Oil and shipping companies are salivating as the climate change that they helped cause melts away the ice at the top of the world. Planning and exploration is underway for an Arctic drilling and shipping boom. But what aren't underway are meaningful preparations for responding to the oil that will inevitably be spilled into the remote and rugged Arctic environment by these accident-prone industries.
The National Research Council has catalogued these hazards in a new report, warning that the lack of Arctic infrastructure would become a "significant liability" should oil be spilled.
"It is unlikely that responders could quickly react to an oil spill unless there were improved port and air access, stronger supply chains, and increased capacity to handle equipment, supplies, and personnel," wrote the council in a report requested by the American Petroleum Institute and various U.S. agencies. "There is presently no funding mechanism to provide for development, deployment, and maintenance of temporary and permanent infrastructure."