbon in the ground from becoming methane.
I don't have a good answer for that; others here may. But in terms of governance, whatever we do to reduce (human ?) emissions can help that cascading effect.
SEN. KERRY: Who, if anyone, is -- I know in Russia there was some work done on tapping into methane sources, etc, but has anybody done any particularly significant demo projects or research into how one might commercially do that?
MR. TREADWELL: There is a joint project that -- a joint industry project that was agreed to between our Department of Energy and Japan last year, which is in need of some further government support and funding.
There has been some work done between Japan and Canada and -- I cannot tell you the promise, as much as I'd like to be able to tell you the promise, but in terms of the possibility of harvesting some methane, that's the approach that's been taken so far.
SEN. KERRY: Well, if you don't do that, at the current rate of warming and given the fact that what's already up in the atmosphere is going to continue to do the same thing its done already for the next 100 to 1,000 years -- we don't know exactly how long or what the rate of progression is, but it's a pretty dire outlook because it sort of guarantees you --
Let's see, if you did a cold turkey, stop cold shift now into a stabilized situation -- which we know we can't achieve -- we all know that's beyond our reach -- you'd still have a doubling of the warming that's taking place today. So, therefore, you're going to have X amount of methane coming out no matter what, which is 20 times more potent that carbon dioxide.
How do you manage -- what's the public policy response to that?
MR. TREADWELL: I guess I would just say that to the extent that black carbon is helping amplify the changes in the Arctic, if you can reduce that, that is one place we can start.
The public policy response to all of this is what Scott was saying about adaptation. We will try mitigation very, very hard, but there's a lot more to be done in adaptation.
SEN. KERRY: Well, when you say a lot more to be done in adaptation, be more specific. I mean --
MR. TREADWELL: You mean cost?
SEN. KERRY: Yes.
MS. SPEER: Can I speak to that?
SEN. KERRY: Yes, please. I want you all to jump in here, but I mean --
MS. SPEER: Yeah.
SEN. KERRY: The adaptation you're talking about at that point, if you're talking about the kind of methane releases that are potential, I mean, if there's, how many, twice the amount of carbon dioxide in methane? Is that the figure? How much more carbon dioxide is locked into the permafrost than there is carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?
MR. CARLSON: The total carbon in the permafrost equals the amount of carbon in all --
SEN. KERRY: Equal to?
MR. CARLSON: Equals the amount of carbon in all the terrestrial forests' biomass. So when we think of the great rain forests, there's that much carbon in the permafrost. Whether it comes out as CO2 or methane depends on biology and temperature and what it is right now. It's about half and half, but how much the microbiology users and how much escapes. I take Mead's point about black carbon. But the real methane problem is the sea floor --
MS. SPEER: Yeah.
MR. CARLSON: Deposits. And that's not, now that's an overall, that's an ocean temperature problem, not an air temperature problem. So your point about what are the implications, I think, is crucial. You know, it'll be like the North Pacific Fisheries. We'll work hard to negotiate a carbon treaty and all of a sudden, we'll find out we're releasing methane from our back yard sediment. So it has to be factored into the global carbon budget negotiations. There's no question about it.
MR. BORGERSON: If I could just add a quick word to that notion of adaptation. There's been 98 percent of the ink or attention given to climate change has to do with mitigation, a tax or cap and trade scheme. Those are very important and we need to get on with the business of doing that or the predictions you just outlined are dire. Less attention or energy is given to adaptation, which, in many ways, is, for average Americans, what's going to hit them first.
And so while we have lots of discussion about a national climate change strategy, it's always about mitigation and not adaption. So one of the first things we can do is start a national adaption strategy. Other countries have them. It has to do with some just basic infrastructure things, like sea levels are rising, so it affects where sewer pipes enter it, and basic things like that.
Assisting low income Americans with adapting to the change in the climate and such. The Arctic is sort of the far lines of this change, but if you talk to people from --
SEN. KERRY: How do you persuade public people to adapt to something that you haven't yet persuaded them is absolutely happening or going to happen?
MR. BORGERSON: Right.
SEN. KERRY: How do spend money on a speculative outcome?
MR. BORGERSON: Well, it's not speculative in many parts of the country, Alaska being one of them. There are parts of the country now that --
SEN. KERRY: Perhaps I should say, a perceived speculative.
MR. BORGERSON: Because they're defining small coastal states, islands, have had no problems getting national adaptation strategies because their existence is threatened by the reality of climate change.
SEN. KERRY: And does a widespread adaptation of an adaptation strategy invite a diminished response to mitigation?
MS. SPEER: I don't think that it's necessarily true, although I can understand the skepticism with which many people view the adaptation strategies. They think, well, this is just an excuse for business as usual and we're going to continue to emit as much carbon dioxide as we have in the past. I do think, though, that there is, without doubt, the most important thing is to get the CO2 levels, the carbon dioxide down and to address black carbon, to really try to minimize the increase that we're witnessing in warming and other impacts.
But Scott's right, that even if we were able to halt CO2 emissions tomorrow, there's enough warming in the system that, particularly in the Arctic, you're going to see dramatic changes. And we have an opportunity here to get into place management structures to help the region deal with those changes.
SEN. KERRY: What are the Arctic adaptations?
MS. SPEER: Well, they're --
SEN. KERRY: In a sort of prioritized way.
MS. SPEER: There are a bunch of them. Looking at the government's piece, we have no mandatory guidelines on shipping. We have no mandatory guidelines on oil and gas development. There's no management mechanism at all for fisheries in most of the Arctic. We have, there's no mechanism like they're doing in Massachusetts, to integrate management of multiple human activities and to establish cross-sectoral standards and marine protected areas.
SEN. KERRY: What's the best body to achieve that in?
MS. SPEER: Well, I know Mead made the argument that the Arctic Council is a body that we ought to work with, and the Arctic Council has been extraordinarily effective and successful at identifying issues of concern to the entire region and on assessing and on producing a lot of very incredibly helpful reports. But at the same time has --
SEN. KERRY: Does that mean that the Council should be transformed into a self regulatory entity?
MS. SPEER: Well, that's the question. Right now, it has no authority to make binding decisions. It has no permanent secretariat, it has no permanent funding.
SEN. KERRY: Should it be?
MS. SPEER: The question becomes then, is that body capable of developing an overarching regime that integrates all these different human activities that are coming up? I personally believe that the answer to that question is probably no, but I don't think it's helpful, at this point, to start debating whether a legally binding regime is better, whether a soft law regime is better. I think the point is, the existing network of fabric, of soft law and hard law, is not sufficient to get us where we need to be to deal with these changes, and getting the conversation going at a high enough level so we can actually make progress is really the most important thing at this point.
SEN. KERRY: So that really underscores the need to have this ahead of state level --
MS. SPEER: Yeah.
SEN. KERRY: Where people, and I think this is a very important point for us to focus on, where people are really accelerating the decision making process, whatever the structure might be. Is it your sense that that is best? Let me ask you this. What claims, I'm looking at the outline of the map that you were showing me, us, and obviously, Russia has the largest border, then Canada, I guess then Denmark, and then the United States, Norway, whatever. Does that have any bearing on, sort of, who has what rights and how it's organized? Where the organizing structure might be, so on and so forth? Yeah, Mead.
MR. TREADWELL: I'd say, there are five seafaring nations who have special rights under INCLOS if we ratify INCLOS to bringing some environmental regulation off shore. But I would guess a --
SEN. KERRY: Please emphasize that.
MR. TREADWELL: Sure.
SEN. KERRY: I really want to emphasize that for the record here. If we ratify.
MR. TREADWELL: If we ratify.
SEN. KERRY: I want you to say a word about the importance of that to this whole discussion.
MR. TREADWELL: I believe that whatever the arguments are against ratification, it's very important for us to be at the table as the Arctic external continental shelf is divvied up, as rules are made about, under Article 234 about extraterritorial environmental regulation. It does encourage us to set and refine our boundaries with Russia and with Canada, and the process of ratification and going through our claim will also help us understand the resources that we own in the Arctic.
The United States has to gain, with all of the extending continental shelf, land area greater than the size of two Californias. And if fisheries are moving north, these are very rich fisheries in the Bering Sea, they're a billion dollar a year industry, they are the biggest breadbasket for the United States that comes out of that region, we need to be in there with a governance mechanism that works for us, and the Law of the Sea is that mechanism.
MR. BORGERSON: Okay. If I could just add one additional thought to that. In addition to all the certain specific tangible issues that Mead and the rest of us laid out, there is also the broader issue of the moral authority of the United States to, when you're discussing ocean governance and additional, sort of thinking about how you build upon what exists now which is the constitution of the oceans, the Law of the Sea, which was amended to assuage U.S. concerns through the '94 agreement application, and we remain outside of that bill.
The United States fundamentally diminishes and undermines its authority in these forums to address ocean governance issues without being a state party. In addition to all the specific issues that Mead laid out. So it's a broader, sort of diplomatic one and every conference that all of us go to, or the speeches we give, the very first thing we almost always have to do is defend. It's impossible to defend why the United States remains not being a state party to this treaty.
MR. BRIGHAM: Well, also it certainly emphasizes the number one security interest of the United States in the ocean, to preserve freedom of navigation. Throughout the conduct of this study, we would talk to the Danish ship owners and the Norwegian ship owners and their number one priority was use of the ocean and freedom of navigation. Certainly, they would do it under, have their ships meet regulations in IMO.
I think missing, and one of the messages of the Arctic states is let the current U.N. organization, the IMO, particularly with regard to maritime transport, work the issues of environmental protection and safety, as slow as they are in working through conventions, but at least move in that direction to have mandatory standards and prevention standards.
So I think one of our positions, at least in the United States, should be to work through the recognized international organizations today, the National Hydrographic Office, IMO, the International Meteorological organizations, to work those issues. And the message of this Arctic shipping assessment is that together the Arctic states should work at these bodies together as a group, including our Russian colleagues.
SEN. KERRY: Would you put all of these issues into the same body? In other words, the adaptation pieces on fisheries, et cetera? Would you also put that under the same hat as a regulation of cruise ships or other kinds of shipping products? I mean does the whole thing come under the Arctic --
MR. TREADWELL: I'm going to make the argument, if a former NOAA official who is in this room, Tom Laughlin doesn't mind me using his name. Tom and I used to sit at Arctic environmental protection strategy meetings that could be held around this table, going back to the early '90s. I was at the Arctic council meeting last week and you couldn't fit that meeting in this room.
It's a much larger thing. Then, we were trying to get resources to get a few scientists to look at transboundary contaminants. I was sending people out of the State of Alaska budget because we couldn't find federal officials to go to some of these meetings. Today, you know, last week, we had a deputy secretary of state there, representing the United States, following up on Secretary Clinton hosting all of the foreign ministers here at the United Arctic --
SEN. KERRY: (Inaudible) --- was up there.
MR. TREADWELL: Yes, and so the point is that we have now given this forum very strong significance. Now, take a look at this study.
This is one issue. As you know, governments have been sending explorers to the Arctic trying to find shipping routes for over 400 years. This is a place where eight nations sat this captain down for four years, actually he was mostly on an airplane, and came up with a good, solid set of recommendations on how we do this safely and appropriately.
These nations then agreed to go out together to the IMO and ask for global help on the polar code, as Lisa mentioned, to ask for, to work with each other to set up search and rescue. To come back, I think this document, Mr. Chairman, is one of the best arguments for this Congress to take up the icebreaker issue, to make sure the United States has the chess pieces that Scott talked about. So, in many ways, what you have is you have a close group of people who know each other, even though there are several hundred people in that room, these people work together fairly closely now.
I count among close personal friends people from other nations and we have a lot of trust, and we have the indigenous people there at the table and that's a very, very important piece, that if you went to a global setting, it wouldn't work as well. But then, what you do is you decide what works for the people of the Arctic there at that table, and then you go to the larger international regimes to make it happen.
MS. SPEER: The question is how you integrate what you decide with shipping, if you designate a PSSA for shipping. And then, there's a whole separate regime for oil and gas that comes in and puts a drilling platform right in the middle. And then you have bottom trawling taking place in the spawning, you know, or in an area that's supposed.
There's more mechanism now for integrating the management, and what friends tell us is that for this region to cope, it needs to be as resilient and as adaptive as possible, and the only way to do that, it seems, is to make sure that your, you've got the right hand talking to the left hand and that you've got a coordinated system of management. And there's no question that the individual sectors need improvement. There's absolutely no question. But we have to have some mechanism for coordinating those, and there may be ways of doing that that are not having an overarching, I think there's a lot of flexibility there. The question is how --
MR. TREADWELL: Sure.
MS. SPEER: How do you --
MR. TREADWELL: Well, would you give up U.S. leasing decisions to a joint agreement with the Russians?
MS. SPEER: No, but what we could do is establish, for example, an Arctic wide convening of scientists to decide, okay, what are the key areas for the different species that we have, that we know are important to protect, and create a network of those protected areas. The decisions to protect them would still be under national jurisdiction, but you get people together and you say, okay, for this species, this species, this species, these habitats are crucial. Without these species, we pull this out and the whole systems collapses.
MR. TREADWELL: And I guess my answer to you is that we do that in our conservation of Arctic flora and fauna piece. I will say this, and I'm one who's probably changed on the idea of supporting a permanent secretariat for the Arctic Council, but as I told our deputy secretary last week, let's not do that without making sure we fund the projects that the Council has to do. We had to go around with a big tin cup to get this thing done, and it was not an easy job.
SEN. KERRY: Is that privately funded?
MR. TREADWELL: It has some private --
MR. BRIGHAM: Some private funding from BP Shipping but most of it was governments. Norway, the United States, Canada, Finland. So it's really mostly public funds.
MR. BORGERSON: If I could just say quickly the point of ocean governance, the Arctic and Mead and Lisa's exchange. It's not just an issue in the Arctic, however. This is an issue for all U.S. oceans of managing competing uses for the sea. We haven't gotten this figured out off of the eastern seaboard of Gulf of Mexico or Pacific coast either, much less the Arctic.
MR. MEAD: Yeah, no, I couldn't agree with you more.
MR. BORGBERSON: And --
MR. MEAD: Sorry.
MR. BORGERSON: The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative recently published a report with recommendations to the administration and to Congress, outlining a bunch of suggested reforms to help harmonize and integrate ocean management. So, I just want to make the point that, you know, these are acutely sensitive to the Arctic and we're very aware of it in the context of this discussion, but this is a much broader challenge for our country, not just in the Arctic but off of all of our coasts.
MS. SPEER: And one, I'll say one more thing and then I'll shut up. One big thing, though. The difference is, around the rest of the country, you already have entrenched industrial activity. In the Arctic, you have much less of that.
SEN. KERRY: Yeah.
MS. SPEER: You have some but you have much less, and it's politically a lot easier to get a plan into place before you Get that entrenched economic activity. But time is of the essence. We really need to move quickly.
MR. CARLSON: I take the point, and I think you made it well, of how do we wrap these together? It's very clear that the U.S. has to be part of the Law of the Sea and that territorial issues are crucial. But the ecosystems are changing just as fast as the sea ice is changing. So Lisa's point earlier of taking what Alaska has done or finding that, even while you're resolving the territorial issues, which is a decadal process, even if it goes well, we've got to be making progress on the ecosystem issues as well. Because otherwise, we'll say, fine, we've finally drawn the boundaries and we're not going to know. We're going to have no idea what's going on with the eco system.
MR. BRIGHAM: But the Arctic Council, though, is focused on marine environmental protection and sustainable development. And that may be, those are the areas where we probably can have peaceful solutions and camaraderie and work out some of the ecosystem's base management regimes. But when you bring in security, or global climate issues, it's much broader than the Arctic. So the Arctic Council is really targeted for what we're talking about today and I think the United States has been a good partner in this.
SEN. KERRY: Are cargo ships currently taking adequate precautions when sailing in the Arctic?
MR. BRIGHAM: If they're built to current standards that are adjudicated, really, in the classification societies.
SEN. KERRY: Is there a way within the government, with any current shipping structure, to include those and do with any specific set of requirements for Arctic sailing?
MR. BRIGHAM: Today, it's very problematic.
SEN. KERRY: Why?
MR. BRIGHAM: Why? Because there are no mandatory rules and they have to be, it's global industry. We need a global solution and IMO. So we need mandatory, not voluntary structural standards, mariner training, et cetera. And really the only way to get those through is through the IMO. Unless you have parochial based coastal state rules and regulations like Russia and Canada have. I think the position of the United States has always been to work things through IMO to have international standards which are nondiscriminatory.
SEN. KERRY: Do you anticipate that the data, I think I'm directing this to you, but that the loss of summer ice is going to provide a consistent open channel or is this going to be a year to year --
MR. CARLSON: If you look at it, it's going to be year to year but the year to year is going to be, is it on the Russian side, is it on the Canadian side? In most years, you're going to be able to go right straight across the middle without an icebreaker. You could have done it this year. So, if you watch what happened to Canada this year, Northwest Passage opened up for a couple of weeks. The forecaster said it's going to close. The wind blew the ice in against that coast and it was closed. So that the peripheral channels are going to become less important and the central route, calculated as number of days --
SEN. KERRY: Is that basically what happens? That whole ice sheet shifts?
MR. CARLSON: I mean, somebody made the point, that most of the central ice this year is last year's ice. We've lost the multiyear ice there. The multiyear ice is all on the Canadian side. Then you'll see a couple of years where it's all on the Russian side. So my point is, this thinking that we think about traditional routes along the coastal passages, that's going to b a different environment, and the straight route across the middle is going to be the most frequent.
MR. BORGERSON: Two quick supplemental points then. First is that this isn't the stuff of science fiction. I think Shipping Trade Newspaper recently published that the Russians have given permission for this summer to use the northern sea route as a shipping shortcut between the Pacific and the Atlantic, opening up to commercial shipping. So it's happening now, first. And second, there's been, Lawson is more expert in this than I, but huge advances --
SEN. KERRY: Why do they have to give permission? Isn't that international? (LAUGHTER)
MR. BRIGHAM: One good reason to ratify the Law of the Sea, Mr. Chairman.
MR. BORGERSON: And it's probably one good reason to sail straight across the top of the world rather than --
MR. TREADWELL: Yeah, the Russians and the Canadian both take the sea lanes off their shore and call them not international straits for international passage, but the Russians require you to pay a tariff and have an icebreaker escort. Canadians have their own set of rules, actually a very good law in place right now. We have, you know, you think of the --
SEN. KERRY: Where does the Arctic Ocean differ from the Atlantic Ocean or Pacific Ocean?
MR. TREADWELL: The Arctic Ocean itself does not. It's, you can sail a boat and I can sail a boat, and so forth, but if you're within the jurisdiction of the Northern Sea Route Authority off Russia, the Russians insist that you --
SEN. KERRY: Well, what asserts that authority?
MR. TREADWELL: That's a unilateral assertion --
MR. BORGERSON: One difference is the interpretation is what's called the Arctic Exception, Article 234 of the Law of the Sea --
MR. TREADWELL: Yeah.
MR. BORGERSON: Which is very vague, it's very short. It's a couple of sentences long, but it was written that way for the constructive ambiguities to allow Arctic coastal states to interpret how they want. So it's not been challenged in an international legal court or through arbitration on how exactly it might be applied. But it's through that article that Canada has, it's more stringent regulations, which were created as a result of the U.S. sending a ship through, and I think through that, that Russia would argue that it has the legal authority under the treaty to serve higher standards of regulations, but many people that you talk to will say that the icebreaker escorts or tariffs are less for that and more of an income generator.
SEN. KERRY: Would the cost equal transit plus icebreaker be less than going around through the Panama Canal?
MR. BORGERSON: That comes as a great question
MR. CARLSON: Yeah.
MR. BORGERSON: It's a moving target.
MR. CARLSON: Remember that that calculation of cost, which is a crucial issue, has to be made six months or 12 months ahead, because you're going to have to figure out your cargo, port to port, and have to know what's the center going to be, what the peripherative is going to be. So a few days lost because the ice closed in on you south of Victoria Island in Canada, even if the route is friendly from a governance point of view, is going to be an economic impossibility.
MR. BRIGHAM: Well, and we do say in the study, while we make no claims on which route to take or whatever, that it's the economic challenges. It's technically possible today to take ships across the top of the world, but it's really, in the economics, in the amount of sea ice that transits along. And then with cargos. All the cargos today, or most cargos, are time sensitive except for hard minerals, bulk cargo, and even carrying oil and gas, time sensitive cargoes. Who can use these routes effectively and economically? We will see, clearly in the next few years, as this summer experimental voyages will be really intriguing to see what our Russian friends, how they adjust their fees to give some advantage of use of their route.
MR. BORGERSON: Other moving pieces that are higher are insurance costs, the cost of bunkers, so a $50 barrel of oil is very different than a $150 barrel of oil, and infrastructure costs of ships. I mean, technology, in some ways, is there, particularly in Singapore and Korean shipyards to build ships capable of doing it now, but there are much higher capital costs to build those ships. So it's a complex equation to get to profitability, and I would just finish with the geostrategic piece of, what if there was something to happen to one or two canals, and what that might mean for Arctic shipping.
MR. BRIGHAM: I think for the Arctic states, though, we are saying that, because of the variability of the sea ice, that all ships in the future most probably have to have some polar capability, which makes it more expensive. That we won't envision or we don't foresee the free owner ships of the world coming from Singapore, let's say, to Europe, would just turn to port and come across the Arctic Ocean. I think that's problematic for the Arctic states and for all of us.
MR. TREADWELL: This is why I like to bring up the St. Lawrence Seaway model. You know, in relations between us and Canada, we put large political issues before the International Joint Commission but we drive down the operator level, the shipping issues in the St. Lawrence Seaway. So we have common approaches to invasive species, for example, or ships standards or inspection and that sort of thing. And imagine yourself as a master, sailing your ship north through the Bering Strait and given ice conditions, you may want to turn left, you may want to go straight, you may want to turn right.
Having a harmonized set of shipping rules is probably in our nation's interest and in the others, and as you know, our nation has done quite a bit to make sure that no one nation can shut off energy supplies which are in place. So, I mean, that's one place, I don't want to infer that I am disagreeing with Lisa's approach to being comprehensive. I just think that in and as we get the knowledge to be comprehensive, we're still going to be slicing this thing up in areas of expertise and in the area of shipping, finding a model that puts some governance there, that it also has to have one other fundamental thing.
It has to have the capability to invest. And the fact is, you could sit here and make rules in this room, and all the rules in the world aren't going to save lives if you don't have search and rescue equipment.
All the rules in the world are not going to be enforceable unless you have some way of tracking where ships are. No ship is going to operate safely without the ice centers being there.
And so, having the mechanism that's not just rule making but common investment, like we have in the St. Lawrence, is very important. The Coast Guard is beginning to think now about setting up an approach for the Bering Strait with the Russians that they are going to take to the IMO. It may be appropriate for this committee to consider a broader piece of legislation that empowers the United States to negotiate with its neighbors in the Arctic to come up with a more comprehensive regime.
SEN. KERRY: I'm not sure we have have, I mean, that might guide them. I don't think we have to empower them. I mean, I think they have that power.
MR. TREADWELL: Yeah. And see
SEN. KERRY: It just whether they want to do it. But we might think about whether we urge them to do it and that might make sense. What about, the coast Guard, what's the Coast Guard capacity up there, in terms of --
MR. BORGERSON: You have two former Coast Guardsmen here, and Captain Brigham was senior to me when he retired, so I should let him, I guess, speak for this, but not much would be the short answer to it. The geriatric icebreaker fleet, next to no infrastructure on the north slope of Alaska. Just moving air ASAPS from the air base in Kodiak is a logistical challenge, to just get to Barrow, much less to conduct operations there. Limited to no Coast Guard presence.
The Coast Guard would tell you that once shipping is there in the Arctic Oceans, we've heard from the other governance aspects of it, the U.S. Coast Guard mission is no different than any other coast in the United States that needs the capability to exercise. The Coast Guard today has very limited capability to operate there.
MR. BRIGHAM: The remarkable thing, Mr. Chairman, is that back early in Alaska's life, ships, famous ships of the United States, the Baron and the Corwin, went into the ice, conducted law enforcement, were really the marshals up in Alaska. Those ships were more capable than 21st century ships of the Coast Guard. Except for, of course, the Healy and the Polish Sea, but those ships are not normally operating in the ice around Alaska.
MR. BORGERSON: If I could just add to that, the Coast Guard remodernization program called Deep Water, which is replacing many of the old holes in the Coast Guard, it's one of the oldest fleets in the world, does not have icebreakers in part of that plan. So there is currently no funding for icebreaker replacement, and it's not in the Coast Guard's current authorized plan to replace its capital.
SEN. KERRY: Obviously, we need to address the icebreaker issues. There's no question of that. I have, I get to replace the quandary of the Arctic with the quandary of Afghanistan. (Laughter.)
SEN. KERRY: I get to meet with President Karzai in a few minutes. But this is very interesting to me and I've not thought through a lot of these issues as much as I should, and obviously, it's very challenging, but it's also very urgent, and I can sense that. So, it's in our interest, in our economic interest as well as in our national security interest to get on this fast. So we will do that, and use this as the baseline. At this meeting, I know we've scratched the surface of some of these things. The North Pacific Fishery Council banned fishing north of the Bering Strait and east over to Canada. What's the impact of that decision on the Fishery's management issue? Is there one?
MS. SPEER: That's a great question, that what we hope is that it will set a precedent, not only for fishery management in other parts of the Arctic, but potentially also for other activities in the Arctic. There, as you know, has been a breather on oil and gas development as a result of several developments in the courts and outside of them. It gives us a little bit of a window to think about how we want to proceed with development in the Arctic in a thoughtful way, and we're hoping very much that the leadership shown in Alaska by the North Pacific Council can be exported much broader beyond the Arctic. But again, it doesn't seem to be happening and I think it's because, again, the conversation is not happening at the right level.
SEN. KERRY: Yeah. Well, here's what I'd like to ask each of you to do. Your testimonies, to a degree, do it, but they do it frankly in a longer form than I want for this purpose. I would like to give each of you a little homework, if I can, and ask each of you, in a one page or two page maximum, just articulate in sort of fluid fashions, we've got our homework here.
Underscore the urgency of what you think is at stake, why it is critical for the U.S. to address this, in our own interest, if you will, as well as the global other interests, and how you might see us proceeding most effectively to address those things that you believe. Okay? Sort of 1, 2, 3? If you could get that to us in the next days. I'm going to leave the record open for a week, in case there also may be some additional questions in writing from us or from other members of the committee.
It would be very helpful to do that and I will follow up with Jim Steinberg and Secretary Clinton and we'll sort of figure out what their thoughts are and where we're all heading here. But this really is tied into the Law of the Sea. We've got to get that done and we're laying the groundwork to do it thoughtfully and intelligently here.
And we need your help to do all of the above here. But it's obviously, it's just critical. So let's see where we wind up. Anybody have anything that if you haven't said it, you're going to go home really unhappy?
MR. TREADWELL: I just want to say for the record that we're helping to cosponsor a conference on Law of the Sea with the Center for Law and oceans Policy. We'll hold it in Seward, Alaska the third week of May, which will have experts from around the world and so on for the record
SEN. KERRY: We should flag that for some of our members --
MR. TREADWELL: Yeah.
SEN. KERRY: If you would tap in to that.
MR. TREADWELL: I'm happy to facilitate that. Also on the point that Lisa made about fisheries, there will be a conference in Anchorage in October where the Arctic nations will be invited to sit down, hosted by the Department of State, to talk about fisheries and where to go from there.
SEN. KERRY: Good. That sounds terrific. Good.
MS. SPEER: I just wanted to thank you, again, for holding this hearing. I think this is a great format
SEN. KERRY: Yeah.
MS. SPEER: It's much more interesting and engaging and certainly for us, I think than --
SEN. KERRY: I wish I could persuade some of my colleagues of that. I find it much more informational, frankly, than the formal hearing. But I haven't persuaded everybody of that yet. So we'll keep working on it.
MR. BRIGHAM: I think you --
SEN. KERRY: Thank you all.
MR. BRIGHAM: That the agency is actually doing a pretty good job of bird-dogging these issues, particularly in preparation for Arctic Council.
SEN. KERRY: We stand adjourned. Thank you. (Gavel sounds)