arctic

Temperatures Could Rise Far More Than Previously Thought If Fossil Fuel Reserves Burned

Flooding in south Yorkshire, England.

Imagine a world where average temperatures are almost 10 degrees Celsius higher than today, an Arctic with temperatures almost 20 degrees warmer and some regions deluged with four times more rain.

That is the dramatic scenario predicted by a team of climate scientists led by the University of Victoria’s Katarzyna Tokarska, who looked at what would happen if the Earth’s remaining untapped fossil fuel reserves are burned.

Tokarska, a PhD student at UVic’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, used simulations from climate models looking at the relationship between carbon emissions and warming — including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report — and concluded that known fossil fuel reserves would emit the equivalent of five trillion tonnes of carbon emissions if burned.

That would result in average global temperature increases between 6.4 degrees and 9.5 degrees Celsius, with Arctic temperatures warming between 14.7 degrees and 19.5 degrees, says the paper published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

These results indicate that the unregulated exploitation of the fossil fuel resource could ultimately result in considerably more profound climate changes than previously suggested,” says the study.

Top Five Climate and Environment Issues for Obama-Trudeau Bilateral Summit

The strained relationship between Canada and the U.S. over the last decade was in no small part due to disagreement over the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline. 
 
Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a staunch supporter of what he called the “no-brainer” project. President Obama, on the other hand, felt like all sorts of brain should be involved when deciding on the future of such major fossil fuel infrastructure. And he rightfully rejected the border crossing pipeline project, which had clearly failed his climate test.
 
Now, with Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the helm of America’s Hat, the two most intimately tied economies in the developed world have a lot of catching up to do. Even with Keystone XL dead and buried (sort of), environment and energy issues are still top of mind for the two leaders.
 
In a recent Q and A with the Huffington Post, Trudeau acknowledged the timing is right for bold leadership on climate change and the environment: “There is a nice alignment between a Canadian Prime Minister who wants to get all sorts of things done right off the bat and an American President who is thinking about the legacy he is going to leave in his last year in office,” Mr. Trudeau said.
 
“The issues that are important to him and to me are climate change.”
 
Obama and Trudeau already had an informal ‘bromance’ meeting soon after the new Prime Minister took office in November 2015. But now, with the unprecedented Paris Agreement behind them, the two leaders have an incredible opportunity to break new ground on climate action and environmental protection at this formal summit.
 
Here are the top five energy and environment issues these self-proclaimed climate leaders should have on their agenda:

Meet Jeffery Hildebrand, the Texas Oil Billionaire Who Wants to Drill in the Arctic

This is a guest post by Tim Donaghy of Greenpeace USA.

Royal Dutch Shell may have recently scrapped its plans to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea, but the oil industry has not given up its designs on the Arctic Ocean’s fossil fuels. In September, Houston-based company Hilcorp submitted a plan to develop and produce oil from the Liberty prospect in the Beaufort Sea off the north coast of Alaska. If the Obama administration approves Hilcorp’s plan it will mark a dubious milestone: the first oil produced entirely from federal waters in the Arctic Ocean. The President has made several important decisions in recent months to slow or halt Arctic oil exploration, but he can still do more. President Obama has the power to keep Arctic oil in the ground for good, and approving Hilcorp’s plan would be a step in the wrong direction.

Meet the Climate Scientists Travelling by Bike and Foot from the Poles to Paris

Two twenty-something climate scientists are currently running and cycling their way from the Antarctic and Arctic all the way to Paris.

Travelling a combined distance of 20,000 kilometres, the two scientists – plus team members joining them along the way – are working to raise awareness about climate change ahead of December’s Paris climate conference.

Meet Dr Daniel Price, UK specialist in Antarctic climate, and Dr Erlend Moster Knudsen, Norwegian specialist in Arctic climate.

Arctic Sea Ice Reached Fourth Lowest Extent on Record This Summer

Arctic sea ice reached its annual minimum on September 11 this year and scientists say it appears the accelerated pace of sea ice decline has continued into 2015.

According to researchers at NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the extent of Arctic sea ice shrank to 4.4 million square kilometers (1.7 million square miles) this summer, which ranks 2015 as having the fourth-lowest minimum extent since satellites were first used to observe sea ice coverage in 1979.

Seismic Testing for Oil Reserves a Threat to Arctic Marine Life, Study Warns

Seismic airguns are being fired underwater off the east coast of Greenland to find new oil reserves in the Arctic Ocean. But this activity “could seriously injure” whales and other marine life, warns a new report conducted by Marine Conservation Research and commissioned by Greenpeace Nordic.

The oil industry is increasingly looking towards the region, as oil and gas reserves become more accessible as climate change causes large areas of Arctic sea ice to melt.

Global oil companies including BP, Chevron and Shell all own drilling rights in the Greenland Sea and are the likely customers for the data gathered by the Norwegian geophysical company conducting the seismic testing, TGS-Nopec.

Russia Works to Improve Oil Spill Monitoring in Arctic Tundra Region Known for Accidents

As the US grants Shell its final permit to drill off the coast of Alaska, Russia, too, continues to prepare for a future with Arctic drilling as it takes steps to improve environmental safety in the Timan-Pechora tundra after a series of oil spills in recent years.

Arctic drilling is a risky business. Russia’s new monitoring system includes information about regional oil fields, including the quality of equipment used by the companies operating there. It will give local authorities a better overview of sites where spills appear most imminent, thereby helping authorities prevent accidents.

The region is notorious for its history of oil accidents spanning back to 1988. The biggest accident occurred in 1994 when somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 tons spilled into the tundra. But with the continued expansion of oil extraction in the Arctic region, the number of incidents has increased.

Senators Call For End To Arctic Drilling As Shell Gets Permits To Begin Work In Chukchi Sea

Shell received the final permits it needed to begin drilling exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea last Wednesday, but a group of Senators led by Oregon's Jeff Merkley is calling for a ban on Arctic drilling altogether.

According to the Associated Press, the permits are somewhat conditional: In granting the company the green light, the Department of the Interior said Shell can only drill the top sections of wells, or to about a depth of 1,300 feet, because critical emergency response gear, including a well-capping device in the event of a blowout or leak, will not be present for the foreseeable future.

Shell To Proceed With Arctic Drilling Despite Damaged Icebreaker Ship Carrying Critical Emergency Gear Heading To Portland For Repairs

Shell officials are still hoping to launch exploratory drilling this month at the company’s Burger prospect, 70 miles off the coast of Alaska in the Chukchi Sea, even though a key ship in its fleet was forced back to port before it had even left the harbor last week after a 3-foot-long gash was discovered in its hull.

The company has to send the MSV Fennica to Portland because Terminal 5 at the port of Seattle, where Shell’s two drilling rigs were stored before they departed for Alaska, is a cargo terminal that doesn’t allow heavy repairs.

It is expected to take several weeks to repair the Fennica, according to FuelFix. The trip to Portland alone will take more than a week, and the Fennica appears to still be in Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands right now. But Shell has already begun moving its fleet into place in the Chukchi Sea, and does not plan on waiting for the Fennica to return before commencing drilling activities.

Greenwash: Shell May Remove "Oil" From Name as it Moves to Tap Arctic, Gulf of Mexico

Shell Oil has announced it may take a page out of the BP “Beyond Petroleum” greenwashing book, rebranding itself as something other than an oil company for its United States-based unit.

Marvin Odum, director of Shell Oil's upstream subsidiary companies in the Americas, told Bloomberg the name Shell Oil “is a little old-fashioned, I’d say, and at one point we’ll probably do something about that” during a luncheon interview with Bloomberg News co-founder Matt Winkler (beginning at 8:22) at the recently-completed Shell-sponsored Toronto Global Forum.

“Oil,” said Odum, could at some point in the near future be removed from the name.

Pages

Subscribe to arctic