Bat­tle for the Arc­tic heat­ing up

It’s a sign of the lu­nacy of a con­tin­u­ing cam­paign for fos­sil fuel ex­trac­tion – while the Arc­tic melts at rates never be­fore seen, oil com­pa­nies are lin­ing up to drill it.

Element - - World -

About a week ago, the sea ice in the Arc­tic stopped melt­ing, and started to build again. But this year, it is start­ing from a new low. Re­search from the US Na­tional Snow and Ice Data Cen­ter showed that three weeks be­fore the end of the melt, the ecord for sum­mer ice loss had been bro­ken. That record was in 2007. The six low­est ice sum­mers have all oc­curred in the last six years.

New Zealand’s Sci­ence Me­dia Cen­tre rounded up re­ac­tion to the news from cli­mate sci­en­tists.

Dr James Ren­wick, As­so­ciate Prof of Phys­i­cal Ge­og­ra­phy at Vic­to­ria Univer­sity said that a large storm early in Au­gust caused the break-up and melt of a vast area of sea-ice in the Arc­tic Ocean, at a time when ice ex­tent al­ready equalled the record low for the time of year. “At the time of most rapid melt in the first week of Au­gust, around 200,000 square km was dis­ap­pear­ing ev­ery day! Nearly the area of New Zealand, ev­ery day. It is just jaw-drop­ping.

“This event un­fold­ing in the Arc­tic Ocean right now should be a wake-up call to gov­ern­ments world-wide, that cli­mate change is a se­ri­ous threat, and it is not dis­tant men­ace. It is on our doorstep to­day.”

Mean­while, oil com­pa­nies are gath­er­ing, keen to tap into the lu­cra­tive wells be­neath this en­vi­ron­men­tal trea­sure.

The first of these is Rus­sian com­pany Gazprom, which has towed its oil plat­form (be­low, left) in the Pe­chora Sea, and is to be­gin drilling op­er­a­tions early next year, be­com­ing the first ever com­pany to start com­mer­cial oil pro­duc­tion in the off­shore Arc­tic.

This has been the bat­tle­ground be­tween Green­peace ac­tivists and the com­pany, with clashes tak­ing place over re­cent weeks.

The stark, ru­ined back­drop of the aban­doned Rus­sian coalmine set­tle­ment of Pyra­mi­den, on Sval­bard, is from where these pic­tures come. Once boast­ing a pop­u­la­tion of over 1000 peo­ple, the place was aban­doned in 1998, and serves as a cu­ri­ous mon­u­ment of the de­struc­tion of fos­sil fuel ex­plo­ration in a sen­si­tive en­vi­ron­ment.

Green­peace is cam­paign­ing for a global sanc­tu­ary to be de­clared around the un­in­hab­ited area of the North Pole. Once the Arc­tic Scroll reaches a mil­lion sig­na­tures, Green­peace will plant it on the seabed at the North Pole, four kilo­me­tres be­neath the ice.

The aban­doned Rus­sian coalmine set­tle­ment of Pyra­mi­den, vis­ited re­cently by Green­peace ac­tivists. Pho­tos: Green­peace

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