As Arctic waters warm and new passages are opened, increased human activity is set to bring new possibilites of environmental disasters.
Countries including the U.S., Russia, Norway and Canada are beefing up their military presence in the region as the possibilites of exploiting the vast mineral resources of the Arctic are increasing with the warming of the planet.
U.S. Coast Guard captain and military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York Melissa Bert says, "I don't worry about a war in the Arctic. But I do worry that we're not prepared to deal with a major disaster there. No one is, but as more people go there, it becomes much more likely."
Following the Obama administration's approval of Shell's Arctic oil spill plan last week, environmental groups also foreshadowed ecological ruin if the company's Arctic drilling plans go through.
"If Shell goes there to drill, they will kill the Arctic Ocean along the way—we must fight and stop them," said Subhankar Banerjee, founder of ClimateStoryTellers.org.
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"By bringing more human activity into the Arctic you bring both the good and the bad," Lt Gen Walter Semianiw, head of Canada Command and one of Ottawa's most senior military officers responsible for the Arctic, told an event at Washington DC think tank the Centre For Strategic and International Studies last week. "You will see the change whether you wish to or not." [...]
For U.S. Coast Guard captain [and military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York Melissa] Bert, having spent much of her career in the north, the greatest real enemies remain the vast distances, harsh climate and lack of resources.
Even with the icecaps gone for some of the year, icebergs will still drift through shipping lanes and harsh storms and poor maps provide ever present danger.
"I don't worry about a war in the Arctic," she says. "But I do worry that we're not prepared to deal with a major disaster there. No one is, but as more people go there, it becomes much more likely.".
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Common Dreams: Obama Admin Takes Steps Towards More Oil Drilling
Shell's oil spill plan for Beaufort Sea drilling approved, seismic surveys for oil off east coast get OK
The Obama administration has taken steps towards increased oil drilling today in Alaska and off the east coat. It approved Shell's oil spill response plan for the Arctic waters of the Beaufort Sea, a move slammed by environmental groups who warn of a likely environmental catastophe if Shell is given its final permits. The administration also allowed today seismic exploratory surveys for oil off the coast of Virginia in the Atlantic Ocean.
Shell's oil spill plan suggests little likelihood of a blowout and calls for a containment device like the one used in the Deepwater Horizon blowout to be clamped onto the well in the event that Shell's built-in blowout preventer failed.
"If Shell goes there to drill, they will kill the Arctic Ocean along the way—we must fight and stop them," says Subhankar Banerjee, founder of ClimateStoryTellers.org. [...]
Cindy Shogan, Executive Director of the Alaska Wilderness League, warned in a statement: "If President Obama fails to stop Shell from drilling in America’s Arctic Ocean he could be left with the next major drilling disaster on his hands and the destruction of one of our planet’s most vital ecosystems.”