What is happening in the Norwegian Climate Court Case?

On the 4th of January, we got a verdict in the court case against the Norwegian state for unconstitutional oil drilling in the Arctic Barents Sea.

Oslo District Court found that the Norwegian government was not responsible for breaching the Constitution. However, the Court found that the right to a healthy environment is protected by the Constitution and the Government must uphold these rights. That is a major victory in itself. 

But it doesn't end here. The Norwegian justice system goes higher than The District Courts. The next instance is The Court of Appeal, and at the top we find The Supreme Court. 

Tomorrow, the deadline for the appeal expires. Then, a decision will be made whether this should be taken higher in the Norwegian justice system. This will be announced during a press conference on Monday the 5th of February. This will be live streamed at Klimasøksmål Arktis facebook page at 11.00. 

Court processes are very expensive, and it is still possible to contribute until tomorrow on this page. 

As always, thank you for reading and caring about the environment. As David Attenborough says: ‘The Arctic is closer to our homes than we think.’

For the full verdict, follow this link. 

The exciting and fragile Arctic

This week I attended a seminar by the Norwegian Environment Agency and the AMAP (Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme) about the dangers facing the Arctic region, and let me tell you, there are many! To me this fact only emphasises the importance for us to protect it. Even if most of us actually doesn't live in the Arctic, the Arctic serves as a barometer for the rest of the world on how climate change will impact us all. 

Here are a few of the findings that is worth knowing about the Arctic: 

- There are a lot of chemicals that ends up in the Arctic, and now that the ice is melting, we are discovering occurrences of PCB, one of the most dangerous environmental toxins, that was banned in 2005 due to its acute poisoning both for humans and animals. PCB is now resurfacing, most likely due to the ocean currents. 

- The temperature in the Arctic has more than doubled in the Arctic during the last 100 years, which is why you might often hear that the climate change is happening twice as rapidly at the poles. 

- 1/3 of all sea level rice will come from the Arctic region, due to melting of the polar ice caps.

- Between 1961 and 2015, scientist have discovered that the Arctic is getting warmer, wetter, with less and thinner sea ice and less snow. This is affecting the albedo effect; how much sun is reflected back - with a white surface, a lot of the sun is reflected back, but with darker surfaces, as an ocean, the heat is adopted. To illustrate this, look at the drawing underneath. 

- Earlier, there used to be a higher percentage of many year old ice. Now, that percentage has gone down, and one year old ice is more common. This affects life on a molecular level, because there are life living within the ice. This may have grave implications for the ecosystems, that we yet don't know. 

- Introduced species is another threat to the biodiversity. Due to warmed temperature in the water, new species are making its way up in the Arctic. Some of these are taking over the territories to species that have spent a long time adapting to that particular climate. One example is that Atlantic cod has gone up in population, and Polar cod has decreased. 

So, what can be done about this? 

The advice that was given at the conference were these: The Paris agreement is important, but more needs to be done. 

- Marine surveillance needs to be strengthened and we need to be prepared for the unknown.

In the former IPCC reports, the Arctic region has been under-communicated. This needs to change, because the Arctic is a very sensitive region, and as someone said at the seminar - the Arctic is everybody's business. 

I hope this has provided you with some new and interesting input, although this blog post was a more science based one. A lot of exciting things will take place in the Arctic region this summer, so stay tuned for more updates on how to protect the Arctic. 

Norway just about to start its Arctic oil drilling

Yesterday marked a new step in race against Arctic oil drilling. As a long term reader of this blog, you might have followed the blog updates on how Arctic oil drilling, more specifically in the South-East Barents Sea, is extremely destructive for all life that lives there. We know both that seismic activity can be hazardous for marine life, and we definitely know that all oil and gass found in the Arctic must stay in the ground if we are to reach the 2 degree target. 

That is why it was particularly devastating yesterday, when Statoil, regardless of all climate recommendations, still went ahead and sent up its first oil rig, Songa Enabler, to drill for oil from now and all throughout the summer. This is part of what is called the 23rd concession round, where oil licences where handed out in the South-East Barents Sea. 

In Norway, we are so fortunate to have a constitution that speaks in quite strong language about how we want our climate to be. The wording of §112 sounds like this: 

'Every person has a right to an environment that is conducive to health and to a natural environment whose productivity and diversity are maintained. Natural resources should be managed on the basis of comprehensive long-term considerations whereby this right will be safeguarded for future generations as well. 

In order to safeguard their right in accordance with the foregoing paragraph, citizens are entitled to information on the state of the natural environment and on the effects of any encroachment on nature that is planned or carried out. 

The authorities of the State shall issue specific provisions for the implementation of these principles.' 

Because of the inconsistency between these words in our constitution and what our government is actually doing, and also the fact that our chosen politicians were just as quick to sign the Paris agreement as they were to hand out new oil licences, that is the reason why several Norwegian environmental organisations, lead by Greenpeace and Nature and Youth, are now suing the Norwegian state over Arctic oil drilling. The lawsuit agains the Norwegian state now has a court date, and it is set to the 13th of November. 

These are exciting times to be an environmentalist, even though Big Oil still hasn't realised its era is coming to a close. It is neither financially nor environmentally sound to invest in fossile fuels compared to renewable

Luckily, there are forces both within and outside of Norway that sees this, and hopefully this will win through in the court case against Arctic oil drilling. If you want to do more, please feel free to add your name to the lawsuit, as one of the over 8 million who supports this. 

As always, thank you for reading. <3

Remember, sharing is caring, and we collectively really need to care about the Arctic, because what happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic. 

Final results and conclusions!

3.12 Current oil spill recovery systems for oil in ice

A study done in Canada by Look North named ‘Oil Spill Detection and Modelling in Hudson and Davis Straits’ (2014) summarizes how in most oil spill models available, sea ice is not a factor, and for the studies where it is added, the risks are down-played and over-simplified. There is a good body of knowledge on how to retrieve oil in tempered water, but limited on how oil behaves in cold water. The field research on Arctic oil spill is also limited, and a knowledge gap remains connected to the challenges surrounding ice.

3.13 Oil spill surveillance in Arctic waters

The SINTEF report ‘The Utilization of Satellite Images for the Oil in Ice Experiment in the Barents Sea, May 2009’, funded by the 6 oil companies; Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Eni Agip Kco, Statoil, Shell and Total, describe how a combination of aerial and satellite surveillance has become the preferred method for monitoring off shore areas where an oil spill could occur in open waters. The aim was to test if the same conditions applied for the Barents Sea. This report was the outcome of a joint industry program with the aim to learn more about how oil behaves in ice covered waters. After several tests where oil was spilt under controlled conditions it was found that if the ice density was higher than 40%, it was impossible to trace an oil spill that had occurred under the ice with the current satellite monitoring. This caused concern as this means that it is not only no oil spill recovery system that is currently available that would be able to collect spilled oil, but an oil spill will neither be possible to spot, as the concentration of ice in the Barents Sea can be over 40% all year around, and with most of the year it is a certainty that it will be frozen near the Polar Front and the Ice Edge. 

4.0 Results and Analysis

This chapter aims at drawing conclusions from the main body of data and analyzes the findings from the case study in light of the literature review. 

4.1 Implications of Research Findings

In question 5 of the case study when I asked ‘Has anyone informed specifically about the risks of an oil spill for you who live close to the South-East Barents Sea?’ and the unanimous answer was ‘No’ could be an indicator towards that the Coastal Sámi I interviewed could have received such information from the Sámi Parliament, but this dissertation claims that even the Sámi Parliament can not have been given adequate information on this, as there are no scientific solutions on how to treat an oil spill in ice covered waters. This breaks with The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that Norway has signed on the ‘Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent’. 

4.2 Conclusions

When treating land and sea resources where indigenous communities are involved it is necessary to meet the indigenous on their terms. The ocean holds a great value to the Coastal Sámi inhabitants, both as the primary source of food, but with a strong sense of identity being connected to the continuous living near the ocean. The planned oil activity in the South-East Barents Sea will pose a threat already under safe practice, as the seismic shooting the Norwegian oil industry uses in order to locate oil wells have a negative effect on larvae and fry that are to spend the first part of their lives in these areas. Among a limited amount of research on the effects on other fish species than cod and larger sea mammals from seismic shooting, there is still not a finished mapping of the sea bottom, which makes it impossible to predict further consequences of the marine life before 2020 when the sea bottom report is estimated to be finished. Large scale oil spill recovery test were made in the Barents Sea on a joint program by 6 oil companies that own oil concessions in the Arctic to test if the methods they had developed could be used in cleaning oil from ice covered waters. The results concluded that they had learnt a great deal from the experiments, but there are still many insecurities, both regarding how the oil changes and behaves in such cold waters, but the greatest gap in knowledge remains on how to extract oil that is trapped under or between the ice. The part of the oil spill program that regarded monitoring of oil under ice concluded that a higher ice density than 40% makes it impossible to spot the oil from under the ice when satellite monitoring is used, which is the preferred method for detecting oil spills in open waters. 

4.2.1 Recommendations based on key findings

Based on the key findings from both the case study and the literature review this dissertation recommends to decision makers, in this case the state of Norway: 

  1. An Arctic Legal Treaty should be drawn up specifically regarding the topic of how natural resources in and around the sea should be distributed between the Sámi population and the non-indigenous population of Norway. 
  2. As the sea bottom of the Barents Sea is currently being mapped by Mareano, and this report is estimated to be finalized in 2020, this dissertation recommends that no oil license allocations are made before this process is finalized so marine habitat can be preserved and important natural values will be saved.
  3. The IPCC estimates that the climate emissions needs to decrease 85% within 2050, and 40% within 2020 in order to avoid a temperature increase on more than 2 degrees celsius, and in order for Norway to achieve this, who has set out to reduced their national emissions with 20% within 2020, even Statoil's manager Helge Lund has said that it is a necessary to leave some of the oil reservoirs unexplored. This dissertation recommend that these areas are the South-East Barents Sea areas. 

4.3 Literature and methodological discussion

The literature of this dissertation was gathered in the request of highlighting as broadly as possible how Arctic oil drilling is a new policy step for Norway as an oil nation, and how prior knowledge from more southern latitudes will not be sufficient to safely drill for oil in the Arctic regions of Norway. The aim was to highlight the Coastal Sámi’s perspective on the consequences of an oil spill in their close environment. My chosen method was to contact Coastal Sámis as individual persons, not the organizations that represent them. The organizations were contacted, but only to ask if members were willing to participate. This might have been a flaw of the study, and more politically engaged members of the Sámi community could maybe have been a part of the study if they spoke on behalf of their organizations. Another methodological concern is the decision to not consult ‘experts’ from outside the Sámi community. The study could have been broadened by adding a closer perspective from academics working on issues concerning Sámi rights. Additional depth could have been gained if glaciologists and biologists who specialize in how oil affects the nature were consulted directly, and not only through academic sources. However, from the case study that was executed the answers served a great purpose of highlighting the same concerns that the scientific community raises. 

Recommendations to the Norwegian Parliament on petroleum business in the Barents Sea and Sámi conditions

3.10 Recommendations to the Norwegian Parliament on petroleum business in the Barents Sea and Sámi conditions

Einar Eythórsson’s report ‘Petroleumvirksomhet i Lofoten - Barentshavet og samisk forhold’ (‘Petroleum business in Lofoten - Barents Sea and Sámi conditions’) (2003) was one of two official recommendation reports produced on demand for the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy to consider how Sámi interests would be affected with an all-year petroleum activity in these areas. The lead author of this report Einar Eythórsson points out, both within the report but also on an independent science news website for Norwegian science, how he felt the time the research group was given was not sufficient to give a wholesome and representative recommendation report. He demanded at one point that as they had only been given less than 2 months to state all the risks involved for the Sámi with letting the petroleum industry near their coast, this could hardly be adequate to give justice to all the multiple effects that could come of this. The researchers demanded that they should either be allowed to print this clause in the finished document, or they would refuse to publish what they had gathered of information at all. The report ended up being printed with the clause, but regardless it was considered to hold enough information to form an official opinion on petroleum activity in the Barents Sea. 

The report is based on what is considered the six Sámi regions, in total 17 municipalities in the Northern Norway. Except inner Finnmark, all the Coastal Sámi communities experience depopulation and shortage in traditional ways to make a livelihood. When planning where an eventual onshore land base for the petroleum could be located, it is important to localize where the Sámi have their settlements. The Sámi’s traditional fishing includes not only coastal and fjord fishing, but fishing in ice covered waters and in boats that can manage deep seas far from the shore. This needs to be taken into consideration when drawing the lines for what are Sámi interest areas at sea. 

3.11 Oil spills under ice and health effects on Arctic humans

The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) concludes in its final report ‘Arctic Oil and Gas 2007’ that oil activity can never fully be risk free, due to how tankers can spill transported oil, pipelines can start leaking, as well as accidents, even under the strictest of regulations. The social and economic effects oil activity will have for Arctic people, among them indigenous, are dependent on how involved the Arctic people is on decision making. The report recommends that prior to opening new areas for oil and gas exploration, or building the infrastructure to make these types of industries possible, the indigenous communities must be consulted so the negative effects can be held at a minimum and that the indigenous communities receive the maximum of the benefits from developing a new infrastructure. Their traditional knowledge can be used both for planning what areas to avoid building in, as these could be significant to the indigenous communities. How environmental monitoring has previously been done can provide a double security when what is available of modern technology equipment is combined with how the environment has used to change. When regarding how the indigenous might want employment in the oil industry, it is worth considering the effect it would have for a small indigenous community if the majority of the adult generation stops doing traditional activities as fishing due to a better salary in the oil industry. Generation gaps like this can have unforeseen effects on smaller communities. 

On the effects oil will have on the environment and ecosystems of the Arctic, the report states how the Arctic surface environments are one of places on Earth that will show clearest evidence of alteration, and for the marine environment the main cause of change comes from oil spills. How oil behaves in Arctic waters is so unknown that a high sensitivity towards what the species already living there can manage must be the ultimate goal for any oil exploration. The Exxon Valdez oil spill continues to affect the environment for decades, and as there has currently been no major oil spill in the Arctic we can not know the long term effects. 

Humans can be affected by exposure to petroleum hydrocarbons and this is mainly caused by an oil spill. The food security can also experience a risk of being altered either in quality, quantity or availability, this is directly linked to the state of the marine animals, as the main food source for most indigenous people living in the Arctic comes from the ocean, as the soil is too cold for agriculture. The overall picture of how petroleum hydrocarbons affect human health in the Arctic is complex at best. 

Oil spill response programs where ice is present hold a major challenge for all Arctic states exploring the option of oil activity. Most of the equipment suggested for use today were not designed to be used in an Arctic environment, and will therefore be inadequate when combating spills. This illustration shows the bio network of the Barents Sea (see figure 2). The whales in this area have needed a long time to grow in population size after centuries of hunting. It is only recently starting to pick itself up. Oil drilling and gas activity are the new threats facing the Barents Sea, and with such an abundant marine life the consequences of an oil spill could be hazardous. 

A key finding of the AMAP report is how there are no effective means of gathering or rinsing up an oil spill in broken sea ice (See figure 3). Oil spill responding in the winter adds to the impossibility as there will be no light between November and January (Arktisk system) and the darkness coincides with the harsh weather predictions of winter storms. If an oil spill were to happen in the winter on land or on the top of the unbroken sea ice, this would be easier to retrieve, as long as it can be finalized before spring time, when oil would sink under the ice. So far with the current technology the best recommendation from the AMAP study is to prevent an oil spill, rather than being dependent on an oil spill recovery system. The report suggests that this is still an area where new technology is needed, particularly for oil under ice and in broken ice, which might easily be the case if oil exploration takes place in the South-East Barents Sea, where the Ice Edge and Polar Front pose both of these challenges. 

Figure 2: Simplified Barent Sea food-web The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) ‘Arctic Oil and Gas 2007’

Figure 2: Simplified Barent Sea food-web The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) ‘Arctic Oil and Gas 2007’

Figure 3: The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) ‘Arctic Oil and Gas 2007’

Figure 3: The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) ‘Arctic Oil and Gas 2007’

The added factor of climate change

3.9 The added factor of climate change

The IPCC has concluded that climate change is happening twice as rapidly on and near the poles, as the rest of the globe. This makes climate change unavoidable to mention when considering how the Sámi population will be affected by a possible oil spill in their immediate nature. The ACIA report (Arctic Climate Impact Assessment 2004) concludes that the consequences for societies living in the Arctic of climate change will include: 

  • Loss of hunter culture: Because of the melting all year long ice several species that are reliable on this ice for resting are likely to become extinct, causing difficulties for the Sámis dependance on these animals. The loss of their hunter culture will not only take away a traditional source of nutrition, it is highly intertwined with their sense of cultural identity and what it means to be Sámi. 
  • Reduced food security: Access to traditional food as seal, polar bear, reindeer and some fish and bird species are likely to diminish as a consequence of the heating. Reduced quality and illness among the fish and in the berries that the reindeers eat are already being observed. With the shift to a more ‘Western’ nutrition comes an increased chance for diabetes, obesity and heart diseases. 
  • Health concerns for the inhabitants: Thinner ice caps is a direct cause of the changing climate. This can be dangerous if the Sámi continue to use their traditional paths leading over ice covered-shores that used to be safe. The melting of the permafrost can also lead to poorer sanitation facilities. 
  • Consequences for the herds: As changes in what routes are possible for the reindeer, where they can give birth and access food will be altered, the likely scenario is that this added stress will have a negative effect on the reindeer herds, leading to thinner reindeers with a decreased estimated life span, which again will affect the Sámi in a negative way. 
  • Increase in ship traffic: As the year long ice will melt, new sailing routes will be possible. The North-West passage has already seen an up-rise the last couple of years and within the end of the century this is estimated to be the preferred shipping route of goods. The positive consequences this will bring are more tourism to the Arctic countries, with a possibility that the Sámi will get more attention and a possible market for their livestock. The environmental aspect of more ships going through the Arctic waters is the increased likeliness of introduced species that are highly likely to come along with the ballast water being emptied in the Arctic with water from more southern areas. The introduced species are likely to compete with the ones who are already accustom to the environment, and the consequences on the ecosystem as a whole are hard to predict when introduced species enter an already complete ecosystem. 
  • Increased access to resources: With the melting of the ice in certain areas, former impossible places to search for and extract oil and gas will be possible. The moving ice will also cause an added danger for the petroleum searches in these areas, as the ice is no longer stabilized. 
  • Extended fishing opportunities: Key farming fish species in the Arctic, as herring and cod are likely to thrive in a warmer environment, but it is also very likely that the traveling patterns and prevalence areas of many fish species will change. 
  • Difficulties of transportation on shore: Transportation across the land and pipelines are already being affected by the melting ground. This is likely to increase. Settlements that are dependent on ice covered or frozen roads in order to be accessed for supplies will suffer. 
  • Reduced freshwater fishing: By the end of this century it is estimated that a number of species that have adapted to life in Arctic waters will become extinct both locally and globally. 
  • Better terms for agriculture and forestry: The opportunities for agriculture and forestry are likely to increase, as the warmer weather will open for growing food and trees that former only could live further South.

Concerns from a Coastal Sámi organization on rights to the natural resources

3.8 Concerns from a Coastal Sámi organization on rights to the natural resources

Bivdi, a Coastal Sámi interest organization for promoting and safeguarding the Coastal Sámi’s interests and rights to the sea, explains how the Coastal Sámi culture is likely to be the oldest culture in Norway, and the oldest in Sámi context. By using the coastal areas for fishing, the Coastal Sámi have gathered knowledge and rights from having done so in a very long timeframe. Their entire settlements, livestock and identity are based around the marine resources. Experience-based knowledge has throughout the ages designed an adaptable commercial activity and coastal culture. However, Bivdi has its basis in that the resources for fishing and the other marine resources and rights in the nearby areas belong to the community. These are rights that cannot be invested in, and will not be a traded good for capitalistic interest, but needs to be the foundation for a continuously viable community. During the past hundred years, the Coastal Sámi fishers have been in dialog with the authorities to report back what the situation is at sea, and what is needed for the Coastal Sámi to protect their rights. Bivdi reports that this has been experienced as a hopeless struggle where the Coastal Sámi have continuously been the losing part. This is why they claim that today the result is the long term effects of a failed fishing policy and the consequences of the marked forces, which is a dramatic reduction in resources and many rural Coastal Sámi communities have been abandoned. Their strategy as an organization includes that fishing zones are established, and where there is doubt, the rights should be given back to the local communities. The commercial activity needs to be agreeable with the joint local management, meaning experience-based knowledge will be a part of the wider management. Bivdi welcomes new technology and knowledge when this is used alongside a Coastal Sámi way of sustainable thinking. There is a need for research from a Coastal Sámi perspective, and in this fjord and coastal communities have a joint agenda not considering whether the population living there are Sámi or non-Sámi. The exploitation of the marine resources is of collective interest and by establishing an indigenous zone Bivdi exclaims how this would aid in building a stronger protective area around their resources. This would also help the social rights for Coastal Sámi that need improving including infrastructure and their livestock. 

The report ‘Our common future’ under the chapter on ‘Empowering Vulnerable Groups’ states that it is a ‘Terrible irony that as formal development reaches more deeply into rain forests, deserts, and other isolated environments, it tends to destroy the only cultures that have proved able to thrive in these environments.’ (WCED, 1987: 115) This holds true for the Sámi population of the far most northern municipalities of Norway. 

The book ‘Arctic oil and gas - Sustainability at risk?’ (2008) opens up a new angle to the Barents Sea oil reservoirs; as the non-Sámi population is not a homogeneous groups, neither are the Sámi. Within the Sámi Parliament there are members advocating that the petroleum reservoirs found on Sámi territory should rightfully go to the Sámi. This view does not indicate that the petroleum would be extracted or refined by the Sámi population, as they do not claim the sole right to the petroleum findings, but the main consideration is that as these potential oil and gas findings are located in Sámi territories it is their right that this should benefit the Sámi. The Sámi parliament got a UN resolution from the Human Rights Council declaring that indigenous rights include resources in and bellow the sea, to hand over to the Norwegian Parliament when considering the management of the petroleum found in the South-East Barents Sea. 

Consequences of seismic shooting for larva and fry

3.6.1 Consequences of seismic shooting for larva and fry 

Seismic shooting in itself is not a completely harmless activity either. Sound is an important way of communicating for many fish species when it comes to feeding, survival and reproduction. A seismic search at sea uses an air canon field with many air canons to send low frequency sound waves towards the sea bottom in order to search for oil and gas. The frequency of these sound waves overlaps with the frequency area where fish hear well. Adult and half adult fish have the ability to swim away from these sources of sound, whereas larva and fry do not possess the same ability. It is in the Svalbard zone and in many of the areas in both the South-East and the Northern Barents Sea where the fish population have their breeding places. This combination is problematic as research on spawning fish under the pressure of enduring seismic testing has stopped the spawning, and the larvae that experience these sound waves have either died momentarily or developed damages to their hearing, kidneys, hearts and swimming organs. Fry responded with losing their balance and immediately turned over and swam on their back or side after being exposed to the sound waves (Havforskningsinstituttet 2009). 

3.7 Concerns from the Norwegian Environmental Movement

In an open hearing written by the Norwegian environmentalist organizations Bellona, Fremtiden i våre hender (The Future in our Hands), Greenpeace, Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth), Naturvernforbundet (Nature Conservation Foundation) and SABIMA (Cooperation council for biodiversity) to the opening of The South-East Barents Sea their main concerns were the following: 

  1. Produced Water: In 2010 131 millions m3 of produced water was released from the Norwegian Shelf, and 129 millions m3 the next year. The concern comes when larvae and fry are exposed to high concentrations of production water as this has shown reduced weight and increased mortality in cod. There are still research holes on the effects of other fish besides cod, and on plant and zooplankton which is the nutrition for fry. This falls into the category of long term effects of the oil industry’s presence in the South-East Barents Sea and more research on produced water is desirable for a perspective where the oil industry is to coexist with the fishing industry. 
  2. Soot: Soot, or Black Carbon, will be a result of oil activity in the South-East Barents Sea, as the recommendation report could not exclude this factor from happening in the South-East Barents Sea. When Black Carbon is released on white snow and ice, it reduces the ability to reflect sunlight, the same way open melted water reflects less than white surfaces, which leads to an increased effect of global warming in the Arctic. (UNEP BC report, Twenty-sixth session of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, February, 2011)
  3. Oil spill preparedness: Long distances to reach adequate equipment and the possibility for ice in the northern areas of the consequence investigated area makes oil spill recovery very challenging. In addition the weather conditions in the Barents Sea are known to be fundamentally harsher than areas at sea further south where there is oil business off shore. The low temperatures and the bad light conditions, among ice and heavy fog and very rapid weather changes all exemplifies how there are a multitude of challenges to overcome in order to have a fully operative oil spill recovery system available. It is further necessary to state that despite efforts and initiative from both science and the oil industry, there is currently no effective way of removing oil from ice covered waters. There are also the limitations of oil spill preparedness so close to the Ice Edge, as for the rest of the South- East Barents Sea. If an oil leakage were to occur under water on the sea bottom, the oil would have the opportunity to contaminate unhindered vast areas under the ice, as there is no existing strategy on how to retrieve the oil.
  4. Weather: The waves in the planned areas reaches between 13,9 and 15,6 meters towards 17 meters in the Barents Sea North (Klif 2013). These are significant heights when planning how to retrieve spilled oil. In 2008 there was an oil spill on Statfjord A, where 4400 cubic crude oil leaked out in the North Sea (Sintef 2008). This stands as an example that the existing oil spill recovery methods are not adequate when the waves are above 2,5 meters, as it was in the case of the Statfjord A accident. 
  5. Significant gaps in the oil spill preparedness: The Ministry of Climate and Pollution brought attention to how there is a limited availability to oil spill preparedness equipment both close to the shore, off shore and near the variable Ice Edge (DFN 2013). The Ministry points to factors as how the permanent ice and winter half year of darkness will challenge oil spill recovery attempts further from hard, to at times make it impossible. The Directorate for Nature Conserves argues that even though equipment might come in the future, there is always the possibility that the equipment might not work optimally, which gives the oil an opportunity to contaminate vulnerable areas (NRK 2008). The Norwegian Oil Spill Association has acknowledged the need for better oil spill recovery equipment on the Norwegian shelf. However, in the impact assessment on oil spill preparedness from the Parliament it is stated that the oil spill preparedness shall be equally good all year around (St.meld. 38 2003). As this can not be the case of the South-East Barents Sea consequence area, the environmental organizations do not consider it responsible to have petroleum activity in these areas. 
  6. Marine nature resources: The Climate and Pollution Directorate point to the data on how the sea bed will be affected is based upon knowledge on the sea bottom done by Russian Scientist in the 1930s, and that species are likely to have changed in numbers and bio mass since then (Klif 2013). In 2006 a new study of the marine sea bottom was started by Mareano, which is a branch from the Sea Research Institute, but this new study is not estimated to be finished before 2020 (HI 2007). The Climate and Pollution Directorate recommends that a precautionary approach is used when considering the South-East Barents Sea, and at least makes sure that no license allocations are made to the oil companies, before the Mareano report is finalized so marine habitat can be preserved and important natural values will be saved. 
  7. Consequences of marine noise: The environmental organizations do not find that the impact of increased seismic activity has been evaluated sufficiently. The Impact Assessment report for the South-East Barents Sea states in chapter 4.5 under other ‘environmental consequences’ that there will be negative consequences for the red listed Fin Whale and Baleen Whale. The consultancy firm Rambøll proposes that seismic free zone in areas where whales with calves are observed can be arranged, to stop the damages both physiologically and behaviour-wise on the animals. Similar seismic free zones should be drawn up in all the areas with large sea mammals in the South-East Barents Sea (Rambøl 2007). This arrangement includes stopping seismic activity when large sea mammals move into the seismic free zones that must be drawn up around the installations, in order to be effective to prevent the population of for example fin whales to further decrease. 

On Article 10 in The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

A potential positive consequence of the petroleum industry’s expansion in Finnmark for the Sami population is the possible employment possibilities. Meanwhile, there are some prerequisites that must be in order for this to be beneficial for the Sámi. Experiences made when the ‘Snøhvit’ field was being constructed saw that the wider community was greatly beneficial, in that already existing building firms could be part of aiding the ‘Snøhvit’ building site. There are no known documentations on how this employment affected the Sámi part of the population. It is therefore necessary to explore why the Sámi population can differ so greatly from the non-Sámi. Previous research done by Vistnes et. al. (2008) shows that education relevant for the petroleum industry tends to be lower in municipalities where the majority of the population is Sámi, or have strong Sámi connections, such as all of Finnmark. This means that the competence building that the petroleum industry promise would benefit the inhabitants of Finnmark only to a lesser degree will benefit the Sámi population. Two possible outcomes of this situation that the impact assessment report suggest is that either the Sámi could work in the parts of the petroleum that does not require higher education, or that by seeing how the petroleum industry is growing be motivated to take the necessary higher education. This however is based on the assumptions that 1. The Sámi want to work for the petroleum industry and 2. That they are not already otherwise employed or preoccupied. The indirect effects of this expansion is that the non-Sámi population might grow in cities close to Sámi settlements, and in cities with a high percentage of Sámi inhabitants such as Kirkenes and Vadsø, and this can lead to a higher demand of Sámi made products. Another possible outcome of the indirect effect is that the competition from the petroleum industry will take workers away from what have traditionally been Sámi livelihoods, leading to the diminishing of the Sámi way of life. 

During the past 30-40 years Finnmark has experienced a depopulation of 10 percent, this holds true for municipalities with a strong Sámi connection as well. In Kvalsund however, a municipality with a high population of Sámi had a decreasing population right up until the Snøhvit gas field was being built. After the constructions started the population has now been stabilized. Even though, as above stated, education relevant for the petroleum industry is scarce in Finnmark, it is still a goal that the local population contributes and benefits from the industry. For many of its inhabitants and the labour that comes from other areas of the country this means that relocation is necessary, this can even be areas where the Sámi have traditionally had their settlements. If the petroleum industry settles for a LNG onshore solution, and this is situated east in Finnmark, this can be problematic for the already small Sámi population already living there. 

The report suggests that for the Sámi part of the population that lives in the cities it is equally important as for the Sámi who rely on the primary industry, that their ways of expressing their cultural identity gets an outburst. Strong Sámi institutions for education and science can be equally important for cultural expression as the primary industry. The consequences of the petroleum industry’s expansions seem to be largely negative for the primary sector, although this is not necessarily the same for the Sámi living in the cities. 

Within the official recommendation report it is stated that the northern parts of the South-East Barents Sea flake will experience that where Arctic waters meet the warmer Atlantic water the Polar Front will manifest itself. The report also agrees that the Ice Edge and the Polar Front are the foundations for a high biological production and an important breeding area for sea birds and sea mammals, with the most important seasons being the spring and summer. Nevertheless the request of opening up the South-East Barents Sea for an all year petroleum activity comes within the same document as this biological vulnerability is stated, and without specifying further the possible effects of what happens when oil meets the Polar Front. A prerequisite for this opening at the time was that this was the furthest north Norway had ever done oil drilling, and going beyond this was not recommendable. The report was approved by the Norwegian Parliament and the official recommendation of opening it came the 19th of June 2013. Only 3 months later Norway got a new government after 8 years of a socialist-left coalition. The new government was formed by the two largest conservative parties. In Norway the formal procedure for opening up new areas for oil production is first to have an impact assessment done, while this is being produced seismic shooting can be performed to locate an eventual oil well,  and if both of these elements are in order, the Parliament gives the permission for opening the new area for oil drilling and licensing rounds are held for the oil companies to choose their areas. The former government was record holding in having opened up and given away more concession rounds than all former governments in Norwegian oil history combined (SNL). This summer on the 17th of August the new government under the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy started seismic shooting in the Svalbard zone, an area where Norway’s sovereignty is politically disputed, without having started an impact assessment. In regards of giving the Sámi population a free informed prior consent, which is their right through Article 10 in The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) on what is happening to their territories, it can be argued that the Sámi are not informed that when an impact assessment is being done, the process of opening the area for oil production have already begun, as no area that has undergone an impact assessment in Norwegian oil history has ever been left alone afterwards. By not stating this fact, information is necessarily held back. The seismic shooting around the Svalbard zone got national attention when Greenpeace Norway alerted the public news that Svalbard and The Barents Sea North was under threat of being unofficially opened, and the environmental movement in Norway alongside concerned political parties pressured the sitting government to stop the seismic shooting one month before it was scheduled to be finished.

Food Security for the Sámi and the Health of Species living in the Arctic

3.5 Food Security for the Sámi and the Health of Species living in the Arctic

The Arctic Council and Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) writes in the extensive report ‘Oil and Gas Activities in the Arctic: Effects and Potential Effects’ (2007) on how seals and whales are normally not that sensitive towards outer affection of an oil spill. This is due to their thick layers of blubber that protects them against heat loss, and the skin of whales and walruses are robust enough to not take harm from contact with oil. Baby seals with fur however are very sensitive towards oil, equally so are polar bears, sea otters and Northern fur seals. 

The report states how oil spills in ice covered waters will be severely difficult to rinse up and with the added potential that the oil stays for a long time in the waters. Important areas where sea birds come to hunt for food and whales and seals comes to breath are openings in the ice, such as reads and so called polynyas, which are ice free areas due to wind and leeward sides produced by islands. Because of the need for keeping these areas free of oil, the whales are also considered sensitive towards oil spills. In all areas where birds and mammals appear densely packed in the Arctic will be areas that are vulnerable towards oil spills or disturbances from the petroleum industry. 

3.6 The formal process of opening the South-East Barents Sea for petroleum

The State Report ‘Meld. St. 36 (2012-2013) Melding til Stortinget Nye muligheter for Nord-Norge - åpning av Barentshavet sørøst for petroleumsvirksomhet’ (‘Message to the Parliament New possibilities for North-Norway - opening of the South-East Barents Sea to petroleum recovery’) is a recommendation report written on the basis of the impact assessment done by several affected actors, among them the Sámi Parliament representing the interest of the Sámi population when considering whether it is responsible to open the South-East Barents Sea to the petroleum industry. The chapter of the impact assessment regarding how the Sámi interest will be affected is based on an independent study done by the consultancy firm Pöyry (2012) that considers the Sámi’s commercial activities such as reindeer husbandry, fishing, rural livelihoods and forest pasture, in addition to employment, competencies, settlements, expression of culture and identity development. The scenarios that are considered in this assessment are only the effects on the Sámi population during ordinary petroleum activity, meaning without any leaks or other emissions to their close environment. This is the gap this master is trying to fill; what if something goes wrong? 

Chapter 8 ‘Betydningen for samiske forhold' (‘The Significance for Sámi conditions’) in the report ‘Ringvirkninger av petroleums- virksomhet ved Barentshavet sørøst Konsekvensutredning for Barentshavet sørøst Utarbeidet på oppdrag fra Olje- og energidepartementet’ (‘Ripple effects of the petroleum activity in the South-East Barents Sea Impact assessment for the South-East Barents Sea commissioned on behalf of the Ministry of Oil and Energy’) considers how Sámi interests are affected. Sámi areas are all the areas that the Sámi use or live in, practically speaking this covers all of Finnmark, northernmost municipality in Norway, as a Sámi area. The Sámi way of making a livelihood involves reindeer husbandry, fishing, rural livelihoods and forest pasture, of these the fishing, rural livelihood and forest pasture will be affected by the petroleum expansion, both for the Sámi and non-Sámi population. The petroleum industry’s impact on the reindeer husbandries will however only affect the Sámi, as they are the only population in Norway that exercises this. It is only a small number of the Sámi population that exercise reindeer husbandry, although it is considered a significant part of Sámi culture expression and identity. An explanation to this can be found in Vistnes et. al. (2008) where it is suggested that the reindeer husbandry has in a lesser degree been ‘Norwegianised’, as for example the Coastal Sámi culture has experienced. The report looks on the direct consequences the petroleum expansion will have for Sámi livelihoods. There can however also be indirect consequences given that the Sámi and the petroleum industry will want the same employees, and as the Sámi’s way of cultivating their land is so closely knit with their expression of culture and identity, this can present a challenge. As this master focuses on the Coastal Sámi in particular, it will only very briefly touch upon what the effects of the petroleum industry can lead to with the reindeers. Local direct effects, as building a road necessary for the petroleum expansion through a grazing area, can lead to disturbance of single reindeers as increased stress may shorten their life expectancy. Regional indirect effects on the herd as a whole can occur if reindeer shun the areas where they know they are likely to be disturbed and because of this they end up being rounded up in smaller grazing areas, where they may over-stretch the capacity of the given land, causing the reindeer to not gain as much body reservoirs as is necessary before the cold season. The cumulative long-term effect of the production is reduced health for the reindeers, leading to a fall in the reindeer husbandry for the herding Sámi population. 

When considering what areas within the fishing industry that are considered of Sámi interest, the general consensus is that the Coastal Sámi population has mainly focused on fishing in the fjords and nearby coastal districts, even thought many Sámi participate in fishing off shore with active fishing equipment. On this basis these sources suggest that it is not purposeful of the impact assessment to make a divide between the Sámi population and the non-Sámi population in questions regarding how the petroleum will affect the fishing industry in Finnmark. The breeding industry for fish has become an important industry in many fjords with Sámi settlement, which has caused the breeding industry to be counted upon as a Sámi industry. The way fish will be affected by the petroleum will in turn have direct consequences for the Sámi conditions. 

The Sámi's use of agriculture and forest pasture is a traditional part of the Sámi living. In addition to reindeer husbandry, their livelihood also includes grouse hunting in the forest pasture and fishing. Today, these are only considered subsidiary income sources for the Sámi, with a difficulties recruiting. However, the agriculture is very important for Sámi families, as the family is an economic production unit, and places where the Sámi can fish and hunt are considered important factors for where to make settlements, in addition to being culturally important. The way Sámi agriculture in Finnmark would be affected in a high risk scenario of the expansion of the petroleum industry would be if Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) (see Glossary) constructions were built on shore that took up the areas where the Sámi traditionally have done their hunting, or where they have their settlements. In addition comes the possible pollution the construction can have on the outskirts. In a low risk scenario the petroleum constructions would be off shore. This would lead to a lesser impact on the Sámi settlements, although it opens up to a range of other potential threats of how petroleum construction sites at sea can harm the environment that in turn will harm the Sámi through their fishing.

Thoughts on an Arctic Legal Treaty Recognizing its indigenous population

3.2 Thoughts on an Arctic Legal Treaty Recognizing its indigenous population

The ‘Law of the Sea Report, Vol. 3 (2012) No. 1 Don’t leave the Sámi out in the cold: The Arctic region needs a binding treaty that recognizes its indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and free, prior and informed consent’ discusses how the indigenous people living in the Arctic have adapted their way of life in the cold for thousands of years in order to develop the necessary resilience, and how their culture and spiritual traditions have formed their own way of relating to the ecosystem called ‘Traditional Ecological Knowledge’ (TEK). This TEK makes it possible for the indigenous to interpret weather signs and accordingly predict the weather, but due to the extreme changes caused by climate change, predicting the weather has become harder, and as they can no longer with certainty rely on what was previously considered reliable sources of information, their security has decreased. The indigenous people of the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia are called the Sámi. Their nation is called Sámpi, even though this is a nation without a state or borders, but the inhabitants of the area share the same history, culture, language and way of life. The entire Sámi population is estimated to lie between 70,000 and 100,000, where the majority is found within Norway. After the Inuits, they are the second largest indigenous group living in the Arctic and within the Sámi population there is a divide between coastal and river Sámi, mountain Sámi, forest Sámi and eastern Sámi, however, they view themselves as one people. Under the section ‘Environmental Protection’ the report explains how the Arctic has a highly complex ecosystem and how this makes it even more vulnerable to interferences. To disconnect Sámi from their land can cause cultural genocide. The source further suggests that the result of environmental changes that may cause difficulties for the Sámi must be addressed in an Arctic treaty that will protect Sámi and indigenous people living in the Arctic’s rights for protection of land and resources. This is not only in the interest of the Sámi, but also the Arctic states, as the trans-boundary pollution and over-exploitation will contaminate the Sámi’s land alongside the Arctic states resources. Article 192 of the 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) says that nations have an ‘obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment.’(UN LOS) The report further suggests that this should also include management of the Arctic’s resources, including gas, oil and marine life, in addition to, the recognition of the indigenous peoples’ right to enjoyment of their land, which includes the right to enjoy the land’s resources. The state’s interest of utilizing these areas should not infringe on this right. Article 134 on ice-covered areas note how areas with ‘particularly severe climatic conditions’ in ice covered areas for most of the year needs regulations to prevent ‘irreversible disturbance of the ecological balance.’ These regulations shall be based on the best scientific evidence that is available. 

3.3 Arctic Energy Challenges

In the chapter ‘Miljø, ressurser og transport i Arktis - Petroleumsforekomster’ (‘Environment, Resources and Transport in the Arctic - Petroleum findings’) in the book ‘Arktiske utfordringer’ (‘Arctic Challenges’) (2012) by Geir Hønneland the author states how according to United States Geological Survey it is estimated that more than 20 percent of the world’s undiscovered petroleum resources can be located in the Arctic, and how 30 percent of these are estimated to be gas resources, and 13 percent undiscovered oil. The main component of these resources is assumed to be located offshore on the continental shelf, that is in waters with a depth that is less than 500 meters. The majority of these resources are again estimated to be on the Russian side of the borders, however as the source is aware of, these are only estimates. The estimates do not state what is technically or economically possible to produce. The scope of the undiscovered oil in the Arctic is estimated to not be large enough to alter the world’s existing supply pattern in any significant way, whereas the gas resources would be able to affect the supply pattern in the future. 1/4 of the oil equivalents, both petroleum resources combined, is set to be in Alaska and the Eastern Barents Sea, in the area where Norway has opened up for oil exploration. More than 70 percent of the estimated oil resources are calculated to be located in five main areas: Alaska, the Amerasia-pool, East-Greenland, the Eastern Barents Sea and West-Greenland/North-East-Canada (USGS 2008). 

3.4 An Oil Spill Scenario in the South-East Barents Sea

The NUPI (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs) report ‘Miljøpersepsjoner i Nordvest-Russland - Problemoppfatninger knyttet til petroleumsutbygging i Barentshavet’ (‘Environmental Perceptions in North-West Russia - Problem perceptions regarding the petroleum development in the Barents Sea’) views the differences between Norway and Russia when it comes to handling the environmental concern in the Barents Sea. The danger of oil spills is a consistent theme, and the different institutes in Russia working on how to solve this has not landed on a unison yet, partly because that there is no one today that knows the long term effect of the chemicals that are being used. Several of the methods used by Russian scientific oil institutes to avoid having physical oil spills located on the surface involves letting the oil sink to the bottom, even though this has devastating effects on the sea bottom. One of two environmental organizations consulted in Nenets, Russia, who also worked on the indigenous interests, criticized the Russian attitude which they interpreted to be as the ones who are most affected, the indigenous, are the same ones that will be least consulted. 

Norwegian Arctic oil history

3.0 Literature Review

The following chapter presents the literature of this dissertation and the background of the study. 

3.1 Norwegian Arctic oil history

‘Den nye nordområdepolitikken’ (‘The New North Area Policy’) (2008) by Geir Hønneland and Leif Christian Jensen discuss how there has been a shift in Norwegian policymaking regarding the High North. The shift started when Jonas Gahr Støre became the new foreign minister in 2005. The new topics on the agenda for the High North were now distribution of resources and security politics – topics that had not been discussed since The Cold War. Oil drilling in the High North had hardly been mentioned before this, and the divide between Norwegian and Russian fishing quotas had found its common middle ground in the 1970s. The book draws its main focus to the NOU’s (Norges offentlige utredninger) (Official Norwegian Reports) regarding the Northern areas of Norway after 2003 when the new development started. This includes the documents: 

  • ‘Mot nord!’ (‘Towards North!’) (2003) 
  • ‘Muligheter og utfordringer i nord’ (‘Possibilities and challenges in the North’) (2005) 
  • ‘Barents 2020’ (2006) 
  • ‘Regjeringens nordområdestrategi’ (‘The governments North area strategy’) (2006)

‘Regjeringens nordområdestrategi’ (‘The government’s North area strategy’) dedicates chapters to indigenous questions, environmental considerations and petroleum. Furthermore there are discussions around the process of the opening of the first petroleum activity in the Barents Sea on the ‘Snøhvit’-project. When it was suggested that there should be petroleum free zones within this area, the ministry for oil and energy was concerned this might cause unnecessary conflict focus, and the worry was that if these areas first were protected, then this could be the first step to more petroleum free zones in the Barents Sea. With this approach to petroleum exploration, that protected areas are sometimes necessary to preserve the ecosystem, the sitting government (Bondevik 2) showed respect towards the Rio-conference in 1992 on biological diversity. At the Johannesburg-conference ten years later it was encouraged that this way of approaching marine resources was recommended. The state report from the same government in the spring of 2002 ‘Rent og rikt hav’ (‘Clean and rich ocean’) states that Norway wants to count on holistic management plans for all the Norwegian sea areas, and with an expressive wish to start with the Barents Sea. This was justified because there is still a relatively small amount of human interference in this area, and it is also one of the richest areas for fish, sea birds and sea mammals in the world. The main aspects of the ecosystem has been researched, but there is still a low level of agreed knowledge on how pollution affects the species and the ecosystem. The report also states how the low temperatures and drifting ice give the oil and chemicals released in the water a long degradation. This combined with the occasionally high waves that can occur during the dark season gives an overall image of oil spill reduction being severely limited. Combined with the poorer infrastructure of North-Troms and Finnmark compared to the rest of the country this contributes even further in weakening level of preparedness for a potential oil spill. 

The State Report ‘Helhetlig forvaltning av det marine miljø i Barentshavet og havområdene utenfor Lofoten’ (2005-2006) (‘Wholesome management of the marine environment in the Barents Sea and the sea areas around Lofoten’) explains how the Barents Sea is a shallow ocean with an average depth of 230 meters, and the most shallow areas are located in the South-East. Even thought the Barents Sea surface areas only measure 7% of the Arctic Ocean areas, the main bulk of the Arctic marine resources is located in this area. This is caused due to the fact that a considerable amount of the North-East-Atlantic fish resources live parts or their entire life cycle in the Barents Sea. 

The book looks backwards and reviews the 1990s as a decade where the oil industries interest for the Arctic ocean areas were low, even thought they in the 1980s had experienced a promising optimism surrounding these areas. However, ten years later the search did not show results, and in 2007 geologist Jan Inger Faleide expressed to the independent research website how the Barents Sea was raised and lowered during the past ice ages, and how this caused the thickness of several kilometers of sediments to be scraped off. This gave the gas the room to expand and how this caused the reaction where the oil was outright pumped out of the reservoirs. Further, he points out that among the geologists it is said that the industry should have drilled for oil in these areas ten million years ago (this is however only one theory, which not all experts agree upon). 

To sum up, the book discusses the three discourses that have been dominant in Norway: The ‘protective’ discourse, the ‘energy appetite and new alliances’ discourse and the ‘drilling for the environment’ discourse. The ‘protective’ discourse states that petroleum activity in the Barents Sea will threaten the fragile Arctic environment and the renewable sea resources, and therefore demands that Norway refrains from it. An article from the financial newspaper Dagens Næringsliv on the 10th of April 2000 explains: The sea areas where it is currently being discussed to open up for large-scale oil delivery is in a fishing context among the most valuable in the world. The Barents Sea, with large populations of cod, shrimp, herring and capelin, is the ecological foundation that enables Norway to produce seafood for over 30 billions NOK annually. That this sea area has a documentable clean environment is the most important condition to why fishers, breeders and biotechnologist pictures a multiplication of todays value in the next 20-30 years. The fear is however that if 100.000 tons of crude oil is transported through the Barents Sea and along the Norwegian coast, it is only a question of time before a ship wreck or another serious accident with enormous oil spills will be the result. The ‘energy appetite and new alliances’  discourse refers to Norway’s relationship to Russia, and how Russia has already gotten a pre-start, and how Norway must not appear small and backwards-looking towards the wider world community. This discourse appeals to the fear that Norway will be a ‘pigeon among cranes’ and will end up in a ‘geopolitical cross road’ if Norway does not also ‘compete’ in the ‘race against the North’, that has already started. There is also the factor that the world will need more energy, and it is Norway’s obligation to provide this. The third discourse, ‘drilling for the environment’, draws on the previous prerequisite that the Russians have already started, but their equipment is old and outdated, whereas if Norway were to do the oil drilling, it would at least be done with the newest within the technology, and therefore it is Norway’s duty to lead the way to set the right environmental standard within oil drilling in the Barents Sea. 

On the research that led to the findings..

Giving out chapter 2 right away; 

1.5 Research Method  

The chosen research method for this case study was interviews via e-mails, as the first two Coastal Sámi I came in contact with preferred this means of expressing themselves. The research was formulated in a questionnaire with open ended questions so the Coastal Sámi would have the option to write as short or lengthy as desirable. The first part of the interviews was done in the middle of June, before the main holiday started in Norway. The literature review set out to complement the Coastal Sámi replies, both to strengthen their validity, but also to provide evidence that what my informants were suspecting in many cases could be assured with recent findings on how oil affects matters concerning the Coastal Sámi. While I was writing the literature review, I constantly tried to retrieve contact with the institutions of the High North who worked on Sámi related issues. In August, when the main holiday was over, positive response on participating was received, and as I was hoping for a high number of participants an online questionnaire was made, making it easier to both further distribute the survey within the Coastal Sámi community, but also for treating the data afterwards. 

1.6 Approach

To meet the aims and objectives of this dissertation I have approached the topic twofold with both a thorough literature review, as the dissertation concerns a nation that is not the UK, I found it necessary to give the reader the full information of how legislative procedures works in Norway. As the literature review aims to highlight the different perspectives on why oil exploration is necessary it was included the perspective on the potential energy that could come as a benefit from this source. In Norway the Sámi are not often referred to as being ‘indigenous’ but are rather just referred to as being Sami, therefore it is my view that the indigenous question has been lost from the debate and hence the legal rights that comes with being recognized as an indigenous population inhabiting a resource area that has been theirs for 10.000 years (Porsanger Sameforening 2013). This leads to the inclusion of how an oil spill would affect this activity that has been going on for such a vast period of time, and whether this is the potential end point of traditional Coastal Sámi livelihood. Food security and how the health of Arctic species are affected by oil is a great concern to the Sámi, and should therefore be a considerable factor for decision makers, and is therefore left in this dissertation. A brief description on how seismic shooting affects Arctic marine life is necessary, as to explain how intertwined and fragile the symbiosis of the Arctic eco system really is. The official concerns in an open hearing from the Norwegian Environmental Movement and the Sámi Parliament are included as to show what the main arguments against oil exploration were at the time that the decision to open up the South-East Barents Sea was made. Climate change in the Arctic is a factor that both enables the potential oil business, but climate change is also a hazard for the Coastal Sámi livelihood in itself, so a brief chapter is dedicated to this factor. The official recommendation report that was made on how the Sámi would be affected by oil activity in the South-East Barents Sea was based on two major studies that have been done in Norway, the first in 2003 and the second in 2008. I include these to highlight that important facts are not given as much significance as they should, given what is at stake. Then there will be a paragraph with the current facts on how oil appears in ice covered waters as the reader will have all the facts based on a combination of chapter 2 of the dissertation, which presents answers from the Coastal Sámi population. These two main parts of the dissertation will culminate in a set of recommendations to decision makers emphasizing the potential risk involved when opening the Arctic to the oil industry and how the need to think of potential risks with a worst case scenario in mind is the best way to be prepared if an oil spill were to occur. 

2.0 Methodology and data 

In the introduction I have presented the context this master dissertation is written in, namely the Coastal Sámi perspective of Arctic oil spills. Following this, I will now present the theoretical background this study is based upon. I will further explain how the case study and research material was gathered, and how this is linked. Afterwards I will discuss my sample of informants for the case study and what methodological challenges I encountered while collecting the data. Lastly in the methodology chapter, I will discuss the treatment of the collected data. 

2.1 Grounded Theory 

For the case study of interviewing the Coastal Sámi inhabitants of the northernmost municipalities in Norway, I found it appropriate to use grounded theory. According to (Mjøset 2007) grounded theory was a program launched by Glaser and Strauss in 1967 to systematize the second, post-war Chicago school’s perspective, and is considered to be the most developed and independent program for theory on a lower level. The thought behind the theory is that if you only seek to verify existing knowledge, then nothing new can be gained. With this case study I wanted to fill the gap between what information the Coastal Sámi either knew, had been given by authorities or what they suspected about how a possible oil spill would affected their immediate nature, and what knowledge is currently available concerning how oil in ice covered waters behaves. The purpose of using grounded theory is that by setting a clause around all previous knowledge and culture dependent prejudice one will be more open to the full empirical experience that one will acquire through the field work. However, grounded theory does not demand that no assumptions are made beforehand. It is on the other hand consistent with that all observations are theory based, but it does demand that the empirical work is based on previous grounded theory in the applied topic. This is the case for this study, as the literature review views the two major studies done on the oil industries impact on the Coastal Sámi, and neither of these stated any other agenda than contributing to a field where information is scarce. What neither of these studies asked however, were questions regarding oil under ice, and oil near the Ice Edge and the Polar Front. 

The study ‘Social, Cultural, and Psychological Impacts of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill’ (Lawrence et. al. 1993) carried out an extensive research study on the consequences of 594 men and woman living in Alaska during the time of the Exxon Valdez spill. The study concluded that the oil spills impact on the psychosocial environment was equally important as the physical impacts the oil spill caused the environment. A comparable study ‘Disruption and stress in an Alaskan fishing community: initial and continuing impacts of the Exxon Valdez oil spill’ (Picou et. al. 1992) concluded that communities who are dependent on natural resources for their existence are particularly vulnerable to disasters that pollutes the biophysical nature. My case study builds on this knowledge and aims to show that the same factors applies for a Norwegian oil spill scenario. 


New mini-series: Learn more about Arctic oil drilling and the Coastal Sámi!

As a new mini-series, I have decided to publish a blog post on one chapter from my master every day for the next 14 days or so (making it a bit like the Norwegian hit series SKAM). Arctic oil drilling is a highly relevant topic these days, and my hope for this mini series is to spread awareness of the current situation, and let more people join in on the conversation on Arctic oil drilling. Here we go: 

To what extent will there be consequences for the Coastal Sámi in the event of an Arctic oil spill in the South-East Barents Sea? — With a case study of Coastal Sámi inhabitants living in the northernmost municipalities of Norway


This dissertation provides a thorough response to the research question ‘what risk factors does the Coastal Sámi community face when considering an oil spill in the South-East Barents Sea?’ In addition to how the ocean is of significant cultural value to the Coastal Sámi for their sense of identity, it is also their primary food source. Oil activity in the South-East Barents Sea will pose a threat already under safe practice, as the seismic shooting the Norwegian oil industry use in order to locate oil wells has a negative effect on larva and fry. The sea bottom of the Barents Sea is currently being mapped, and the report is estimated to be finished in 2020, making it impossible to predict further consequences on the marine life before this time. Large scale oil spill recovery tests affirmed how techniques used in open waters to remove oil were not applicable, and how satellite monitoring system would not pick up oil spilt under ice with a density percentage over 40%. The case study confirmed that the risks of an oil spill had not been given to the informants. A plausible reason could be that information was given to the Sámi Parliament on behalf of the Sámi, but as there is no known knowledge on how to clean an Arctic spill, this withholding of information breaks with the Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent in The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which Norway has signed. Recommendations includes drawing up a treaty distributing areas in and around the sea between the Sámi population and the non-indigenous population of Norway, waiting until the sea bottom mapping is finished before oil licenses are being allocated and in order to achieve Norway’s climate emission targets leave the oil reservoirs unexplored. 


‘The Arctic is closer to our homes than we think.’

- David Attenborough


1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background of the study

The background for this masters dissertation is that the human created (Stern 2006) climate change is heating up the Arctic at a faster pace than any other place on the globe. This causes melting of the permanent ice, and with this the opening of an unexploited territory in regards of fossil energy sources. Norway owns oil concessions in the Barents Sea (see figure 1), and gas production has already started in the Southern areas of the Barents Sea in the ‘Snøhvit’ field 140 km North-West of Hammerfest. The concern of this dissertation is what the consequences for the indigenous population of Norway, the Sámi, would be if an oil spill in these recently opened areas were to occur. Norway found oil on the Norwegian shelf in 1969 (Regjeringen 2013) on the field named ‘Ekofisk’, whereas the Sámi, and in particular the Coastal Sámi population, have been inhabiting the same areas that are now being opened up to the petroleum industry for over 10.000 years (Porsanger Sameforening 2013). What is special with the South-East Barents Sea being opened for oil exploration, (and also the North Barents Sea that has been test-drilled for oil while this dissertation has been written), is that the South-East Barents Sea borders to the permanent ice, an area both indigenous and non-indigenous people of the North rely on for food security, as its existence is crucial for the complex and highly adapted biodiversity of the Arctic. Oil spill recovery systems do exist for open waters, but not for oil that has leaked under ice. Arctic drilling is a new phenomenon and tests on how to detect and clean up an oil spill sponsored by several leading oil companies have proven to be extremely challenging, if not impossible at this time(Sintef 2010). 

  Figure 1. Impact assessment area: The Norwegian Oil Directorate 

1.2 The main research question

In June 2013 the Norwegian government agreed to open the South-East areas of the Norwegian Barents Sea for oil exploration, in the hope that there will be oil reservoirs. This is a new direction in Norwegian policy making, because this is the first time an area close to the permanent ice has been opened up. The Sámi, and in particular the Coastal Sámi, are dependent on the nearby ocean and a functioning ecosystem for their continued survival as a people. The full consequences of an oil spill in Arctic waters are unknown, this dissertation will therefore assess risk factors based on current knowledge and seek out to give a full perspective of the environmental impacts for the Coastal Sámi population, and what acts of mitigation would be necessary in order to prevent potential damage done to their immediate nature.                                                  

1.3 Rationale

This dissertation will consider how an Arctic oil spill will affect the Coastal Sámi population because my thesis is that all the facts was not properly presented when the decision of opening the South-East Barents Sea for oil recovery was made, due to how there is little to no known facts on how to remove oil from ice covered waters(Sintef 2010). After reading through the official documents by the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy sent out on a hearing to the Sámi Parliament, these parts were not included and the process of opening the above named areas was heavily criticized for having happened too quickly for affected parts to protest. 

1.3.1 Scope

This dissertation will not consider the two following aspects of oil in the Barents Sea: 

1. A report done by SINTEF on how oil reacts in Arctic waters (Sintef 2010) suggest that it is probably from the increased shipping traffic through the North-East passage that an oil leakage will come from, and that these kinds of oil spills will be harder to control from for example a governmental point of view, because from an economical perspective with the melting poles, it is more lucrative to use the North-East passage and therefor the shipping will probably happen either way if oil drilling is not going to take place in the Arctic. The report stated that the usual way oil spills from tankers is noticed is by constant satellite photos, but the problem with the Arctic is that if the ice concentration is high then it is impossible to spot the spills, and this is when the oil can drift under the ice for months.

2. Many experts have pointed towards that oil exploration in the Arctic, and particularly in the Barents Sea, is not an economically good decision as it is highly expensive to start exploration in an area where there is currently no sufficient equipment to drill safely, nor a connection to the already existing transport system Norway transports its LNG on.

1.4 Aims

The aim of this masters dissertation is to highlight the indigenous perspective of the Coastal Sámi in the debate around oil activities in the High North of Norway. A common feature for indigenous populations is their dependence on the nature for their continuous survival as a people and the Coastal Sámi are not different. When interfering with the Coastal Sámi’s prospects of a livestock funded in the primary sector, the oil industry does not only put their main food source at risk, but also how they define themselves as a people. Their identity is so intertwined with where they live and how their food is gathered, that a clean shoreline and waters are a prerequisite for the Costal Sámi’s existence. This statement is based on results from the interviews that will be discussed in chapter 2 of this dissertation.

Suing the Norwegian State over constitutional violations

The past two years we have seen every previous heat record to date being broken. We know the reason why this is happening. The burning of fossile fuels as oil, coal and gas give us carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that escalates the global heating. This is causing the world we live in to be more unevenly distributed, where those who have done the least to contribute to the global heating are the ones suffering the most. 

In June 2016, the Norwegian government handed out permissions to drill for oil in the Barents Sea, through the 23rd licensing round. In total, 53 new search licences were distributed and Statoil announced that they would start the oil drilling already next summer. Not many months after, the Norwegian government handed out even more licences in the 24rd licence round. 

This does not make any sense due to two good reasons: 

  1. We have a Environmental paragraph in our constitution, paragraph 112, that states: ‘Everyone has the right to an environment that ensures the health, and to a nature where production capability and diversity is preserved. Natural resources should be allocated on the basis of a long-term and versatile consideration that safeguards this right also to the coming generations’ and ‘the States authorities shall implement measures to conduct these principles.’ 
  2. In Paris in December last year, Norway ratified, as one of the first countries, on the new climate agreement that states that we wish to hold the human created global heating to less than 1,5 degrees.

A new report from Oil Change International has also stated that if we are to reach these climate goals, we have to leave all the undiscovered oil in the ground. The report also states that the oil resources we already are drilling will contribute to a higher CO2 emission target than 2 degrees, if we are to burn the oil. This makes it pointless to drill for more new oil. 

Norway likes to think of itself as a green country, and the best in the class, but our actions speaks louder than words. 

Because of this is a number of environmental organisations now suing the Norwegian State for violations on our constitution. 

‘We think that the state has broken its responsibility for future generations by opening for large scale oil drilling. If we are to have a Earth to live on in the future, we need to take the climate changes seriously and leave the oil in the soil’ said Ingrid Skjoldvær, leader of Nature and Youth. 

‘At the same time as Erna Solberg, Norwegian Prime minister, signed the Paris agreement and promised big emission cuts, the Norwegian government opened for large scale oil drilling in the Barents Sea. We ask the court to make these licences void, because more oil will lead to higher emissions, not lower’, said Truls Gulowsen, leader of Greenpeace Norway. 

‘Norway seems determined on sabotaging the Paris-agreement even before it went into action’ wrote Nasa scientist James Hansen, in an open letter to Erna Solberg. 

With this lawsuit, the environmental organisations aim to focus on that environmental damages is not only a political problem. This regards the livelihoods of the humans that live now, but also the ones that will come after us. Given that we have a Constitution that states as clearly as the Norwegian environmental paragraph does, there are certain limits what the Norwegian government can do. The resources found in our nature are to be distributed with thoughts to a longterm and safe future. 

If you wish to follow the lawsuit, and add your name to show your support, you can follow this link:,arctic,action%20page,oil&utm_campaign=Polar&__surl__=IgOs9&__ots__=1476909143400&__step__=1