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Arctic

Darkness and, with it, ice, are returning to Arctic Ocean waters after an ice-free summer that allowed two commercial ships to voyage across the top of the world. This is the second consecutive year that global warming unlocked these waters. Scientists believe the freeze-melt cycle will continue—and that, says The New York Times, is bad news for polar bears:

While open Arctic waters could be a boon for shipping, fishing and oil exploration, an annual seesawing between ice and no ice could be a particularly harsh jolt to polar bears.

As Earthjustice has consistently pointed out, Arctic polar bears already are stressed and threatened by industrial activity, and we are fighting to keep oil drilling from expanding into the bears' habitat. The growing impacts associated with climate change make our efforts even more essential.

Via the thought-provoking TED conference comes this video about an ambitious project called the Extreme Ice Survey, which documents climate change in powerful imagery. Lifelong nature photographer James Balog and his team captured the retreat of numerous glaciers through time-lapse photography. The results are astonishing.

John Luther Adams is at times a challenging composer. An unabashed admirer of avant-garde music, Adams has crafted pieces during his decades-long career that ask a great deal of the listener. But the rewards are commensurate with the challenge.

The Beaufort Sea, off Alaska's northernmost shores, and the Chukchi Sea, which separates Alaska from Russia, are home to one in five of the world's remaining polar bears. These icy waters are crucial feeding and migration zones for bowhead, beluga and other whales, seals, walruses and migratory birds; for thousands of years they have also sustained a vibrant Native culture. But the Bush administration treated America's Arctic as just another place to be exploited, relentlessly pushing oil and gas drilling without regard for the consequences.

Last November, as Barack Obama won the election, we recommended a list of "easy things" the new president could immediately do to cement his promises about being a pro-environment president. This is our second update on how he's doing.

John Kerry and Barbara Boxer are two of the greenest members of the Senate. Jim Inhofe is the Senate's chief global warming denier. But last week—on Earth Day, no less—they came together to introduce a bill requiring the EPA to look at ways to control a dangerous pollutant that kills millions worldwide and accelerates global warming, particularly in the Arctic.

A scientist with a cigarette lighter is providing the latest evidence of global warming's dramatic and swift impacts in the Arctic.

Four miles south of the Arctic Circle, Katey Walter has found that melting ice and permafrost are releasing vast amounts of methane -- a greenhouse gas 21 times worse than CO2 as a contributor to climate change.

To prove the point, Walter stoops down to melting pools and flicks her lighter to ignite methane flame jets 20 feet high. It's a "time bomb" that even slightly warmer temperatures could set off, she told the Los Angeles Times.

(UPDATE: Since this was posted, more than 21,000 Earthjustice supporters sent comments to the Minerals Management Service opposing expansion of oil and gas exploration in the "Polar Bear Seas.")

The Beaufort and Chukchi seas are home to one in five of the world's remaining polar bears. That's why these icy waters north and west of Alaska are often called the Polar Bear Seas.

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