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Ice-breaking LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie. Sovcomflot

Tanker Crosses Arctic Without Icebreaker for First Time Due to Rapid Melting of Sea Ice

In the Arctic, where warming is happening twice as fast as the rest of the planet, a Russian tanker sailed across the Northern Sea Route in record speed and without the aid of an icebreaker for the first time.

On its maiden journey, the 984-foot Christophe de Margerie tanker transported liquefied natural gas from Norway to South Korea in 19 days, about 30 percent faster than the regular route through the Suez Canal, the ship's owner Sovcomflot boasted.


Crossing the Northern Sea Route, the northernmost part of the voyage, took only 6.5 days. The ship's average speed during the passage exceeded 14 knots despite sailing through ice fields 1.2 meters (4 feet) thick and "[demonstrated] the economic potential of using the Northern Sea Route for large-capacity vessel transits," Sovcomflot said.

Typically, shipping tankers are accompanied by icebreakers that clear paths through thick layers of ice. But the Christophe de Margerie, named after the former CEO of Total, is designed to sail independently through ice of up to 2.1 meters (7 feet) thick.

As the New York Times pointed out, the Northern Sea Route had historically been impossible or prohibitively expensive to cross due to the region's thick sea ice. Sailors used to only set sail when the ice was thin in the summer.

However, the world's rapidly rising temperatures have significantly thawed Arctic ice, and now Sovcomflot believes it could potentially make the journey "year-round in the difficult ice conditions."

The Christophe de Margerie is the first of 15 such shipping tankers expected to be built, the Guardian reported.

"This is the paradox of climate change," Ben Ayliffe, a campaigner for Greenpeace, told CNN Money. "The fossil fuels we're burning are allowing access into areas that were previously protected by ice."

Ayliffe further commented that increased sea traffic in the region could lead to a fuel spill virtually impossible to clean up.

Similarly, John Maggs from Seas at Risk told BBC: "We're concerned that this is a commercial opportunity that has only opened up because of global warming, and we're especially concerned that having taken advantage of the thinning of the ice, shipping operations are now expanding in that part of the world."

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Slaughter of 90,000 Wild Horses Could Proceed Despite 80% Objection From American Public

The American Wild Horse Campaign on Thursday harshly criticized Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's appointment of Brian Steed, the former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), as the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as dangerous and out of step with the wishes of the vast majority of Americans.

"Rep. Stewart is leading the charge to slaughter America's wild horses and burros over the opposition of 80 percent of Americans," said Suzanne Roy, AWHC Executive Director. "Putting his deputy at the helm of the agency charged with protecting these national icons is like putting the wolf in charge of the chicken coop."

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Bright Idea: This Lamp Harvests Its Own Energy From Plants

Now that's green energy. Dutch product designer Ermi van Oers and her team are working on the first atmospheric lamp powered by living plants.

The Living Light does not require an electric socket. It can harvest its own energy through the photosynthetic process of the encased plant, which means the potential of this off-grid light source could be "huge," as Van Oers told Dezeen.

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Landmark Youth Climate Lawsuit Heads to Federal Appeals Court

There has been a significant development in the constitutional climate change lawsuit so far successfully prosecuted by 21 youth plaintiffs: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to hear oral argument over whether the Trump administration can evade trial currently set for Feb. 5, 2018. Oral arguments will be heard before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Dec. 11 and can be watched on a live stream beginning at 10 a.m. PST.

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Pope Francis: These 4 'Perverse Attitudes' Could Push Earth to Its Brink

Pope Francis issued a strong message to negotiators at the COP23 climate talks in Bonn, Germany on Thursday, warning them not to fall into "four perverse attitudes" regarding the future of the planet—"denial, indifference, resignation and trust in inadequate solutions."

Francis, who has long pressed for strong climate action and wrote his 2015 encyclical on the environment, renewed his "urgent call" for renewed dialogue "on how we are building the future of the planet."

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The Greenpeace ship Esperanza sits near the Statoil contracted oil rig Transocean Spitsbergen. Greenpeacce

Groups Sue Norway Over Failure to Protect Environment for Future Generations

By David Leestma

Greenpeace and the Nature and Youth environmental group opened a lawsuit this week over Norway's failure to abide by its constitutional obligation to safeguard the environment for future generations.

The lawsuit, which focuses on local environmental damage and the contribution that oil extraction will make to climate change, challenges 10 licenses issued by the Norwegian government for exploration in the Barents Sea. Given to Statoil, Chevron and other oil companies, the licenses violate Norway's constitution and the Paris agreement, according to the plaintiffs. Government lawyers claim the case is a publicity stunt that risks valuable jobs.

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Lia Heifetz of Barnacle Foods hauls kelp for salsa. Bethany Sonsini Goodrich

A Plea for Kelp: These Farmers and Chefs Want to Make Seaweed the Next Superfood

By Sarah Bedolfe

Summer in southeast Alaska is kelp season for the cofounders of Barnacle Foods, Lia Heifetz and Matt Kern. Each week, the pair watches the tides and weather, waiting for the right moment to cruise out to the abundant kelp beds offshore. They lean over the side of the boat and pull up the fronds and stalks, one piece at a time. As soon as they get back to shore, they start processing the day's harvest into a local delicacy: kelp salsa.

Salsa and Alaskan algae might seem like odd bedfellows, but for Barnacle Foods, it's a calculated decision. The kelp's savory notes make the salsa's flavor "a little more explosive," according to Kern. And the pairing is also a practical one. "Salsa is such a familiar food item," Heifetz said. It's "a gateway to getting more people to eat seaweed."

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Massive Pipeline Leak Shows Why Nebraska Should Reject Keystone XL

About 210,000 gallons (5,000 barrels) of oil leaked Thursday from TransCanada's Keystone oil pipeline near Amherst, South Dakota, drawing fierce outcry from pipeline opponents.

The leak, the largest spill to date in South Dakota, comes just days before Nebraska regulators decide on whether its controversial sister project—the Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline—will go forward.

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Lion 'Trophy' Importation Ban Was Quietly Lifted by Trump Administration in October

By David Leestma

Last month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFSW) began issuing hunting permits for the import of lion trophies hunted in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Although the USFSW announced Wednesday it was lifting a ban on the import of elephant trophies, the new guidelines for importing sport-hunted lions have been quietly in effect and permits have been accepted since Oct. 20. Due to a 45-day waiting period, it's unclear if any permits have been granted so far. The decision is touted as "contributing to the conservation of lions in the wild" on the USFSW website.

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