Arctic first oil spill responders

A draft of a plan to respond to oil pollution deriving from the 2011 Nuuk Declaration leaked by Greenpeace makes it clear that both the members of the Arctic Council & the industry aren’t prepared to handle an oil spill. As mentioned in the previous post, the ice coverage is rapidly shrinking & that might very well mean an oil bonanza. More oil drilling should equal more risk.

The problem with the plan stems from the vagueness of the document. The plan seems to leave each country to maintain its own system, without any standard or common response. The BBC reports that the chair of the House of Commons environmental audit committee doubted the oil companies had to ability to deal with a spillage. 

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Decline in the Arctic Cover & What it Means

As made clear by the latest data from the Cryosat mission the sea-ice cover during the autumn season is down a third & almost 10% for the winter period. The most affected region is the north of Greenland & the Canadian archipelago.  It’s too early to forecast long term trends for the time being, but given time the investigators will have a clearer picture.

In a recent article from Feb 9th, the Economist looks at the economic implications of the shrinking ice sheet. The obvious answer to this situation is that smaller ice covering equals greater  economic opportunities. The real answer, however, seems to be it depends. It’s a resounding yes for oil & gas as well as other mineral resources. Warming the ice desert ought to open up new fishing zones.

That at least is the common thinking, but as the article goes on to show, that might not be the case. There are three main reasons why we’re not going to see more fish in the Arctic Ocean despite global warming.

First, forget the increase in plankton  even if it’ll help some fish. The Arctic is too deep for most species for them to survive.

Second, warm water absorbs more CO2 & that in turn produces more carbonic acid. Less ice means more exposed water to absorb the CO2. Acidic waters weakens shell, as well as less food.

The last reason is stratification: seawater separates into layers & an increase in stratification diminishes the level of nutrients in the layers.

For more details, see Paul Wassmann &  Jean Éric Tremblay.

Ex-Baugur boss & the Financial Crisis of 2008

Jon Asgeir Johannesson, who used to run Baugur before it failed in 2008, is accusing the Reykjavik authorities of persecuting him & is erstwhile investment vehicle. Although Jon has been in the crosshairs of the authorities for the last 10 years, the recent charges were brought on by an independent committee. Its findings were that the Icelandic banking system was deeply flawed & corrupted. Last week Jon was in court to answer criminal charges. One problem in Iceland is the size of its population: the main media outlet are owned by 365 Media, which in turn belongs to Jon’s wife. Now I’d like to find out how fair the reporting is, but that’s for another post. Meltdown Iceland by Roger Boyles does a good of researching & explaining the origins of the crisis; he underlines the small & close knit population as one of the causes. That in turn help create what he calls the octopus – a small group of men controlling the vast majority of business on the island. I’d like to see more of those responsible prosecuted & if they deserve it, found guilty.

More info:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/jan/13/baugur-jon-asgeir-johannesson

Greenland will develop its rare earths

Greenland wants to protects its rare earths while diversifying its economy. The article from the BBC quotes the prime minister, Kuupik Kleist, saying Greenland won’t favour the EU over China. Greenland seems to be asserting its independence from Denmark by using its natural resources. This is facilitated by the acceleration of Arctic melting; now the prime minister says Greenland’s opened for business to anyone respecting its requirements. I think he should look at Africa & be very worried. The tar sands in Alberta should also be another warning.

Mackerel Wars with Iceland?

One aspect involving climate change & the Arctic I’m very interested, or shall I say concerned, is the possibilty of conflicts arising. My guess is that the Arctic countries will see an increase in trade wars, like this mackerel wars involving Iceland & the UK. The article from the Guardian illustrates how the economy is becoming so interconnected. Iceland & the Faroe Islands send their fish to be processed in the UK: the Scottish skippers support the ban & obviously, the processors don’t. This possible ban also backs a point I made previoulsy, i.e., some Nordic countries – the Faroe Islands & Iceland – aren’t part of the European Union, they’re outliers.