At the second annual Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Norway, 500 experts are discussing the outlook for oil and gas production in the rapidly warming Arctic. As is all too common these days, they’ll do so without the benefit of all the information that scientists worked hard to compile about the topic. Christoph Seidler reports in Der Spiegel that the final “Arctic Oil and Gas” report, the product of four years’ work by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, is missing 60 recommendations that scientists had compiled for politicians. Can you guess who was behind the editing?
Seidler focuses on John Calder, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Arctic Research division, who played an important role in the “Arctic Oil and Gas” report and presented a summary of it at the conference (emphasis added):
Among other things, Calder’s report warns against the dangers posed by faulty pipes and tanker accidents. “Oil spills are especially dangerous in the Arctic, because its cold and heavily season-dependent ecosystems take a long time to recover. Besides, it is very difficult to remove the damage from oil spills in remote and cold regions, especially in parts of the ocean where there is ice.” Calder also criticizes the destruction of landscapes that comes with building pipelines and describes the way Arctic villages would change once the oil money upends all traditional social structures. …
The modifications are the result of quarrels within the Arctic Council, which commissioned the AMAP study. Unanimity is required between the permanent members of the Council, which include the Scandinavian countries, Iceland, Canada, the United States and Russia — but Sweden and the US were opposed to the document. Sources at the Tromsø meeting said the Americans didn’t even want the term “climate change” to be used in the final report.
This has left Calder with the task of presenting a paper filled with platitudes and devoid of clear recommendations for action. “I am disappointed,” he admits. In addition to the Arctic Council members, many oil companies made life difficult for the scientists, even refusing to provide them with data they had requested.
It’s no longer a surprise that those who prioritize oil profits above the global environment don’t want to listen to advice from scientists. But the list of disturbing consequences of such willful ignorance keeps getting longer and more distressing.