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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

Bush Administration Want Arctic Meltdown
By Wayne Madsen

Washington, DC. Speaking off the record, scientists studying the current warming of the Arctic region intimated that some officials in the Bush administration saw the loss of Arctic ice and the resultant opening of sea channels such as the Northwest Passage of Canada as a good thing for the exploration and retrieval of oil and natural gas from the endangered region.

Over 300 international scientists have just completed an extensive 1200-page report documenting their exhaustive 4-year Arctic Climate Impact Assessment study on the rapid warming of the Arctic. The study was commissioned by the Arctic Council and the International Arctic Science Committee at a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in Point Barrow, Alaska in 2000. On November 8, the scientists released a 144-page summary of their findings at a press conference in Washington, DC.

As if out of a scene from the Roland Emmerich's climate disaster movie, "The Day After Tomorrow," the US State Department is criticizing the international panel's call to slow down Arctic warming by curbing greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere. The State Department, according to some scientists, is echoing the positions of oil companies and anti-environmentalist pressure groups like the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation, in dismissing the recent report on Arctic warming. In fact, President Bush has repeatedly referred to previous scientific studies pointing to the effects of global warming as "silly science" based on "fuzzy math." The chief State Department focal point on the Arctic warming issue is Paula Dobriansky, the Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, who is seen as a virtual mouthpiece for Vice President Dick Cheney, the oil companies, and the anti-environmental groups. She will be trying to minimize the impact of the Arctic warming report before she attends the November 24 meeting of the Arctic Council in Reykjavik, Iceland where the report will be officially released. Before her current stint at the State Department, Dobriansky was an international affairs adviser with the law firm Hunton & Williams, whose clients include a number of large energy companies, including Exxon Mobil.

The report concludes that Arctic warming has increased dramatically since 1954. Average Arctic winter temperatures have increased as much as 4 to 7 degrees F (3-4 degrees C) during the past 50 years and are projected to increase another 7-13 degrees F (4-7 degrees C) over the next 100 years. Over the past 30 years, the sea-ice extent of the Arctic has decreased 386,100 square miles (or Texas and Arizona combined). Since Arctic sea ice is declining at such a rapid rate, maritime access by oil exploration ships and tankers is viewed by the Bush-Cheney administration and their oil industry backers as an economic windfall because of increased access to Arctic resources. Timber companies are also excited about access to Arctic timber reserves from accessible Arctic seaports. Therefore, the Bush administration and their corporate sponsors want to downplay the environmental catastrophe that will be brought about by an anticipated complete loss of Arctic ice and the creation of an iceless Arctic Ocean by the end of the century. Already, British Petroleum and a Russian partner are using newly-opened shipping channels in the Russian Arctic to begin the off-shore drilling of natural gas.

The possible opening of the Northwest Passage to maritime shipping has already prompted Canadian warnings to the United States not to intrude on its national territory. The United States does not recognize Canadian sovereignty over its Arctic sea passages. This past summer, Canada's largest warship, a fleet of helicopters, and 200 troops engaged in Operation Narwhal, the largest Canadian military exercise ever held in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Narwhal was also noteworthy in that US military participants and observers were not invited.

The Bush administration and their oil company supporters have also dismissed concerns that oil spills resulting from increased maritime access to Arctic waters cannot be cleaned up because no solutions have been discovered on how to deal with oil contamination in colder waters, such as the Arctic. They point to continued problems arising from the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989.

In addition to the loss of the Arctic icepack, scientists discovered that substantial melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet will continue and its eventual melting will raise global sea levels by about 23 feet (7 meters). That, coupled with glacial melting in the Arctic (in Canada, Alaska, and Russia) and Antarctic melting, will cause the sea to flood most of southern and coastal Florida (including the Keys and the Everglades), the Mississippi Delta (including the city of New Orleans), a number of near-sea level islands in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans, and the expansion of tidal-influenced bays and rivers worldwide.

Arctic ice melt will also increase ocean salinity and this affects ocean currents that bring warmer waters to colder regions. Because saltier water results in colder water sinking, a decrease in salinity will result in colder water rising to the surface and threatening the thermohaline conveyor belt upon which Europe depends for its temperate climate [see Dale Allen Pfeiffer's writings on abrupt climate change and the thermohaline current in FTW, especially:

http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/050504_climate_change_pt2.html -- ed.]. The effect is that while temperatures increase in North America and Asia, regional cooling will take place in Europe. The imbalance will affect agriculture and the overall eco-system.

The loss of snow cover in the Arctic will mean that less solar energy will be reflected back into space, thus adding to the warming of the Arctic's land and water surfaces. Unprecedented rainfall is already being witnessed on Greenland's Ice Sheet by the local Inuit inhabitants.

According to the Arctic warming report, the loss of Arctic ice and permafrost will also result in the near extinction of a number of species, including the polar bear, a number of seal species, walruses, caribou, reindeer, lemmings, voles, and migratory birds such as snow owls. The Indigenous People of the Arctic will be forced to relocate from floods, loss of permafrost, coastal erosion from killer storms, building collapse from destruction of permafrost, and loss of food supply. In addition, rising Arctic temperatures are permitting the invasion of destructive insects such as the spruce beetle which has already decimated 1.6 million hectares of white spruce and Sitka/Lutz spruce on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. In Sweden, invading moths have destroyed entire forests of birch trees. New species of birds entering the warmer Arctic tundra regions are also bringing with them a new disease - West Nile Virus, which threatens both humans and animals.

The Bush administration, in its unwillingness to appreciate the impact of Arctic warming and its desire for expanded oil sources, has incurred the wrath of the nations and peoples of the Arctic Council. These are Canada, Denmark, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich'in Council International, Inuit Circumpolar Conference, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, the Saami Council along with observers France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Queen Elizabeth have both championed the efforts to reverse global warming as have Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman.

See also: "An Arctic Alert on Global Warming," Peter N. Spotts, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor. November 9th, 2004 http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1109/p01s03-sten.html

"Satellites Record Weakening North Atlantic Current," NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center press release. April 15th, 2004. http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/topstory/2004/0415gyre.html

http://www.fromthewilderness.com/members/111104_arctic_meltdown.shtml

 

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