Doing your bit – September 2011

photo by Alan Vernon

The Arctic

Right now a British company, Cairn Energy, is exploring for oil in the Arctic. The reason they able access these waters? The ice is gone, shrunk to it’s second lowest recorded level, due to global warming and our continued reliance on fossil fuels that drives it.

Drilling in the Arctic

There is no way to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic.

The company itself have admitted that it would not be possible to clean up a spill in the Arctic. Just think about that for a minute.

Now consider this:

  • They still continuing to drill in the hope of finding oil.
  • The area where Cairn intends to drill is known as ‘Iceberg Alley‘. The company intends to tow icebergs out of the rig’s path or use water cannons to divert them to avoid a collision as the rig drills for oil. Last year a 260km2  ice island broke off the Petermann glacier north of Iceberg Alley.
  • They drilling in one of the most inhospitable oceans in the world. “Even in the most ideal conditions, recovery rates will never be 100 per cent and are actually more likely to be around 10 to 20 per cent.” This is quoted directly from their Oil Spill Response Plan.

Affect of global warming on the Arctic

Ice melt trend

The past six years have been the warmest ever recorded in the Arctic. 

The impact of this is very clear when you review the chart to the right which shows the decline of the Arctic sea ice extend from 1979 to the present day.

The melting of the Arctic has severe consequences for the Arctic ecosystem and for the whole planet too. The Arctic acts like a great big refrigerator. It reflects massive amounts of sunlight back out to space (read heat from the sun) in doing so cooling the oceans and global temperatures.

The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the globe and is experiencing some of the most severe climate impacts on Earth. One of the most notable is the rapid decline in the thickness and extent of sea ice.

Some models suggest the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer by 2030 whilst others suggest it could be as early as 2012.   Permafrost is thawing, glaciers are melting, and the massive Greenland Ice Sheet is losing ice at record rates.

As the Arctic ice disappears you can, at the very least, expect global temperatures to rise. As this happens it has a severe knock on affect to other major ice bodies like the Greenland ice sheet and Antarctica. If these melt… well, lets just say you should not be buying coastal property.

Photo: suburbanbloke

In short, we just don’t know how quickly the ice is going to melt. We do know that it will and is.

University of Wisconsin-Madison geoscience assistant professor Anders Carlson puts it, “The ice-estimation business is rife with unknown variables and has few known physical constraints, Carlson explains, making ice sheet behaviour — where they melt, how much, how quickly — the largest source of uncertainty in predicting sea level rises”.

How does it affect me?

No one knows how much warming is “safe”. What we do know is that climate change is already harming people and ecosystems. Its reality can be seen in melting glaciers, disintegrating polar ice, thawing permafrost, dying coral reefs, rising sea levels, changing ecosystems and fatal heat waves.

…read on

Read more about:
  • Climate change 101
  • Climate change and the oceans (inclu. “What is ocean acidification”,  “What are the effects of melting ice caps?”, “What is the great ocean conveyor belt? How does climate change affect it?” and more)

Current progress

Arctic oil drilling

Greenpeace have been instrumental in bringing the activities of Cairn Energy out into the open.

They tracked down the oil rig which was being guarded by a Danish warship and have been attempting to stop the drilling every since.

Since they found the rig, Greenpeace members have been arrested while they try and peacefully stop this madness.

Read and watch some video about this campaign on the links below. See how corporates and governments are putting money and oil before one of the most important ecosystems on our planet and how a few selfless individuals are making the stand for us all.

Climate change
Variations of the Earth’s surface temperature from 1000 to 2100. Click to enlarge. Source:

In November this year the UNFCCC will be meeting in Durban, South Africa for the COP 17 conference.

Over a decade ago, most countries joined an international treaty — the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — to begin to consider what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable. More recently, a number of nations approved an addition to the treaty: the Kyoto Protocol, which has more powerful (and legally binding) measures.

COP 17’s success is critical. The first commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012 and we need to set new aggressive and legally binding targets for all countries to cut there emissions.

If this fails, then we’ll fail to control the affects of global warming on our plant.

Take action

There are many ways you can get involved and make a difference.

They don’t take a lot of time, effort or cost anything. Please consider one or all of the following actions to help the effort:

  • Help stop the destruction of the Arctic (Greenpeace petition)
    • Right now, Cairn Energy is drilling for oil in Arctic waters. Yet Cairn’s own spill response plan shows that an oil spill here would be catastrophic and near impossible to clean up. Sign this petition to ask Greenland’s Prime Minister, Kuupik Kleist, to protect the Arctic and his country’s economy by cancelling Cairn’s drilling programme and refusing future licences.
  • Stop climate change (Greenpeace Energy Revolution Toolkit)
    • Faced with the choice of deadly, dirty, dangerous energy like coal, oil and nuclear power, or safe, clean and renewable power, what would you decide? Renewable energy, smartly used, can and will meet our demands. No oil spills, no climate change, no radiation danger, no nuclear waste – simply energy we can trust. We can achieve a world with 100% renewable energy. Will you make that choice?
  • If nothing else, just ask someone else to read this. Here is a short link to this blog post for you to share via social media or email:

August 2011 Issue – The Ocean

Published by Brendan

Brendan Piater is the founder of Arctic Online, a successful website design studio, Internet technologies expert, passionate conservationist, open source and free culture enthusiast, entrepreneur, expert spear-fisherman, ex-pineapple farmer and a rather good mackerel fisherman.

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