Global warming good for Artic Drilling Leaders from the U.S., Canada, Russia, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark recently met in Greenland to discuss the future of the Arctic. Unprecedented warming has opened up daunting challenges for border nations, as well as has unlocked vast quantities of fossil fuel resources in the region. Nations scramble to exploit Arctic’s resources The USGS has done an assessment of oil and gas resources in the Arctic, and their findings have spurred nations to begin the political process of jockeying for control over resource-rich areas. Just what have they found? “The sum of the mean estimates for each province indicates that 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids may remain to be found in the Arctic, of which approximately 84 percent is expected to occur in offshore areas.” [USGS] To put that in perspective, Saudi Arabia claims to have 267 billion barrels of oil, and Venezuela (the number one oil reserves nation as of Jan.2011) claims to have 297 billion barrels of oil. The U.S. consumes around 20 million barrels of oil per day. [DIA] Melting Ice and Evangelical Politics The ice in the Arctic Circle is melting at unprecedented rates. Melting ice is only the beginning of scientists’ concerns in the Arctic. Melting ice changes the salinity of ocean water potentially shifting ocean currents that stabilize the global climate if the freshwater pools gathering in the Arctic are released into the larger oceans. Melting of coastal ice leaves coastal regions more susceptible to erosion and saltwater infusion of coastal freshwater lakes essential to migrating species. Shifting vegetation brings new predators into regions where fragile species have survived keeping ecosystems there in balance. Changes are happening so fast that scientists are scrambling to retrieve and process information from the region to gain a full picture of what is going on before feedback loops take over and drive the region past the equilibrium experienced in the Arctic for the past 10,000 years. Arctic sea ice death spiral continues As treeline shifts north, wildlife will change With warming, Arctic is losing ground Meltwater pooling in Arctic ocean seen as climate change ‘wild card’ At the same time that scientists are racing to understand the situation in the Arctic by gathering data and processing it, fossil fuel funded politicians are scrambling to frame the new data that scientists are gathering in a fictional debate that is raging in their own minds regarding climate change. While only a handful of the most ignorant U.S. politicians still call climate change a hoax, many of them still view climate change as a function of some change in cosmic variables like increased output from the sun. Most of these politicians are also in the camp that believes that climate change is caused by God. Scientists have concluded that the recent spike in global temperatures that began during the second half of the 20th Century is the result of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels trapping heat in the atmosphere. Amongst scientists with degrees in relevant fields in the climate sciences there is no debate as to why temperatures are rising; in fact, these scientists continue to signal the alarm over humanity’s trajectory relating to significant climate and environmental changes. The scientific consensus on climate change There are really only two reasons that politicians would continue to deny the scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change as it continues to pile up. The first is that the considerable campaign contributions from oil and gas interests are enough to them in the industries’ camp; these kinds of politicians focus more on economics to disprove science. The second reason is that these politicians are firmly in the God causes climate change camp, to which there is no rational argument to counter against. It was recently reported that among white evangelicals 67% believe the recent rise in climate/weather related disasters is attributable to the coming rapture (‘endtimes’ prophecies), while only 52% saw climate change as the culprit. Using this kind of data, oil company PR machines are marketing doomsday scenarios to the public and their political puppets as a way to keep people focused on causes that they have no control over rather than concentrating on the ones that can influence. More than 40% of Americans believe the Rapture is coming The Cost of Ignoring Climate Change A recent news story, though, estimated the cost of natural disasters so far this year in the U.S. at $10 billion (a conservative estimate that doesn’t count the recent Mississippi River flooding or the full effects of the Texas drought). All of the events (droughts, flooding, wildfires) that are increasing in frequency and intensity across the globe in recent years are in line with predictions made by climate scientists 10 years ago using computer models. Early computer models forecast that with rising temperatures, the frequency and intensity of storms would rise; in addition, scientists said that shifting rainfall patterns would bring significant drought to some regions and flooding to others. Add to this the predictions made by scientists regarding the melting of Arctic ice, the thawing of permafrost, and the changes in ocean circulation that is currently being observed, and the case for anthropogenic global warming is pretty strong. Unraveling the mystery of global warming’s effects [1999] According to a more recent article about a current study done by Oxfam, there has been a significant rise in weather-related disasters since 1980. A three-fold increase in weather-related disasters was found over the past 30 years. Analysis in their report indicates that the rise in weather disasters can not be fully accounted for by increases in population or advancements in disaster reporting. An analysis of the natural disasters reported to international relief agencies since 1980 has revealed that while the number of disasters relating to geophysical events – such as earthquakes and volcano eruptions – remained fairly constant, disasters caused by flooding and storms significantly increased. It is abundantly clear that weather-related disasters have been increasing in some of the world’s poorest countries and this increase cannot be explained fully by better ways of counting them. Whichever way you look at the figures, there is a significant rise in the number of weather-related disasters. They have been increasing and are set to get worse as climate change further intensifies natural hazards. [Independent] The costs of doing nothing about climate change far outweigh those associated with taking action today. A state-by-state assessment of the costs of climate change, called Pay Now Pay Later, put out by the American Security Project projects the costs of doing nothing about climate change to be in the trillions of dollars. Drilling for oil in the Arctic is will not only cost trillions of dollars to initiate, but will also keep the world on its current greenhouse gas trajectory that will lead to more drastic climate changes that will ultimately degrade human health, decrease agricultural output, and threaten many of nature’s other services that keep the planet’s ecosystems in balance. Scientists vs. Politicians Shortly after representatives from the eight Arctic governments met in Greenland to discuss how to carve up the fossil fuel resources being freed up by warming temperatures caused by an increase in greenhouse gases resulting from the burning of fossil fuels, a group of former Nobel Laureates met in Stockholm, Sweden to recommend a series of urgent and comprehensive actions that governments needed to take in order to become active stewards of the planet in the future generations of our species. It was obvious from the press coverage of the two events which side the mainstream media favors in the argument between scientists and politicians. The Stockholm Memorandum, constructed by former Nobel Laureates, brings forth the idea that is currently being tossed around within the geologic community, primarily that humanity’s impacts on the planet has not spurred a new geologic age within the Holocene epoch, but rather has been so dramatic that our domination over the Earth has created a whole new epoch. [Smithsonian geologic timeline] Science makes clear that we are transgressing planetary boundaries that have kept civilization safe for the past 10,000 years. Evidence is growing that human pressures are starting to overwhelm the Earth’s buffering capacity. Humans are now the most significant driver of global change, propelling the planet into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. We can no longer exclude the possibility that our collective actions will trigger tipping points, risking abrupt and irreversible consequences for human communities and ecological systems. We cannot continue on our current path. The time for procrastination is over. We cannot afford the luxury of denial. We must respond rationally, equipped with scientific evidence. [EnergyBulletin] The new proposed epoch, the Anthropocene, is a term that refers to modern humanity’s impact upon the planet (chemical composition changes in the atmosphere, oceans, and soil) that defines a distinctive shift in the fossil record that will be recorded in the future stratigraphic layers that we are walking on today. Humans have become the dominant force of change on the planet on par with colossal impacts from space objects that drove a majority of species toward extinction in the past. A majority of relevant and published scientists have stated with as much certainty as Science will allow them to that humanity’s catastrophic impact upon the planet begins in earnest with the introduction of fossil fuels. It is, therefore, quite disturbing to read through the latest WikiLeaks cable that describes the race to carve up the oil and gas resources in the Arctic. Arctic oil resources don’t yet show up on global oil reserve pie charts, but they are intended to make up for the imminent shortfalls as the world moves past peak oil in other regions of the A battle to carve up the Arctic; AlJazeera The race to carve up the Arctic; BBC Political tension ratchets up as sea ice melts; Carbon Brief Arctic reveals more hydrocarbons as sea ice shrinks; Oil&Gas More Oil Vs. Renewables As of 2010, global proven reserves of oil stood around 1.35 trillion barrels. [CNBC] Estimates of Arctic oil reserves (90 billion bbl) place them somewhere around 7% of total global oil reserves. That said, even North American oil development at 16% of total global oil reserves does not hold much sway over the global oil prices. Add to that the risks of drilling within the Arctic Circle where 85% of the development will take place offshore, and the risks far outweigh the benefits. Instead, politicians ought to be beginning a race to mainstream energy sources with less impact than offshore oil and gas development coupled with further fossil fuel burning? We already know where offshore drilling and fossil fuel burning will get us, don’t we? But maybe these politicians and oil barons are part of the ‘rapture is imminent’ cult, and see themselves as agents of God doing his bidding by bringing punishment down on humanity for its sins. If this is the case, we have a real problem on our hands. It will take decades to exploit the resources in the Arctic; in that time wind and solar power coupled together with a smart grid and energy storage could be well on their way to mainstreamed and would make any additional oil and gas resources in the Arctic obsolete. Why spend billions on a pipeline to import Canadian oil sands when we could spend that money on upgrading the electricity grid improving efficiencies? In 20 years time, renewable energy could be making up 35% of the energy matrix, and coupled with an electric vehicle roll-out could seriously deplete our need for Arctic oil. Oil companies couldn’t be more disingenuous with their treatment of climate change. While on the one hand they are using climate change forecasts to determine when the Arctic ice will melt enough to allow them to drill there, on the other hand, they are funding climate change deniers to stall renewable energy development. If we were to do some kind of analysis on how many oil and gas executives and climate change denying politicians are from the camp who believe that climate change is God’s punishment for man, I wonder what we would find. Either these people fighting against climate change mitigation are greedy or they are delusional. At some point we will have to take responsibility for our own actions and stop blaming God for all of our problems. The costs associated with ignoring climate change, as well as the price of oil are only going to increase from here forward. Renewable energy is the most rational way forward.



Arctic Oil Drilling Opens as Pitfalls Pondered Miles Away
Nearing record highs in March, gasoline prices have dropped for most of April across the U.S. and on average are cheaper than they were a year ago. As pump prices ease, federal prosecutors are turning up the heat in the BP oil spill case, arresting an ex-engineer accused of obstructing justice by deleting potentially damaging e-mails. And as the feds begin arrests, local reactions in the Gulf among individuals and businesses harmed by the spill are mixed, with oyster leaseholders “overjoyed” by the BP settlement, while shrimp processors are challenging some features of the deal. While watermen and women digest the settlement, Gulf of Mexico fish near the spill—such as grouper and red snapper—are showing telltale signs of sickness associated with oil exposure.

Across the world, a new pact by Russia and Italy has opened the Arctic to drilling. Some say an Arctic oil rush could damage ecosystems; others worry about the special challenges an oil spill in the Arctic would pose. Meanwhile, a new study says climate change is posing “significant challenges to the survival of some of the Arctic’s unique marine species.” And the European Space Agency’s CryoSat satellite is providing data on Arctic ice thickness—offering a more complete view of rapidly melting ice.

Climate Change Threatens to Alter Agricultural Landscape

Last weekend marked Earth Day, and some critics say the environmental movement has lost its mojo, while others were critical of President Obama’s Earth Day address after he failed to directly mention climate change. Later in the week, however, President Obama told Rolling Stone climate change will be a central feature of the presidential campaign. “I suspect that over the next six months, this is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way,” he said.

Beyond climate politics, a warming world will increase the cost of corn, according to a new study. The study warns that unless farmers plant more heat-tolerant varieties, corn prices will be subject to greater volatility. Another study suggests that scrapping corn ethanol subsidies and converting much of corn country to pasture for management-intensive grazing would reduce agricultural land-use emissions by 36 percent. Meanwhile, corn growers are speaking out about the “grave threat” climate change poses to their livelihoods.

While Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster is still fresh in many people’s minds, Ukraine recognized the 26-year anniversary of the Chernobyl explosion this week by unveiling a new, safer shelter over the damaged reactor. Others, such as Britain, continue to debate building new nuclear facilities.

Renewables Gaining Momentum with Farmers

Renewable energy makes economic sense, at least in Virginia, according to a new study. Across the country, Americans are split on whether to get rid of U.S. subsidies—with 47 percent favoring the idea.

More and more farmers are turning to renewables and earning the name “new green pioneers,” harvesting fuel cells, biogas, cogeneration and solar arrays to lower costs. While farmers embrace alternative energy despite time and risks, the solar energy industry has created a new plastic film that sprays on like an adhesive, enabling solar power to be harvested inside buildings and not just by way of conventional rooftop panels. Yet, the discovery of Native American bone fragments is throwing the large Genesis solar project into question.

Wind is not doing much better than solar, with a measure to extend production tax credits stalled in Congress despite bipartisan support. Uncertainty as to whether Congress will extend the credit is making it more difficult for developers to advance and fund wind projects. Offshore, the U.S. and Great Britain have announced plans to develop floating wind turbines in deep water where conventional technology cannot reach. Because the turbines do not require deep seabed installation, the technology is expected to be cheaper than current offshore wind projects. Despite the vagaries of renewable power, UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on nations to double the amount of power produced from renewable sources by 2030.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s