On Friday, the State Department published a draft of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Keystone XL, which will inform the president’s decision later this year to approve or not approve the construction of the transboundary pipeline that could deliver an estimate 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil to the United States.
In a conference call on Friday, Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones noted that the EPA will officially publish the draft report in about a week for a 45-day public comment period. The president’s decision will come later this year, likely in the summer.
The 2,000-page report evaluates a number of issues, including the greenhouse gas emissions associated with Canadian oil sands and possible alternatives to the pipeline for transporting oil sands to the United States, including rail transport.
The oil sands, referred to in the draft report as Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin crudes, “are more GHG-intensive than the other heavy crudes they would replace or displace in U.S. refineries, and emit an estimated 17 percent more GHGs on a life-cycle basis than the average barrel of crude oil refined in the United States in 2005,” according to the report. “If the proposed Project were to induce growth in the rate of extraction in the oil sands, then it could cause GHG emissions greater than just its direct emissions.”
Dr. Jay Gulledge is a Senior Scientist and Director of the Science and Impacts Program at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Center for a New America Security. He is a co-author (with Dr. Rob Huebert) of Climate Change & National Security: The Arctic as a Bellwether, a new study published by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
Today the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions – C2ES, formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change – is releasing a new report, Climate Change & National Security: The Arctic as a Bellwether. The lead author of the report is Dr. Rob Huebert, Associate Director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.
Official military doctrine in the United States now holds that “climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked.” Nowhere is this linkage more clearly illustrated than in the Arctic, and that’s why we think the region is a bellwether for how climate change may reshape global geopolitics in the post-Cold War era.
As the planet has warmed over the past few decades, temperatures in the Arctic have been increasing at about twice the global rate. And the Arctic sea ice cover has been shrinking much faster than scientists anticipated. The five smallest sea ice covers ever recorded have all occurred in the past five summers. As a result, the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Archipelago has opened up every summer since 2007, and the Northeast Passage along Russia’s coastline has opened up every summer since 2008.
New and expanded shipping routes through the Arctic can cut the distance to transport goods between Asia, North America, and Europe by up to 4000 miles. We’re seeing increased interest and investment in oil and gas exploration. The United States Geological Survey estimates that 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13 percent of undiscovered oil lies in the Arctic. Russia likely possesses the largest share of any country. There’s also growing interest in tourism and fishing.
As the economic potential of the Arctic becomes more apparent, governments and militaries have begun to reposition themselves. What’s happening in the Arctic is the starkest example yet of the way climate change directly affects international security.
President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon met earlier this week at the White House and held a joint press conference in the Rose Garden on April 2, 2012. The three leaders discussed new avenues for multilateral cooperation, including advancing clean energy technology and combating climate change.
Photo: Courtesy of Chuck Kennedy and the White House.
A new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) finds that the build-up of Arctic military capabilities is limited, with few indications that conflict is looming. According to the study, all five Arctic states – Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States – have increased their military capabilities in the Arctic in recent years in response to growing accessibly to the region owed largely to climate change.
Some of the increased military activity is likely a response to the changing geostrategic environment that will make military capabilities increasingly important for power projection that states need to maintain in order to secure access to lucrative natural resources and other national interests. According to the SIPRI study, for example, “Russia’s Arctic policy underlines the importance of the Arctic as a principal source of natural resources by 2020,” and “Denmark’s defence policy underlines the changing geostrategic significance of the Arctic.”
Despite the increased deployment of military assets, Arctic states are continuing to pursue new avenues of cooperation, mollifying concerns – at least for the time being – that tensions will worsen as the region becomes more accessible. Last year, the Arctic Council – an intergovernmental forum for Arctic states to address challenges in the High North – hosted a high-level forum that led to an agreement for countries in the region to increase search-and-rescue cooperation given the growing concerns surrounding increased eco-tourism and commercial shipping that could portend future law enforcement challenges. Some states’ newly deployed military assets are intended for search-and-rescue purposes, according to the SIPRI study. Canada, for example, will replace older C-130s and other aging aircraft with 17 new search-and-rescue aircraft in the next several years.
Military activity is on the rise in the Arctic. The Canadian military, for example, is bolstering its presence in the region, in part to offset Russian influence and to prepare for the opening of the Arctic Circle to resource exploitation and commercial travel. In fact, this week, the Canadian military is conducting the largest military exercise to-date – Operation NANOOK – with some 1,000 troops, air and naval assets and unmanned drones. “All of this is very much about enlarging the footprint and the permanent and seasonal presence we have in the North," Canadian Defense Minister Peter McKay said last month in Afghanistan. “Members of the Canadian Forces say military capabilities are growing and becoming more complex in the North – a key component of reasserting claim to the region,” The Toronto Sun reported last week. “The Canadian military is not looking at what the issues are today but what are the threats and hazards that Canadians could see, governments could see, not only today, but in the future, to see what capabilities we could need to address those threats and hazards,” said Canadian Lt.-Gen. Walter Semianiw, commander of Operation NANOOK.
Russia has also taken steps to bolster its military presence in the Arctic. In July, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov announced that Russia would protect its territorial claims in the High North with an Arctic military force. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made a similar pronouncement in July: “We are open for a dialogue with our foreign partners and with all our neighbors in the Arctic region, but of course we will defend our own geopolitical interests firmly and consistently." According to published reports, “Moscow plans to build at least six more icebreakers and spend $33 billion to construct a year-round port on the Arctic shores.”
Continuing our review of our English-speaking allies’ security reviews, today we feature an excerpt from Canada’s January 2009 report The Future Security Environment 2008-2030, Part 1: Current and Emerging Trends. It’s amazing what a difference a few degrees of latitude makes on the national security implications of climate change.
From the section entitled “Environmental and Resource Trends: Conclusion and Implications for the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces”:
“Climate change will exacerbate existing water and food shortages, thus increasing the likelihood of regional instability, and ensuing humanitarian, stabilization, and/or reconstruction crises. Although climate change will not necessarily have a negative impact on Canada – warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons will be welcome in many circles – Canada must be prepared for the changes that climate change will bring to the Arctic. As the polar ice melts, there will be an increase in northern security challenges. As the Northwest Passage is open for longer periods of time, there will be an increase in international traffic through waterways considered to be Canadian. The Canadian government will likely call upon CF assets to help with sovereignty patrols, search and rescue operations, resource protection, and the monitoring of international military activities.”
Canada is also prioritizing operational energy issues. Unlike the UK report from yesterday, the Canadians are talking about alternative fuels rather than the inevitability of fossil fuel dependence over the next twenty years.