The natural world is a place of many wonders. This world necessarily includes all types of human behavior, a fact which humans often conveniently forget. Although I have expended a great deal of energy documenting the astonishingly dumb and shortsighted things humans do here on Planet Stupid, my work will never be done. I will die before completing it.
With global warming, our understanding of the Earth's climate has deepened considerably. One process which is now better understood in the climate sphere is the positive feedback loop.
For example, humans burn fossil fuels, which leads to greater surface warming of the Earth, which melts permafrost and ice in the northern latitudes and the Arctic, which decreases albedo (reflectivity, thus increasing heat absorption) and leads to methane release from the permafrost, which causes more warming because methane is a powerful greenhouse gas which gets converted to CO2 in the atmosphere, which leads to more melting permafrost and ice, which leads to more heat absorption and methane release, etc. This loop is called positive because it reinforces the conditions which initiated it. A negative feedback loop acts like a thermostat which shuts down the initiating process leading to a (temporary) steady-state.
Another pernicious positive feedback loop is now starting up in the Arctic. National Geographic reported the story in Ice-Breaking: U.S. Oil Drilling Starts as Nations Mull Changed Arctic—
On August 27, after a scorching summer of record-breaking drought and heat across the U.S., scientists reported that summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean had shrunk to its lowest extent in recorded history—worrisome news to those concerned about polar bears or eroding Inupiat villages or other impacts of climate change.
On the same day, however, a high-powered group of politicians, oil industry executives, shipping magnates, and investors gathered to discuss how best to exploit their good fortune.
Along the Chukchi Sea near Wainright, Alaska, scientists working for Shell fanned out in summer 2011 in preparation for the company's offshore drilling, which began this weekend. One archaeologist uses a GPS device to record the precise location of a Native American sod house on the shore.
"I will be one of those persons most cheering for an endless summer in Alaska," Peter E. Slaiby, vice president of Shell Alaska, told luminaries at the Arctic Imperative Summit at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, August 25-27. Slaiby's company has thus far spent $4.5 billion over the past seven years in a much-delayed effort to explore for oil and gas in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in Arctic Alaska.
In this case, humans are literally in the loop. Burning fossil fuels increases greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which causes surface warming, which melts Arctic ice, which opens up the Arctic to oil drilling. That oil is converted to gasoline, diesel and other products, these fuels are burned, mostly in cars, which increases greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which melts more ice, which leads to more drilling in the Arctic ... and so on. Jesus Fucking Christ!
I'll tell you what: every time I have the urge to say Jesus Fucking Christ in this post, I'll use the acronym JFC. That should make it easier to read.
Peter E. Slaiby, vice president of Shell Alaska, is cheering for an endless summer in Alaska. And eventually, he's going to get it. JFC!
Of course there is more. Stupidity is relentless; it never stops. Environmental concerns were not wholly forgotten.
The wait ended at 4:30 a.m. Sunday, Alaska standard time, when Shell's rig, the Noble Discoverer, began drilling a 1,400-foot (427-meter) pilot hole on its first exploratory well in the Chukchi Sea, the company said in a written statement. It was the first time a drill bit had touched the sea floor in U.S. territory in the Chukchi Sea in more than two decades, Shell said. The company also was in the process of anchoring a rig in the Beaufort Sea to begin drilling there later this week. Shell was allowed to begin drilling after it received a waiver from U.S. air pollution regulations for generators on its drill ship on Friday.
But the company still is barred from drilling into the oil-bearing zone before its repurposed oil spill recovery barge, the Arctic Challenger, passes U.S. Coast Guard inspection and is towed to its station near Barrow, Alaska between the two drilling sites. Sea trials of the barge were underway off the coast of Bellingham, Washington; the Coast Guard has raised concerns over a range of issues, from fire protection systems to the vessel's ability to withstand Arctic seas, and the company was cited for small leaks of hydraulic fluid while in port.
If the barge passes inspection it will take about two weeks to be towed to Barrow. Because of these delays, Shell has asked federal regulators to extend its drilling window into oil-bearing zones past the September 24 deadline in its permit. The Department of the Interior has yet to rule on the company's request.
They're worried about an oil spill in in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. An oil spill! They need a special barge to contain a spill if one should occur. JFC!
An oil spill is the least of our concerns in the Arctic. The Arctic is melting down! The Arctic is the canary in the coal mine! If we "achieve" Slaiby's "endless summer," and we are well on the way, God Only Knows what is going to happen to the Earth's climate. Nobody is going to remember an oil spill in the Arctic. JFC!
Some weeks earlier, I had seen the World Oil story Arctic exploration will reverse decline in Norwegian oil, says ONS poll.
STAVANGER -- A poll conducted at the Offshore Northern Seas (ONS) conference in Stavanger has revealed that industry professionals see Arctic exploration as a viable solution to Norway’s declining oil production rates.
74% of participants said that the development of sizeable reserves in Arctic waters offshore Norway could reverse the country’s diminishing North Sea production rates by 2030.
By 2030? We may have that "endless summer" by 2030. Humans may be scrambling around wondering what in Hell they're going to do then when the climate becomes irreversably and irrevocably fucked, at least on human time scales, because by 2030 they may be literally living in Hell. JFC!
By contrast, only 26% of participants felt Norway would not be able to abate the decline through Arctic exploration...
Norway’s Oil Ministry announced in June that the country plans to dramatically increase activity within its Arctic waters. Its licensing round for frontier areas will include 86 blocks, of which 72 are in the Arctic Barents Sea and just 14 are in the Norwegian Sea. A separate licensing round for mature areas will include 48 blocks or partial blocks, with 33 in the Barents Sea, 12 in the Norwegian Sea and just two in the North Sea. This represents a major shift for the sector as in last year’s round only four licenses were issued for the Arctic Barents Sea but 34 in the North Sea.
Tore Lea, GL Noble Denton’s Managing Director for Norway, said: “The remote Arctic region is becoming more attractive to the industry as a whole. This could provide Norway with an opportunity to increase its production at a time when oil output continues to fall sharply but demand for energy is rising.
Dramatically increase drilling activity, the Arctic is now more attractive, the Arctic is a "solution" to Norway's declining production rates in the North Sea. Oh, my!
So, what happened when Shell initiated drilling operations off Alaska's north coast? Writing in the New York Times, John Broder reports that Shell Halted Arctic Drilling Right After It Began.
WASHINGTON — A day after it began drilling its first well in the Arctic Ocean, Shell has been forced to temporarily abandon the work because of sea ice moving into the area.
The delay was the latest setback for Shell, which has invested six years and more than $4 billion to win the right to drill for oil and natural gas in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the North Slope of Alaska.The company has been repeatedly stymied by equipment problems, regulatory hurdles, persistent sea ice and legal challenges from Alaska Natives and environmental groups. Shell had hoped to complete as many as four wells in the Arctic this summer. It now expects to begin one or two wells and finish next year.
Well, Thank God for small favors! The humans have been temporarily saved from their own Terminal Stupidity. Thank God there's still sea ice in the Arctic. JFC!