News: AAAS News & Notes
25 January 2013
Warming Climate Exposes Resources—and Risks—in the Far North
Testing the waters. Melting sea ice is opening a Northern bonanza for oil, rare earths, and even fish—but is the United States ready?
CREDIT: Jeremy Potter NOAA/OAR/OER
Five years ago, a pair of mini-submarines descended to the seabed below the North Pole, where the crews planted a rust-proof, titanium Russian flag. The timing and the powerful symbolism of the move provoked a global storm: With climate change melting the Arctic ice and exposing a potential trove of natural resources, would the region become a flashpoint for geopolitical conflict?
At a recent AAAS forum, experts downplayed the risk suggested by that made-for-headlines event. Diplomacy and cooperation are already reducing the risks of Arctic
conflict, they said. Of far greater concern is that U.S. policy and diplomacy may be unprepared as accelerating climate change opens a new era in Arctic development, threatens indigenous populations, and de-stabilizes climate patterns worldwide.
The decline in the Arctic’s summer ice cover is “definitely outpacing what a lot of our worst-case climate models have been suggesting would happen…as we continue to warm the planet,” said Julienne Stroeve, a researcher based at the U.S. National Snow & Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. “The changes are happening a lot faster than expected, and there are a lot of implications for governance and exploration.”
“I don’t think we have a strategy, an agreed-to national plan,” added Heather A. Conley, senior fellow and director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. “How much are we going to develop the Arctic? How much are we going to protect it?...We’re going to be testing the system across the Arctic and testing international cooperation to make sure that we can work together and not at cross-purposes.”
Conley and Stroeve joined Jed Hamilton, senior research consultant for ExxonMobil, at the 10 December event at AAAS. The forum, moderated by NPR science correspondent Richard Harris, was sponsored by the American Chemical Society, Georgetown University’s Program on Science in the Public Interest, and the AAAS Office of Government Relations.
Since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the Arctic has been more a forum for international cooperation than for military competition. “We aren’t seeing great tension. In fact, 2 years ago, Norway and Russia after 40 years [of dispute] agreed on their border in the Arctic,” Conley said. “We’re seeing cooperation between nations on search and rescue, oil spills and response—they’re trying to address the transformation.
“I’ve disappointed a lot of journalists when I’ve told them we aren’t seeing the militarization of the Arctic,” she added.
In her view, the greater concern is the apparent lack of policy preparation by the United States for changing conditions in the region. Melting sea ice may mean more commerce, mining, and tourism, but infrastructure ranging from lodging to search and rescue facilities and hospitals is lacking.
In the future, Conley said, “you’re going to see the Arctic as a public-private partnership, where the private sector is going to have to join with the government” in sharing data, assessing needs, and building international networks.
The receding sea ice would seem especially alluring to oil and gas companies. The U.S. Geological Survey has concluded that about a quarter of the Earth’s remaining hydrocarbon potential lies in the Arctic. And indeed, there are ambitious efforts to assess and tap oil and natural gas reserves in the oceans off of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Siberia.
But Hamilton said that these projects still face enormous challenges: Severe winter weather, including crushing sea-surface ice floes; technical and engineering challenges in getting the crude or gas to refineries and to market; and huge production and transportation costs.
ExxonMobil and its partners are beginning development of a 1-billion-barrel oil field off the northeast coast of Canada, he said, but “it will take us 5 years and north of $10 billion to develop that field.”
The oil will be extracted over a period of 40 years, he added, “and when all is said and done and people have spent their entire careers on that project, that 40 years of production will satisfy 12 days of world demand right now.”
Even as policy begins to focus on these regional opportunities, the climate is continuing to warm, largely as a result of global greenhouse gas emissions. According to current estimates, 1.9 trillion metric tons of carbon are held in Arctic soils, and as those soils warm, they will begin to release that carbon into the atmosphere. That could become a massive new driver for climate change.
There are already some indications that the receding sea ice has a dangerous impact on global climate, Stroeve said. The difference in temperatures between the Arctic and equator plays a central role in global circulation of air and ocean currents. As the Arctic warms, she noted, the circulation may slow down—with powerful effects.
“We’ve been noticing that by warming up the Arctic, you actually allow these sorts of extreme conditions to persist longer—droughts, floods,” Stroeve said. “They’re moving more slowly in the atmosphere, so they can stay around in a region longer and cause more extreme events.”
These are urgent concerns and, in Stroeve’s view, they require further research and ambitious action by lawmakers and policymakers. Public support for action will be crucial, and a key element of Arctic policy and development must assure the rights of indigenous people.
“How do you balance between wanting to access the economic development with the rights of indigenous people and their control over that [development]?” Conley asked. “There are people whose lives and food security are being deeply impacted by this transformation. This affects societies, it affects ways of life.”
S&T Policy Fellows Celebrate 40 Years
Growing impact. The 2012–2013 class of Fellows is the largest yet for the influential AAAS program.
CREDIT: AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships
In 1973, the first class of AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellows was dispatched to Washington, D.C. The seven select scientists and engineers were the vanguard of a movement that, four decades later, has grown to more than 2500 researchers who provide unmatched expertise to address public science issues.
“Scientists are trained to be able to quantify uncertainty,” said Jessica Tuchman Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a member of the 1973 class. “And since that’s so much of what Congress has to do, it’s an incredibly valuable set of skills.”
In a series of interviews conducted to commemorate the program’s 40th anniversary, Mathews and other top-level alumni said the Fellowships have had a dramatic effect on their careers. [Watch all of the 40th-anniversary interviews at www.aaas.org/go/fellowsvideo.] They also feel that the program has had a transformative impact on U.S. and global science policy.
In recent years, S&T Fellows have helped to set up a digital library for Iraqi scientists, provided key data to support the Endangered Species Act, contributed to a federal task force on global climate change adaptation, and worked on recovery and reconstruction projects in Haiti just weeks after the country’s devastating January 2010 earthquake.
The Fellows’ work has been good for science in many ways, said Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant U.S. secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, and a 1985–86 Diplomacy Fellow. “As scientists became more informed of budget processes and other things, I think they became more active about championing investments in research and development.”
“One of the exciting things about the program,” agreed Fellowships Director Cynthia Robinson, “is that all of those individuals have taken the experience they’ve had in Washington D.C. … to engage in the work that they’ve done throughout the rest of their careers.”
Call for Nomination of 2013 Fellows
AAAS Fellows who are current members of the Association are invited to nominate members for election as Fellows. A member whose efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished, and who has been a continuous member for the 4-year period leading up to the year of nomination, may by virtue of such meritorious contribution be elected a Fellow by the AAAS Council.
A nomination must be sponsored by three previously elected AAAS Fellows (who are current in their membership), two of whom must have no affiliation with the nominee’s institution.
Nominations undergo review by the steering groups of the Association’s sections (the chair, chair-elect, retiring chair, secretary, and four members-at-large of each section). Each steering group reviews only those nominations designated for its section.
Names of Fellow nominees who are approved by the steering groups are presented to the Council for election.
Nominations with complete documentation must be received by 17 April 2013. Nominations received after that date or nominations that are incomplete as of the deadline will not move forward, but may upon request be held for the following year.
Complete instructions and a copy of the nomination form are available at www.aaas.org/aboutaaas/fellows/instructions.shtml. To request a hard copy of the nomination form, please contact the AAAS Executive Office, 1200 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20005, USA; at 202-326-6468; or at email@example.com.
Results of the 2012 Election of AAAS Officers
Following are the results of the 2012 election. Terms begin on 19 February 2013.
President: Gerald R. Fink
Board of Directors: Claire M. Fraser; Elizabeth F. Loftus
Committee on Nominations: Judy R. Franz; Barbara J. Grosz; Peter S. Kim; Mario J. Molina
Section on Agriculture, Food, and Renewable Resources
Chair Elect: Sally Mackenzie
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Pamela C. Ronald
Electorate Nominating Committee: Mary Susan Moran; Linda L. Walling
Section on Anthropology
Chair Elect: Nina G. Jablonski
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: George R. Milner
Electorate Nominating Committee: Agustín Fuentes; Lisa Sattenspiel
Council Delegate: Clark Spencer Larsen
Section on Astronomy
Chair Elect: Robert P. Kirshner
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Edward L. (Ned) Wright
Electorate Nominating Committee: Edmund Bertschinger; Margaret Meixner
Council Delegate: Eugene H. Levy
Section on Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences
Chair Elect: Antonio J. Busalacchi, Jr.
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Ana P. Barros
Electorate Nominating Committee: Diane M. McKnight; Patricia K. Quinn
Section on Biological Sciences
Chair Elect: Dennis J. Thiele
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Bonnie Bartel
Electorate Nominating Committee: Tom Curran; Suzanne Sandmeyer
Council Delegate: James R. Broach; Judy Callis; Lynn Cooley; Jessica Gurevitch; George A. O’Toole; Nancy C. Walworth
Section on Chemistry
Chair Elect: Thomas E. Mallouk
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Susannah Scott
Electorate Nominating Committee: Shelia S. David; David A. Wink
Council Delegate: Judith N. Burstyn; Marisa C. Kozlowski; Donna J. Nelson
Section on Dentistry and Oral Health Sciences
Chair Elect: Luisa Ann DiPietro
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Ichiro Nishimura
Electorate Nominating Committee: Paulette Spencer; Thomas E. Van Dyke
Section on Education
Chair Elect: Cathryn A. Manduca
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Melanie M. Cooper
Electorate Nominating Committee: Penny J. Gilmer; Ramon E. Lopez
Section on Engineering
Chair Elect: Nicholas A. Peppas
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Ilesanmi “Ade” Adesida
Electorate Nominating Committee: William E. Bentley; Edmund G. Seebauer
Section on General Interest in Science and Engineering
Chair Elect: Terry Devitt
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Mariette DiChristina
Electorate Nominating Committee: Lynn E. Elfner; Katherine E. Rowan
Section on Geology and Geography
Chair Elect: William H. Schlesinger
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Stephen G. Wells
Electorate Nominating Committee: Mary Anne Holmes; Paul L. Koch
Council Delegate: Ben A. van der Pluijm
Section on History and Philosophy of Science
Chair Elect: Anita Guerrini
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Diana Kormos Buchwald
Electorate Nominating Committee: Richard M. Burian; John Dupré
Section on Industrial Science and Technology
Chair Elect: Steven W. Popper
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Gary L. Messing
Electorate Nominating Committee: Paul S. Drzaic; Edmund G. Seebauer
Section on Information, Computing, and Communication
Chair Elect: J.J. Garcia-Luna Aceves
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: William Gropp
Electorate Nominating Committee: Tom M. Mitchell; Peter Norvig
Section on Linguistics and Language Science
Chair Elect: Sandra Chung
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Carol A. Padden
Electorate Nominating Committee: Mark C. Baker; James Pustejovsky
Section on Mathematics
Chair Elect: David M. Bressoud
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Susan Friedlander
Electorate Nominating Committee: Susanne C. Brenner; Barbara Lee Keyfitz
Council Delegate: Deborah F. Lockhart
Section on Medical Sciences
Chair Elect: Karen H. Antman
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Scott D. Emr
Electorate Nominating Committee: Jeffrey I. Cohen; Joseph Loscalzo
Section on Neuroscience
Chair Elect: Pat Levitt
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Joshua R. Sanes
Electorate Nominating Committee: William Mobley; Peter L. Strick
Council Delegate: Harry T. Orr
Section on Pharmaceutical Sciences
Chair Elect: Deanna L. Kroetz
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Kathleen M. Giacomini
Electorate Nominating Committee: Stephen V. Frye; Margaret O. James
Section on Physics
Chair Elect: Susan N. Coppersmith
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Don Q. Lamb
Electorate Nominating Committee: David D. Awschalom; Sharon C. Glotzer
Council Delegate: Arthur Bienenstock; Philip W. Phillips
Section on Psychology
Chair Elect: James L. McClelland
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Lynne M. Reder
Electorate Nominating Committee: Morton Ann Gernsbacher; Judith F. Kroll
Section on Social, Economic, and Political Sciences
Chair Elect: Barbara Boyle Torrey
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Elizabeth Cooksey
Electorate Nominating Committee: Kaye Husbands Fealing; Ronald R. Rindfuss
Section on Societal Impacts of Science and Engineering
Chair Elect: James R. Fleming
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Caroline S. Wagner
Electorate Nominating Committee: Jennifer Sue Bond; Stephen D. Nelson
Section on Statistics
Chair Elect: David L. DeMets
Member-at-Large of the Section Committee: Joan F. Hilton
Electorate Nominating Committee: James L. Rosenberger; Bin Yu