Arctic sea ice reaches minimum extent for 2013 as Greenpeace activists are held in Russian Arctic

by Cassady Craighill

September 20, 2013

A polar bear on the Labrador Sea ice, off the coast of Canada. Polar bears cannot survive without sea ice. The loss of ice threatens vulnerable species like polar bears who depend on multi year ice to raise their young, to travel and to hunt for seals; their primary food source.

© Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

A young polar bear wanders on ice, seen from the Greenpeace ship during an expedition to document the lowest sea ice level on record.

A young polar bear wanders on ice, seen from the Greenpeace ship during an expedition to document the lowest sea ice level on record.

US Scientists have announced that Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its sixth lowest extent in recorded history this year. The news comes as 30 Greenpeace activists remain in the custody of Russian security forces, who illegally boarded the groups Arctic Sunrise icebreaker following a protest against Arctic oil drilling.

Reacting to the news, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said:

The Arctic is melting before our eyes, but rather than heed the warning we are seeing a rush to drill for the oil that’s driving climate change in the first place. Its madness. This is why our activists have taken a huge personal risk to peacefully protest against Russian Arctic oil drilling. This is why they are now being held under armed guard on board our ship the Arctic Sunrise.”

It is time to draw a line in the remaining ice and say to the oil industry you go no further.

Fossil fuels are wreaking havoc with our climate and we have reached a tipping point. We must switch to a much smarter renewable energy system very quickly to deal with the growing threat of floods, superstorms and droughts.

The US National Snow and Ice Data center (NSIDC) says the ice extent appears to have dropped to 5.10 million km2 on the 13th September. The current extent is higher than 2012s record breaking minimum, but remains one of the lowest since records began, reinforcing the long-term downward trend in Arctic ice extent.

'Confronting Arctic Oil' Activists in NorwayThe Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise has now been under armed guard since 1900 Moscow time on Thursday. The Coast Guard had earlier detained and held without charge two Greenpeace International activists who had scaled Gazproms drilling platform on Wednesday in a peaceful protest.

Greenpeace International's Executive Director board Russian oil platform in the Arctic

Greenpeace International’s Executive Director board Russian oil platform in the Arctic

Last year Naidoo boarded the same Prirazlomnaya in freezing conditions to protest against Arctic oil drilling. Rather than try to prevent peaceful protest at Gazproms dangerous arctic rig Russias security forces should focus on the true threat to their citizens and environment: climate change and oil drilling.

Again we call on the Russian authorities to set our ship and activists free.

Gazprom plans to start production from the Prirazlomnaya platform in the first quarter of 2014, making it the first rig to pump oil from the frozen Arctic.

A series of articles have recently appeared which suggest that Arctic sea ice is recovering, based on the increased extent of ice compared with 2012. These articles fail to mention the clear downward trend and have been roundly debunked by climate scientists. Our children will not forgive us if we allow the absurd, tired arguments of vested interests to delay action any further, said Naidoo.

Nearly four million people have joined Greenpeaces Save the Arctic campaign since June 2012, including high profile figures like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sir Paul McCartney, and Penelope Cruz. One of the campaigns main goals – a sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the North Pole – was recently boosted after the Government of Finland announced its support for the concept.

Cassady Craighill

By Cassady Craighill

Cassady is a media officer for Greenpeace USA based on the East Coast. She covers climate change and energy, particularly how both issues relate to the Trump administration.

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