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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In The News

“Climate change is actually helping whale hunters — here’s how,” writes VICE News’ Matt Smith.

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(Photocredit: Franck Robichon/EPA)

In defiance of a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, Iceland and Norway continue to whale; some in Japan still eat whale meat; Japan allows whaling under an “exemption for scientific purposes.” Whales face “more threats today than at any time in history,” says Patrick Ramage, the director of whale programs at the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, and its sea ice cover has been shrinking for decades. That’s opening up new sea routes along the northern shores of North America, Europe, and Russia — and causing ‘unprecedented changes’ to traditional cetacean habitats, WWF Arctic species specialist Pete Ewins told Vice News.”

Though, Fin whales generally live in the northern temperate waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, warming temperatures have driven them to higher latitudes, “putting them in competition with existing Arctic species like bowhead and beluga whales or narwhals,” said Ewins. “Those whales are highly stressed, especially by ice retreat at unprecedented levels,” he said.

“Meanwhile, the prospect of increased commercial fishing in the region threatens to reduce the amount of food for the massive mammals. And as warming driven by fossil fuel consumption makes the Arctic more accessible, it’s made the estimated reserves of oil and gas in the region more accessible.

All of those pose threats to whales, which also can die when snagged in fishing gear, hit by ships’ propellers, or fouled by an oil spill. Ewins said humans need to come up with “a smarter and better-balanced” approach to the Arctic before pouring into the North the way they have swarmed other frontiers.”

Read more here (https://news.vice.com/article/climate-change-is-actually-helping-whale-hunters-heres-how)!

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In The News

“A massive amount of death is plaguing the world’s oceans,” writes VICE News’ Aaron Cantú.

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(Photocredit: Franck Robichon/EPA)

The WWF attributes the death to a “network of interrelated human behaviors”: overfishing, aquafarming, island- and ocean-based tourism, pollution, climate change, and offshore drilling in the oceans—read more about offshore arctic drilling here. As all of these factors accelerate—largely due to an increased standard of living rather than new human needs—the unprecedented levels of carnage in our oceans will not cease to exist (“29 percent of the world’s fish stocks classified as overfished and 61 percent as ‘fully exploited,’ meaning they have no ability to produce greater harvests”).

However, the oceans are not a lost hope: “‘If you stop taking the pieces out of these ocean civilizations, they can begin to rebuild themselves,’ he told VICE News. ‘It’s never going to regrow itself the way it was 50 years ago […] but we have to do what we can to stop the carnage and allow these systems the space to regrow.'”

Marine species have declined by almost half over the last forty-five years, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Index, and leading marine scientists tell VICE News that the only hope of stopping mass death in the oceans is to radically and quickly transform human behavior.

[…]

Fish were the most threatened, in large part because of human overfishing: Over a third of fish consumed by humans measured by the Living Planet Index are under threat of extinction, with one family of tuna and mackerel falling 74 percent between 1970 and 2010.

Other animals that recorded massive and ongoing losses were sharks and rays, of which one in four species is threatened with extinction, and some species of turtles, which declined by 97 percent in the Eastern Pacific.

The mass death of larger animals is tied to the decimation of habitats that are critical to the ocean’s biosphere. The WWF also noted that coral reefs — which support 25 percent of all marine life — could go extinct by 2050, and global surface areas of seagrass and mangroves, which provide spawning grounds, nutrients, and shelter for many animals, have declined precipitously.

Read more here (https://news.vice.com/article/a-massive-amount-of-death-is-plaguing-the-worlds-oceans)!

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In The News

“Scientists want to see microbeads banned — and California is leading the way,” writes Eva Hershaw for VICE News on September 18, 2015.
5-gyres-lots-of-microbeads “In a recent report, researchers from seven institutions have estimated that every day, a whopping 808 trillion microbeads are washed down drains in the United States, while some 8 trillion microbeads are dumped into our waterways in effluent released from wastewater treatment plants,” she writes. “That is enough to cover more than 300 tennis courts daily. Once in aquatic environments, these microbeads, which are made of hydrocarbons, absorb pollutants and are often mistaken for fish eggs, zooplankton, or other forms of food by wildlife, which ingest them.”

Read more here (https://news.vice.com/article/scientists-want-to-see-microbeads-banned-and-california-is-leading-the-way).

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In The News

A 10,000-year-old ice shelf in Antarctica is disintegrating:

What’s left of Antarctica’s Larsen B Ice Shelf, at least 10,000 years old and 27 times the size of Manhattan, is weakening quickly and likely to disintegrate within five years, according to a new NASA study, says VICE News.

“‘Our study shows that the remaining parts will be gone soon, in the blink of an eye,’ Khazendar told VICE News. ‘A lot of these changes that we are witnessing in the polar regions, amongst others, are probably already set in motion. There is no turning back.'”

Read the entire article here (https://news.vice.com/article/a-10000-year-old-ice-shelf-in-antarctica-is-disintegrating).

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In The News

VICE News: Writers, scientists, and climate experts discuss how to save the world from Climate Change.

“The public debate over climate change adaptation often focuses on rural areas—Arctic communities forced to relocate from the vanishing permafrost, farming towns in the dust bowl driven out as their water table is sucked dry. But what about those of us in cities? We are far from immune.”

Climate Change effects our planet and its inhabitants—and that includes us.

Read the entire article here (http://www.vice.com/read/sos-0000653-v22n5)!

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In The News

As carbon pollution hits record level, Senator James Inhofe says Climate Change is greening the planet, according to VICE News.

“‘People don’t realize you can’t grow things without CO2,” Inhofe, the Republican chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said on the chamber’s floor Wednesday. “CO2 is a fertilizer. It’s something you can’t do without. No one ever talks about the benefits that people are inducing from that as a fertilizer.” That buildup has led “to a greening of the planet and contributed to increasing agricultural productivity,’ he said.

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists, however, warn that the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases — a byproduct of burning coal, oil, and natural gas — are changing the Earth’s climate at an unnaturally rapid rate. The warming that results is likely to bring a future of rising seas and more intense storms and droughts, with the world’s poor bearing the brunt of the effects.”

As people in power constantly dispute scientific findings and allow big corporations to contribute to global warming, our planet—and its inhabitants—finds itself in a dire predicament.

Read the full article here (https://news.vice.com/article/as-carbon-pollution-hits-record-level-senator-james-inhofe-says-climate-change-is-greening-the-planet?utm_source=vicenewsfb).

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In The News

Shell plans to drill in the Arctic this summer and it’s already failed a Coast Guard inspection, according to VICE News.

“A drill ship at the heart of Shell’s hunt for Arctic oil flunked a Coast Guard inspection last month when a piece of anti-pollution gear that already cost its owner millions in fines failed again. […] And the company is betting that the Arctic will be more hospitable this year. Carbon emissions from fossil fuels, which scientists blame for driving global temperatures upward, are warming the region roughly twice as fast as lower latitudes. The decline of sea ice cover has opened new opportunities to tap into the nearly 90 billion barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas that geologists estimate lies beneath.”

VICE News is closely tracking global environmental change. Check out the Tipping Point blog here.

Read the article in its entirety here (https://news.vice.com/article/shell-plans-to-drill-in-the-arctic-this-summer-and-its-already-failed-a-coast-guard-inspection)!

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