Oil-Drill Melt

May 11, 2015

NORTHPOLELAKE165356--415x415Clear and windy this afternoon on California’s north coast — some dark clouds over the mountains, but the gusty breezes keep them floating further to the east, leaving us near the shoreline clear as a bell.
Rain again maybe tonight and tomorrow, with a goodly storm inbound on Wednesday with downpour widespread and “…will be pretty heavy at times.”

Beyond the rainless drought, the extreme weather rolling across the middle of America right now, global temperatures the highest ever, frightful environmental shit being reported every day, and yet the hope of humanity to get climate change under control appears an oil-soaked pipe dream.

(Illustration of warming Arctic, July 2013: Melted ice-water lake at the North Pole, found here).

In this precise time when some real-urgent action is way-needed to curb fossil fuel emissions, President Obama makes a move that makes you wonder if he really knows/understands the reality of climate change.
Today, his administration gave conditional approval to Shell oil company to start drilling this summer in the Arctic Ocean — seriously.
From the New York Times this afternoon:

The approval is a major victory for Shell and the rest of the petroleum industry, which has sought for years to drill in the remote waters of the Chukchi seas, which are believed to hold vast reserves of oil and gas.
“We have taken a thoughtful approach to carefully considering potential exploration in the Chukchi Sea, recognizing the significant environmental, social and ecological resources in the region and establishing high standards for the protection of this critical ecosystem, our Arctic communities, and the subsistence needs and cultural traditions of Alaska Natives,” Abigail Ross Hopper, director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said in a statement.

Environmental groups denounced the move and said that Shell had not demonstrated that it can drill safely in the Arctic Ocean.
Both industry and environmental groups say that the Chukchi Sea is one of the most dangerous places in the world to drill.
The area is extremely remote, with no roads connecting to major cities or deep water ports within hundreds of miles — which makes it difficult for clean-up and rescue workers to get to the site in case of an accident.
The closest Coast Guard station with equipment for responding to a spill is over 1,000 miles away.
The weather is extreme, with major storms, icy waters, and waves up to 50 feet high.
The sea is also a major migration route and feeding area for marine mammals, including bowhead whales and walruses.
“Once again, our government has rushed to approve risky and ill-conceived exploration in one of the most remote and important places on Earth,” said Susan Murray, a vice president of Oceana, an environmental group.
“Shell’s need to validate its poorly planned investment in the U.S. Arctic Ocean is not a good reason for the government to allow the company to put our ocean resources at risk.
Shell has not shown that it is prepared to operate responsibly in the Arctic Ocean, and neither the company nor our government has been willing to fully and fairly evaluate the risks of Shell’s proposal.”

And this resource note via the Wall Street Journal: ‘According to Interior Department data released in 2011, the federal waters in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska’s coasts hold 22 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 93 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The U.S. is currently producing about 9 million barrels of oil a day and about 90 billion cubic feet of gas a day.’
Another terrifying example of business as usual…

Meanwhile, once more research indicates business as usual, too, on a planet getting warm.
From Climate Central this morning:

Christopher Watson, a geodesist from the University of Tasmania, led the latest round of research that adjusts satellite readings taken from hundreds of miles above the Earth to measure small changes in sea level heights around the globe since the early 1990s.
“What’s striking is its (the study’s) consistency with future projections of sea level in the IPCC,” Watson said.
“Those estimates state that there could be up to 98 centimeters (39 inches) of sea level rise by 2100. We’re certainly tracking on that upper bound of the IPCC projection and that projection to 2100 has significant impacts.”
That’s because sea level rise isn’t just a linear problem, it’s one predicated on tipping points for major damage in coastal areas unless efforts are made to adapt. Currently more than 1 billion people live along shorelines around the world and $11 trillion in assets sit below the 100-year flood mark on coasts, though that number could balloon to as much as $210 trillion by 2100.
Sea levels have risen by about a foot since 1900 and the rise is projected to continue accelerating into at least the next century.
Many coastal cities in the U.S. already stand at the precipice of regular minor coastal flooding because of sea level rise.
Some cities such as Baltimore and Honolulu have already taken the leap, with coastal flooding 10 times more likely than it was in 1930.
By the 2050s, sea level rise is likely to cross a tipping point for 26 major U.S. cities, which can expect at least 30 days of “nuisance flooding” each year.
On a major flooding level, the impacts of sea level rise are also becoming apparent in big storm surge events such as Sandy when it roared ashore in the Northeast in October 2013.
Sea level rise has nearly doubled the risk of Sandy-level flooding since 1950.
“While you might only be tacking about a few millimeters per year, a few millimeters adds up. That few millimeters is a massive amount of water and huge importance to society,” Watson said.

No shit — here is the local angle on rising seas and Humboldt County’s role, from the Times-Standard last November:

In 2012, the National Research Council — the “operating arm” of the National Academy of Sciences — published findings that suggest California, Oregon and Washington should prepare for up to a foot and a half of sea level rise by 2050, and up to 4-and-a-half feet by 2100.
While those are the “high-end” predictions, Arcata-based environmental planner Aldaron Laird of Trinity Associates said that “all of the observations of actual tide changes and sea level changes have been higher and greater than what the models have shown we should expect.”
Laird recently completed a “walkabout” inventory and mapping project of the entire 102-mile shoreline of Humboldt Bay as part of a project funded by the Coastal Conservancy.
“The main thing we learned from going out and surveying and mapping the shoreline, which had never been done before, was that we really had no idea that we’ve been living on borrowed time this past 100 years,” Laird said.
“People in the 1890s through 1910 diked off essentially 30 percent of the bay and ‘reclaimed’ it for agriculture, but the time has come due and the bay is ready to take all that land back.”

In a related flashback touch — from the UK’s Independent in the first week of February 2005:

Then the biggest-ever study of climate change, based at Oxford University, reported that it could prove to be twice as catastrophic as the IPCC’s worst predictions.
And an international task force — also reporting to Tony Blair, and co-chaired by his close ally, Stephen Byers — concluded that we could reach “the point of no return” in a decade.
Finally, the UK head of Shell, Lord Oxburgh, took time out — just before his company reported record profits mainly achieved by selling oil, one of the main causes of the problem — to warn that unless governments take urgent action there “will be a disaster”.

And here we are…

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