As a warming climate opens up new waters to shipping and fossil fuel exploitation, researchers have warned that the US is completely unprepared to deal with an oil spill in its Arctic waters.
This is the conclusion of a report released Wednesday by the US National Research Council (NRC) investigating the USA’s capability to respond to a marine disaster in the thawing Arctic.
The NRC’s verdict is troubling, as it is estimated that 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil lies beneath the Arctic. Of that 13%, one-third is thought to be within US territory.
Oil companies have presently put their plans for Arctic exploitation on ice, as Royal Dutch Shell’s experiences have most clearly demonstrated the difficulties of working in the unaccommodating environment.
Since 2005, the company has spent around $4.5 billion (£2.7 billion) exploring for oil off the Alaskan coast, but is yet to drill a single well. In that time it has seen a drilling rig run aground and lost a federal court battle over the validity of its leases in the Chukchi Sea, all the while under pressure from campaigners and investors to end its Arctic ambitions.
However, Shell and other fossil fuel giants are expected to persevere, and the NRC warns that should the worst happen, the US does not currently have the tools to respond to an Arctic oil spill.
The report notes, for example, that the Coast Guard station nearest to the Arctic is 1,448 kilometers away from Alaska’s North Slope and urges the US government to increase its presence and infrastructure in the region.
The researchers also suggest that America puts aside disputes with Russia to host joint oil spill response exercises, while deliberately spilling a small amount of oil in controlled experiments to understand how oil behaves in the icy waters.
The current lack of readiness leaves the precious Arctic ecosystem exposed to devastating consequences.
The infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 occurred near US Arctic waters, but in conditions much more hospitable for response teams. An estimated 250,000 sea birds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbour seals, 22 killer whales and thousands of fish were killed.
Across the Atlantic, European governments will vote next month on whether to introduce a number of measures to protect the Arctic environment.
The proposals, which were approved by MEPs in a European Parliament vote, include the creation of a sanctuary in the high seas of the far north and binding agreements on pollution prevention for ships and rigs in the region.
That the melting of Arctic ice, caused by global warming, will permit the extraction of more fossil fuels that when burnt will cause more global warming is one of the bitterest ironies of climate change.
Last year, Arctic sea ice cover increased from some of the record low levels measured in 2012 – a fact that was seized upon by climate change sceptics as evidence disproving global warming.
However, this recovery contradicts the long-term trend. One recent study suggested the Arctic could be ‘ice-free’ by 2054.
Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre via flickr
4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again
As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.
Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.
Jars and Containers
Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.
An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.
Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!
If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!
Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!
These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money
The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.
Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.
Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.
Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale
The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.
Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.
Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI
It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.
Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.
Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.
Implementing green changes without a plan
Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.
Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:
- How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
- How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
- How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
- How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?
The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.
Not considering the benefits of green printing
Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.
Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.
According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:
- They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
- They consume less energy than traditional printers.
- They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.
You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.
Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers
Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.
The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.
You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.
Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.