Burning Planet

For coverage of global warming, I have to admit, I’m a bit biased towards the May/June issue of Mother Jones. Nevertheless, Elizabeth Kolbert has written a tremendous three-part series in the New Yorker (one, two, three) about the subject that’s very much worth reading in full. Especially valuable is her visit to various parts of the world to chart the effects of climate change on actual people; she describes her visit to Alaska in a Q&A with Amy Goodman:

Alaska is being very dramatically affected by climate change; the state is warming up just about as fast as any place on earth. This is producing a lot of problems in Native communities; several Native villages may have to be moved owing to erosion that is being caused, or at least hastened, by climate change. It’s also affecting daily life in places like Fairbanks, parts of which are built on permafrost. As the permafrost degrades, people’s houses are starting to split apart. The roads need to be repaired more often; sometimes they just cave in.

Ironically, it’s also affecting the oil industry. The kind of heavy equipment used in oil exploration is allowed out on the tundra only when the ground is frozen to a depth of twelve inches. Since 1970 the number of days that meet that condition has been reduced by half. Early on, computer models developed by scientists working on climate change predicted that global warming would have a disproportionate effect in the Arctic.

That last paragraph reminds me of a report released shortly after the election last November noting that the downsides to the oil industry from global warming will likely far, far outweigh the upsides of from increased sea access in the Arctic. Land facilities will collapse. Ground transport will be harder. Oil spills will likely increase. Maybe something the oil industry should think seriously about before, y’know, shelling out millions to “debunk” the science of climate change. And yes, scare quotes are there for a reason.


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