Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Some real fun below

If deliberate deception is fun.  It's fun to expose it anyway. "Slate's" crooked "Bad astronomer", Phil Plait, is at it again.  Read here and here to see two of his recent attempted deceptions eviscerated.

What we read below is no exception.  He is just a global warming apparatchik.  There is no truth in him (John 8:44). How do we know that?

He says that sea levels have been rising since 1992, which is correct.  They have been rising for much longer than that, in fact. He also says the rise is due to global warming, which is not correct. How do we know that?  Look at the chart below.  You can see that the graph of rises climbs steadily.  It did NOT stop 18 years ago when global warming stopped.  So clearly the two phenomena are unrelated.  Sea levels did not stop rising when warming stopped. QED.

Warmists really are the most disgusting crooks.  Fortunately they are also transparent crooks if one looks at all closely at their claims

Do you think global warming is something that only affects us sometime in the future, decades or centuries from now?

Think again. Our planet heating up is affecting us now, and has been for decades. We’re already seeing a lot of serious problems due to it: extreme weather, more devastating hurricanes, wildfires, and sea level rise.

Of all these, the last seems most like science fiction. Seriously, the levels of the ocean are going up? It can’t be much, right?

Think again, again. NASA just released results from several satellite observations going back to 1992. Those 23 years of data show that the oceans of the planet have risen substantially in that time: over 6 centimeters (2.5 inches) on average, with some places on Earth seeing more than 22 cm (9 inches)!

The cause of all this is obvious and very real: global warming. As human activity — primarily dumping 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year — causes the Earth’s surface temperature to go up, a lot of that energy is absorbed by the oceans, causing them to expand. Some of it is absorbed at the poles, melting ice there.

Sea ice melting at the north pole is bad enough, but the land ice melting is nothing short of catastrophic. Climatologists have already shown that the melting of the West Antarctica ice sheet may be unstoppable. We may be locked in — that is, inevitably going to suffer from — a full meter of sea level rise, three feet. This may take a century or more, but it’s coming. And while that may seem like a long time, think of it this way: A meter per century is a centimeter every year, an inch every 2.5 years.

Mind you, that’s vertical rise. Look at the slope of a beach and you can see that a small rise vertically means a lot of horizontal reach to the ocean, too. We’ll see beaches disappear, coastlines changed. More immediately, we’ll see storm surges do far more damage as it takes less rise in the water levels to inundate cities. Remember what the surge from Hurricane Sandy did to NYC? We’ll be seeing more and more of that.

This is the new normal. And the scary thing is not so much that the new normal is bad, it’s that with more warming, rising sea levels, and changing weather patterns, the new normal will continue to get worse. There may not be a normal any more.

And all that time, the temperatures will rise, the glaciers will melt, the sea levels will rise, and we’ll be that much deeper into a catastrophe that is already well underway.


Ethical collapse at the University of Western Australia

They will do anything to prop up their Warmist psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky and his very odd research methods

The Lewandowsky, Gignac, and Oberauer paper in PLOS ONE has been substantially corrected. I had alerted the journal last fall that there were serious errors in the paper, including the presence of a 32,757-year-old in the data, along with a 5-year-old and six other minors. The paleoparticipant in particular had knocked out the true correlation between age and the conspiracy belief items (the authors had reported there was no correlation between age and anything else.)

Deeply troubling issues remain. The authors have been inexplicably unwilling to remove the minors from their data, and have in fact retained two 14-year-olds, two 15-year-olds, a 16-year-old, and a 17-year-old. This is strange given that the sample started with 1,001 participants. It is also wildly unethical.

To provide some context, let me lay out the timeline:

October 4, 2013: Lewandowsky was alerted on his own website that there was a 32,757-year-old and a 5-year-old in his data.

There was no correction. Recall that he had reported analyses of the age variable in the paper, and that these analyses were erroneous because of the 32,757-year-old.

August 18, 2014: On the PLOS ONE page for the paper, I alerted the authors to the 32,757-year-old, the 5-year-old, and the six other minors in their data (along with several other problems with the study.)

There was no correction.

September 22, 2014: I contacted PLOS ONE directly and reported the issue. I had waited over a month for the authors to correct their paper after the notification on August 18, but they had mysteriously done nothing, so it was time to contact the journal.

August 13, 2015: Finally, a correction was published. It is comprehensive, as there were many errors in their analyses beyond the age variable.

I'd like to pause here to say that PLOS ONE is beautiful and ethically distinctive. They insisted that the authors publish a proper correction, and that it thoroughly address the issues and errors in the original. They also placed a link to the correction on top of the original paper. The authors did not want to issue a proper correction. Rather, Lewandowsky preferred to simply post a comment on the PLOS ONE page for the paper and call it a corrigendum. This would not have been salient to people reading the paper on the PLOS ONE page, as it requires that one click on the Comments link and go into the threads. Notably, Lewandowsky's "corrigendum" was erroneous and required a corrigendum of its own... It was also remarkably vague and uninformative.

A serious ethical issue remains – they kept the minors in their data (except the 5-year-old.) They had no prior IRB approval to use minors, nor did they have prior IRB approval to waive parental consent. In fact, the "ethics" office at the University of Western Australia appears to be trying to retroactively approve the use of minors as well as ignoring the issue of parental consent. This is ethically impossible, and wildly out of step with human research ethics worldwide. It also cleanly contradicts the provisions of the Australian National Statement on Ethical Conduct of Human Research (PDF). In particular, it contradicts paragraphs 4.2.7 through 4.2.10, and 4.2.12. The conduct of the UWA ethics office is consistent with all their prior efforts to cover up Lewandowsky's misconduct, particularly with respect to Lewandowsky's Psych Science paper, which should be treated as a fraud case. UWA has refused everyone's data requests for that paper, and has refused to investigate. Corruption is serious problem with human institutions, one that I increasingly think deserves a social science Manhattan Project to better understand and ameliorate. UWA is a classic case of corruption, one that mirrors those reported by Martin.

Here is the critical paragraph regarding minors in the PLOS ONE correction:

"Several minors (age 14–17) were included in the data set for this study because this population contributes to public opinions on politics and scientific issues (e.g. in the classroom). This project was conducted under the guidelines of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC). According to NH&MRC there is no explicit minimum age at which people can give informed consent (as per​2-general-requirements-consent). What is required instead is to ascertain the young person’s competence to give informed consent. In our study, competence to give consent is evident from the fact that for a young person to be included in our study, they had to be a vetted member of a nationally representative survey panel run by (partner of, who collected the data). According to information received from the panel provider, they are legally empowered to empanel people as young as 13. However, young people under 15 are recruited to the panel with parental involvement. Parental consent was otherwise not required. Moreover, for survey respondents to have been included in the primary data set, they were required to answer an attention filter question correctly, further attesting to their competence to give informed consent. The UWA Human Rights Ethics Committee reviewed this issue and affirmed that “The project was undertaken in a manner that is consistent with the Australian National Statement of Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007).”

The above may be difficult for people to parse and unpack. Here are the essentials we can extract from it:

1. There was no prior IRB approval for the use of minors. (UWA's review was retroactive, amazingly.)

2. Parental consent was not obtained for minors who were at least 15 years of age.

3. Obtaining parental consent for 13 and 14-year-olds was delegated to a market research company. However, the term "consent" is not used in this case. Rather, the authors claim that the market research company recruited these kids with "parental involvement". It's not clear what this term means.

4. The UWA "ethics" committee is attempting to grant retroactive approval for the use of minors and the lack of parental consent, as well as the delegation of consent obtainment to a market research company. They cite the National Statement of (sic) Ethical Conduct in Human Research, even though it contains no provision for retroactive approvals or cover-ups. In fact, the Statement does not contemplate such absurdities at all.

Every one of the above four points is revolutionary. This is an ethical collapse. Researchers worldwide would be stunned to hear of this. No IRB approval for the use of minors? No parental consent? A new age threshold of 15 for parental consent, and 13 for participation? Delegating parental consent to a market research company? An IRB acting as a retroactive instrument? An IRB covering up the unapproved use of minors? I'm not sure we've ever encountered any one of these things. Having all of these happen at the same time is a singularity, an ethical event horizon that dims the sun.

Notably, their citation of the NH&MRC page is a sham. The page makes no mention of age or minimum ages. It ultimately defers to Chapter 4.2, which takes for granted that there is IRB approval to use minors, as well as parental consent. (See the Respect and Standing Parental Consent sections.) It does not contemplate a universe where IRB approval is not obtained. It's extremely disturbing that staff at UWA would try to deceive the scientific community with a sham citation.

I contacted UWA about these issues some months ago. As far as I can tell, they refuse to investigate. It's as though their ethics office is specifically designed to not investigate complaints if they think they can escape scrutiny and legal consequences. Mark Dixon of the UWA anti-ethics office said the following in an e-mail:

"However, this project was designed for a general demographic. Surveys targeted to a general population do not prohibit the collection of data from minors should they happen to respond to the survey."

"You are probably aware that the survey written up in the article was an online survey, where consent is indicated by the act of taking the survey."

"Inclusion or omission of outliers, such as the '5 year old' and the '32,000 year old', are reasonable scholarship when accompanied by explanatory notes. However, it would be unusual to actually delete data points from a data-set, so I don't understand your concern about the remaining presence of such data-points in the data-set."

"You expressed concern that the survey “… did not even ask participants for their ages until the end of the study, after participation and any "consent" had been secured". Demographic information is routinely collected at the end of a survey. This is not an unusual practice."

To say that these statements are alarming is an understatement. He thinks research ethics doesn't apply to online studies. He thinks we don't need to obtain consent for online studies, that simply participating is consent. He thinks 5-year-olds and 32,757-year-olds are "outliers" and that it is reasonable to retain them (is he aware that the age variable was analyzed?) He thinks researchers can ask someone's age at the end of a study. This person retains the title "Associate Director (Research Integrity)", yet he appears to know nothing of research or research integrity. The best explanations here are that he has no training in human research ethics and/or he's corrupt. This is such an extraordinary case.

For lay readers, let me note the following:

1. An online study is a study like any other study. The same research ethics apply. There's nothing special about an online study. Whether someone is sitting in front of a computer in a campus lab, or in their bedroom, the same ethical provisions apply.

2. We always require people to be at least 18 years of age, unless we are specifically studyinging minors (which would require explicit IRB approval).

3. We always include a consent form or information sheet at the start of an online study. This form explains the nature of the study, what participants can expect, how long it should take, what risks participation may pose to the participant, any compensation they will receive, and so forth. Notably, the form will explicitly note that one must be at least 18 to participate.

4. We always ask age up front, typically the first page after a person chooses to participate (after having read the consent or information sheet.)

5. We always validate the age field, such that the entered age must be at least 18 (and typically we'll cap the acceptable age at 99 or so to prevent fake ages like 533 or 32,757.) All modern survey platforms offer this validation feature. A person cannot say that they are 5 years old, or 15 years old, and proceed to participate in an IRB-approved psychology study. We can't do anything about people who lie about their ages – either in an online study or an in-person study on campus – but if they submit a minor age, it's a full stop. Because of this, there should never be minors or immortals in our data.

At this point, I think PLOS ONE should retract the paper. We can't have unapproved – or retroactively approved – minors in data. UWA is clearly engaged in a cover-up, and their guidance should not inform PLOS ONE's, or any journal's, decisions. This exposes the structural ethical vulnerability we have in science – we rely on institutions with profound conflicts of interest to investigate themselves, to investigate their own researchers. We have broad evidence that they often attempt to cover up malpractice, though the percentages are unclear. Journals need to fashion their own processes, and rely much less on university "finders of fact". We should also think about provisioning independent investigators. In any case, UWA's conduct deserves to be be escalated and widely exposed, and it will be. This is far from over – we can't just sit passively given the severity of the ethical breaches here, and we won't.

Substantive note: The correction does not address one of the substantive errors in the original. Gender is the largest predictor of GMO attitudes. They never reported this, but rather implied that gender did no work. A lot of times boring variables like age and gender explain a lot of variance, and in this case gender explained more than any other. (Women trusted GMOs less, using Lewandowsky's primitive linear correlations on the scale index. It's unclear whether women actually distrusted GMOs – i.e. where the women clustered on the items. A correlation doesn't tell you this. A bad researcher would say "women distrusted GMOs" given a negative correlation coefficient, without specifying descriptives or their actual, substantive placement on the scale, which could in fact be pro-GMO, just less pro than men.)


The Old Farmer’s Almanac Versus Global Warming Alarmists

Climate change, previously known as global warming, is a national security issue according to President Obama. This was the message he delivered to recent U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduates. Funny, but when I think of national security issues other things come to mind, such as the rise of ISIS, cyber hacking by the Russians and Chinese, nukes in “Death to America” Iran, or our open borders.

Global warming, touted by noted climate scientist Al Gore, has morphed into climate change since actual planetary warming stopped in 1998, when Mr. Gore was still the Vice-President. Since then we have been treated to cold snowy winters, not only here but elsewhere in the world.

What about the upcoming winter? Will we finally see the predicted warming? The Old Farmer’s Almanac just released its forecast for the upcoming winter. “Super cold with a slew of snow for much of the country, even in places that don’t usually see to much of it, like the Pacific Northwest.”
Special: New Probiotic Fat Burner Takes GNC by Storm

Who cares what a folksy book of hocus pocus for farmers says about the weather? We know better. Al Gore, Barack Obama, and the supposed consensus of 97 percent of climate scientists all say global warming, climate change, is real. They base their reasoning on “solar cycles, climatology, and meteorology” which happens to be what the Old Farmer’s Almanac uses for its forecast too.

So who’s right? Last year the Almanac predicted, “Snowfall will be above normal in most of the Northeast.” Turns out Boston set a new record for the snowiest season. Eight years ago, “Al Gore predicted that the North Pole could be completely liquidated by 2014 due to the impending threat of global warming.” Instead the Arctic ice cap is growing.

It seems global warming only exists in the world of computer models. And how accurate are these predictions? When tropical storm Sandy became a hurricane, the forecast track was all over the map, literally. Most models had her heading to Bermuda and only a few tracks leading to the New York metro area. This was only five days before she made landfall in New Jersey.
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Yet similar models used by Al Gore and the 97 percent consensus are guiding U.S. energy, economic, and foreign policy. It seems the Old Farmer’s Almanac is more accurate than the models used by the global warming alarmist smart set. But the Almanac isn’t being used to guide policy, instead it’s simply put out there to use or not use as you choose.

“Some meteorologists generally pooh-pooh the Almanac’s forecasts as too unscientific to be worth much,” but what about the government’s predictions about global warming or climate change? Pooh-pooh the pronouncements of Al Gore or Barack Obama and you are a “denier.” Who are the real deniers? Those questioning and challenging a decade of spurious government predictions? Or those doubling down in the face of ongoing contradictions to their predictions of impending calamity?

How about some science? Create a model and test its validity. If it predicts accurately, we’ll listen. If not, shut up and go back to the drawing board.


Biotech Foods Can Save People and the Environment

Approximately 800 million people are currently malnourished, and the world’s population is expected to rise by 2 billion by the year 2050. If we use current technologies—or, Heaven forbid, roll back use of modern agricultural practices—we will have to plow down literally millions of acres to relieve the projected hunger expected to come as a result of the growing population. Fortunately, a widespread embrace of biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) crops can help ensure there is enough food for all.

Earth is bountiful and fecund, but it does not yield its treasures without hard work. Earth’s natural ability to produce the food necessary to feed human and animal populations has been enhanced greatly since the agricultural revolution more than 10,000 years ago. Our forbearers applied ingenuity and innovation to the improvement of crops; increased the efficiency of our land and water use; and improved methods of distribution, storage, and defense against animal and plants pests.

Even so, millions of people still suffer from privation and starvation. The world’s farmers currently produce more than enough food to feed Earth’s 7 billion people, using approximately 6 million square miles—an amount of land equal in size to the United States and Europe. Where malnutrition, famine, and starvation still occur, it is caused by broken distribution systems due to wars (civil and otherwise), poor infrastructure, flawed political and economic institutions, and authoritarian regimes that use starvation as a political tool.

That won’t always be the case, however. The planet’s population is expected to peak during this century at approximately 9 billion. It will then likely taper off rapidly. In order to feed that peak population and their pets with diets similar to those currently enjoyed by people in developed countries, we will have to triple the production of food by 2050. Even if all farmers adopt the modern farming practices with high inputs of fertilizers and pesticides, the most we can realistically hope to do is double crop production on the current amount of land we are using.

There is only so much arable land and water usable for crop production. Substantially expanding the amount of land under active cultivation, which would be exceptionally difficult, would be a disaster for wildlife and native plants. The lands most likely to be converted to agriculture are forests, rangelands, and other wildlands, especially in the tropics—the most biodiverse region on Earth, where most population growth is occurring and where hunger and where malnutrition is most prominent.

Fortunately, there is another way of raising yields: The judicious use of biotechnology to produce hardier, disease-resistant, pest-resistant, vitamin-fortified crops that more efficiently use water and can be grown more readily on marginal lands can increase global food production by the threefold margin needed for the world’s 9 billion people. And it can be done while only marginally increasing the amount of acreage in production.

Unfortunately, environmental extremists have targeted the use of bioengineering. They raise baseless fears about “Frankenfoods” escaping the lab, and they argue no technology should be used until it can be shown to pose absolutely no risks whatsoever to humans or the environment.

Arguing biotech researchers are “playing God,” environmental groups such as Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group have threatened to lead a consumer boycott of companies that use bioengineered foods and to create a flood of negative publicity.

Several countries have banned the use of bioengineered foods, and the Free Thought Project lists 400 mostly small companies that claim not to use bioengineered products. More countries and companies jumping on the “ban the genetically modified organisms” bandwagon could devastate farmers who have begun to rely on biotech foods to raise yields while reducing their use of costly pesticides.

These scares are decidedly unscientific. Responding to environmentalist scare tactics, the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and every major research body that has looked into the health and safety of genetically modified crops have endorsed their use.

A research assessment published in Critical Reviews in Biotechnology in 2014 examining 1,783 studies on the safety and environmental impacts of genetically modified foods confirmed this. The Italian researchers couldn’t find a single credible example of GM foods posing any harm to humans or animals. Nor did they find any evidence GM crops have any negative environmental impact.

Unlike crops developed through traditional crossbreeding techniques, genetically modified foods are among the most extensively studied scientific subjects in history. Simply put, they are safe.

Extreme environmentalists ignore the very real dangers of doing without the new technologies. Turning our back on nutritional, safe, bioengineered foods would irresponsibly condemn millions of people to unnecessary suffering and, in some cases, even death. Nowthat would be “playing God” with a vengeance.


How Environmental NGOs use junk science, hysteria about fracking-induced earthquakes to trash energy projects

Regulators do a good job of monitoring fracking-induced earthquakes, putting mitigation plans in place

In Part 1 of this column I examined how ENGOs and their “experts” used flimsy science and exaggerated claims to call for the end of fracking in NE British Columbia. In Part 2, I deflate their criticisms of fracking-induced earthquakes.

frackingThere is currently a public discussion in British Columbia around fracking-induced tremors because of news reporting about an Aug. 2014 4.6 magnitude earthquake north of Fort Nelson, BC. that was confirmed to be caused by Progress Energy fracking operations, as well as a 4.4 tremor on Aug. 17 2015 that is suspected of having the same cause.

In a recent Canadian Press story we ran in Beacon Energy News, a retired geoscientist who authored a report for a far-left think tank claimed LNG development in BC would increase seismic activity by five times. An “earthquake expert” from a far-left university claimed the USA suffered earthquakes of 5.0 to 6.0 because of fracking. And, wholly predictably, an eco-activist called for BC to stop fracking altogether.

What nonsense. Upon even a cursory examination, the anti-fracking argument falls flat on its face for a number of reasons.

One, Progress Energy said it doesn’t need to ramp up drilling – as claimed by David Hughes, the geoscientist – to supply Pacific NorthWest LNG’s planned plant and export terminal near Prince Rupert.

“Our upstream drilling activity will remain relatively consistent with current levels over the life of the LNG project or may even decline and therefore pose no incremental risk,” said spokeswoman Stacie Dley in an email to CP.

Two, the BC Oil and Gas Commission has industry standard rules in place to minimize fracking-induced quakes. And so far they seem to be working.

The regulator recorded 193 fracking-caused quakes between August 2013 and October 2014 in the Montney Trend, a siltstone formation stretching from near Dawson Creek to the Rocky Mountain foothills. Of about 7,500 fracking operations, only 11 triggered events felt at the surface. None caused injuries or damage.

A 2012 report showed that 297 seismic events were triggered by fracking but only one was felt at surface.

To geologists, an earthquake is an earthquake regardless of its strength. But the seismic incidents recorded by the Commission’s instruments were micro-earthquakes, most of them between 1.8 and 3 on the Richter scale. Fracking-induced earthquakes above 4.0 are very rare.

And if the Commission’s protocols continue to work as designed, the number of felt quakes will continue to be tiny.

Three, earthquakes have not been linked to fracking in the US, as claimed by John Clague, a Simon Fraser University earthquake expert quoted in the CP story.

American induced-earthquakes are almost always caused by waste water disposal wells, which are entirely different from fracking. For every barrel of oil produced from a well, about eight to 10 barrels of water are brought to surface. The “produced water” is re-injected under high pressure into the reservoir at special disposal wells, which in a few cases have been found to create fractures several miles away. The result has been a big increase in earthquake activity in Oklahoma and to a lesser extent in Texas.

A recent study by a team of researchers from Southern Methodist University made that very clear, but American media – including CNN – got it all wrong and said the study attributed the quakes to fracking. The scientists were so frustrated with the technically illiterate reporters that Dr. Michael Hornbach said, “[W]e’re not talking at all about fracking. In fact, it’s been driving us crazy, frankly, that people keep using it in the press.”

So, what do the facts of this story tell us?

To date  both Canadian and American experience says that fracking generally induces a small number of micro-earthquakes and a very tiny number of larger earthquakes that are felt on surface but do not damage property. Regulators in British Columbia and Alberta – and American jurisdictions like Texas – have strict protocols in place that require fracking crews to cease operations in the event of a larger quake and to not start up again until a mitigation plan has been approved.

In other words, absolutely no justification for the demand by Eoin Madden of the Wilderness Committee “to press pause, take a step back, and say, ‘Do we want to fragment the whole of northeastern BC so we can extract gas out of it this way, or is there a different way for us?”’

At least, no justification based upon science and the known facts.


Obama’s Focus in Oil-Rich Alaska Is Climate Change--As Putin Deploys Warships

As President Obama prepares to become the first sitting president to travel north of the Arctic Circle this week, the administration’s concerns revolve largely around climate change.

This contrasts with the more overtly geostrategic approach to the contested region being pursued by Russia, which this year carried out large-scale military maneuvers in the region involving Northern Fleet vessels and aircraft.

Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a major conference in Anchorage, which Obama will attend on Monday, ahead of the president’s visit Wednesday to the small town of Kotzebue in the Alaskan Arctic.

The focus of the Anchorage event and the president’s three-day visit to the state is climate change, as Obama made clear in his weekly broadcast.

Citing wildfires, storm surges, shoreline erosion and melting glaciers, Obama said Alaskans are already living with the effects of climate change, adding that “if we do nothing,” temperatures in Alaska are projected to rise by 6-12 degrees by 2100.

“This is all real,” he said. “This is happening to our fellow Americans right now.”

Although Obama also spoke in the broadcast about ongoing U.S. oil and gas needs and the importance of relying more on domestic than foreign supplies, climate change appears to be center stage during the Alaska visit.

The one-day event being chaired by Kerry is called the “Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience” – or GLACIER.

According to the department, representatives from the U.S. and some 20 other nations with direct or indirect Arctic interests “will discuss individual and collective action to address climate change in the Arctic” and “raise the visibility of climate impacts in the Arctic as a harbinger for the world, and the Arctic’s unique role in global climate change.”

Further down the agenda, participants will also discuss other issues, such as emergency response and unregulated fishing in the region.

“It’s obvious that the president has chosen climate change as one of his legacy issues,” a senior State Department official briefing on the trip said from Anchorage on Friday. “It is the broader global issue of climate change, but as he’s learned more about the American Arctic and the rather significant impact that climate change is having on his country, he’s made the time to come up here and take a look at it himself.”

By contrast, Russia’s interests in the region center on expanding its military presence in support of its claims to a region believed to have significant untapped resources – especially as sea routes become more accessible due to receding sea ice, attributed to rising temperatures.

President Vladimir Putin in late 2013 announced that he had instructed military commanders to “devote special attention to deploying infrastructure and military units in the Arctic,” to protect Russia’s national interests.

Russia then reopened a Soviet-era military outpost on the New Siberian (Novosibirsk) islands – an archipelago in Russia’s far northeast – and said more would follow.

The Defense Ministry announced a decision to set up an Arctic Strategic Command, and the move to expand military presence in the Arctic was underscored by Putin in a revised military doctrine at the end of last year.

National identity, economic priority

An often-cited 2008 U.S. Geological Survey report found that “the Arctic accounts for about 13 percent of the undiscovered oil, 30 percent of the undiscovered natural gas, and 20 percent of the undiscovered natural gas liquids in the world.”

The United States, Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark all have territory bordering the Arctic, but it is Russia that has been most aggressive in asserting its claims. It graphically underlined its intentions in 2007 when it dispatched a mini-submarine to plant a titanium Russian flag on the Arctic floor in a symbolic assertion of sovereignty.

A titanium capsule bearing a Russian flag is planted by a mini submarine on the Arctic Ocean seabed under the North Pole, during a record dive in 2007. (AP Photo/Association of Russian Polar Explorers)
Early this month, Moscow submitted to a United Nations body a claim for 463,000 square miles of the Arctic, including the North Pole, calling it an extension of its undersea continental shelf. More than a decade ago, the U.N. rejected a similar submission, asking Russia to provide more scientific evidence to back it up.

A new Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) study examining Moscow’s Arctic policy explains the significance to Russia of a region that accounts for around one-fifth of its gross domestic product and 22 percent of its exports.

“For Russia, the Arctic is an important issue of national identity, as well as an enormous economic priority (20 percent of Russia’s GDP is generated in the Arctic) and security necessity where national resources are spent,” it says.

“[E]nvironmental considerations (although noted in its strategic documents) and indigenous communities are largely an afterthought.”

“For the United States, it is the exact opposite,” CSIS Europe program director Heather Conley and research associate Caroline Rohloff write. “The United States does not see itself as an Arctic nation and it prioritizes the environment and scientific research first with economic development and security a distant second due to insufficient national resources and political support.”

Russia’s extensive Arctic claim was submitted to a U.N. body called the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, in line with the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Other countries, notably Denmark and Canada, also have claims in the region, although the U.S. has not submitted any, since it is has not ratified UNCLOS.

“For me, it comes as no surprise that the Russians’ claim is so large,” the senior State Department official said. “They have half the coastline of the Arctic Ocean and they have devoted a lot of science to documenting their claim, and they’re going through the proper process within the Law of the Sea Treaty.”

“And my only regret is that the United States is not able to have standing under that treaty because we have not acceded to it yet,” said the official, adding that the administration remains hopeful that Senate will ratify it.

UNCLOS opponents argue among other things that the treaty will subject U.S. sovereignty to an international body and involve burdensome environmental regulations. The military and business interests support ratification



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