Monthly Archives: October 2015

In The News

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(Photograph via U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders Facebook Page)

The scientific community is telling us if we do not address the global crisis of climate change, transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, the planet that we’re going to be leaving our kids and our grandchildren may well not be habitable. That is a major crisis.”

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In The News

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(Photocredit: Jim Paulin/AP)

Shall ices Arctic drilling campaign:

“The Arctic’s rapidly warming climate has created an opening for oil companies to get at the vast stores of hydrocarbons estimated to lie underneath the sea floor, even as scientists warn that those fossil fuels are driving climate change,” writes Matt Smith for VICE News. “But the price of crude has plunged from more than $100 a barrel to less than $50 in the past year and a half, making it harder for more difficult plays to break even.”

Royal Dutch Shell has ditched its hard-fought push to find oil and natural gas off the remote Alaskan coast ‘for the foreseeable future,’ saying this summer’s drilling turned up weak prospects at high cost.

[…]

The announcement came as a happy surprise to environmentalists, who harried Shell in court and on the water in an unsuccessful attempt to halt the project. They argued that the region’s harsh conditions would raise the risk of a major spill, which would be all but impossible to clean up.

[…]

The company said it will cap the 6,800-foot well it drilled this summer and walk away, writing off an estimated $4.1 billion in the process. The entire effort is publicly estimated to have cost the company at least $7 billion since 2008, when it obtained leases on the seabed about 75 miles northwest of the Alaskan shore.

Greenpeace, whose activists boarded one of Shell’s drill ships in the Pacific and blockaded one of its icebreakers in Portland, Oregon, exulted in the decision Monday. Greenpeace spokesman Travis Nichols said the depth of public opposition to the project ‘caught them flat-footed,’ and the results should boost efforts to protect the Arctic.

‘Shell sunk $7 billion into this. They bullied regulators and ran roughshod over public opinion, doubling down on this huge bet, and they busted,’ Nichols said. ‘I think that’s going to be a big warning sign to other oil companies.’

Read more here (https://news.vice.com/article/shell-abandons-controversial-arctic-drilling-campaign-after-spending-an-estimated-7-billion)!

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In The News

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(Photocredit: Simon Oberli)

“Photographs of the glacier from last year compared to ones taken in 2007 are dramatic,” writes Marie Doezema for VICE News. “What was once a sprawling and thick mass of ice now appears scrawny. One state of matter has changed to another: Where once there was glacier, now there is lake.

And how would one preserve a glacier?

…Blankets (!!), of course:

The lifespan of a glacier is centuries-long; the twilight years, however, can go remarkably quickly. Such is the case for Switzerland’s Rhone Glacier, only 10 percent of which is expected to remain by the end of the century. Some local residents, alarmed by the melting, have resorted to palliative care methods.

For the past eight years, owners of the land that is home to an ice cave, carved into the Rhone glacier each year since 1870, have been covering the ice with blankets. The blankets, which protect the ice from the sun’s radiation during the hot summer months, have been shown to reduce melting between 50 and 70 percent, said David Volken, a glaciologist working with the Swiss Environment Ministry.

[…]

The primary cause of the increased rate of melting is rising temperatures, and while an increase in two to four degrees Fahrenheit might not be a tangible and dramatic difference to a human, glaciers are particularly sensitive. 

‘We don’t feel it, but the tongue of the glacier does,’ said Nussbaumer, adding that annual mass changes in glaciers are a ‘direct climatic signal.’

‘The only thing we can do is limit emissions and decrease temperatures,’ Nussbaumer said. In terms of glacier survival, the options are between bad and worse. ‘Depending what we do now, in 150 years we will have between zero to 10 percent of glacier mass left.’ 

[…]

Glaciers, because of their sensitivity to both short-term and long-term fluctuations in temperature, are a good indication of larger trends in climate change, said Nussbaumer. ‘Everyone can observe the changes.’

Beyond the local impact of reduced tourism and the loss of a natural phenomenon that has become part of Switzerland’s heritage and national identity, the melting glaciers will have very practical impacts on the country. Nussbaumer said these could include diminished sources of fresh water used for irrigation, drinking, and hydroelectric power, as well as a destabilization of the ground left behind, which can result in erosion and debris flow. On a global level, the melting of glaciers contributes to rising sea levels.

Read more here (https://news.vice.com/article/these-people-are-covering-the-alps-with-blankets)!

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In The News

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(Photocredit: Diana Haecker/AP)

“Poachers may have killed these 25 walruses for their heads and tusks,” writes Esha Dey for VICE News. “The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has launched an investigation into the deaths of 25 walruses in a remote region in the northwestern coast of Alaska.”

While killing walruses is illegal under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, Alaskan Natives (Inuits) remain allowed to hunt these animals (as well as narwhals), as they make up an important part of the diet of the natives, and the tusks and bones and hides are used to make traditional goods. However, across the board, “head hunting”—killing these animals purely for their tusks—is illegal.

“‘Walruses use ice as a platform to feed off…it’s like sitting in a bus and going from one supermarket to the next,’ Horstmann-Dehn said. ‘They can jump off the floating ice and feed and again get on it and digest, and then they float on the ice into a new area and feed again.’

But climate change, which is warming the Arctic twice as fast as the rest of the world. Sea ice and glaciers in the Arctic are receding, the permafrost is melting, and sea levels are rising.

A 2012 study of Pacific walruses conducted by researchers from the US Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center and Russia’s Pacific Research Fisheries Center found that the lack of sea ice in September and October caused walruses to forage in areas nearer to the shore, instead of going further offshore as they did in the past.”

Read more here (https://news.vice.com/article/poachers-may-have-killed-these-25-walruses-for-their-heads-and-tusks)!

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