The world is now one step closer to ending.
After Portland climate activists temporarily blocked its passage north, the Shell ice-breaking vessel the Fennica has finally met up with the Arctic drilling rig the Polar Pioneer. Both vessels were needed before Shell could start deep drilling in the Chukchi Sea. Shell has now requested the last permits it needs from the Interior Department, and the oil giant speculates that it will be able to salvage the end of the summer drilling season before the Arctic freezes over.
The company’s Arctic programme resumes after a three-year hiatus caused by a disastrous year in 2012, which ended with one of its rigs washed ashore on a beach in Alaska. Critics question Shell’s assertions that it is capable of operating safely in the treacherous conditions in the Arctic.
Charlie Kronick, senior climate advisor to Greenpeace UK, said: “Shell’s catastrophic record since 2012, as well as their mishap-plagued progress to Alaska this year, show just how unprepared they are for the harsh conditions of the Arctic. The company is patently unwilling to call time on this wasteful and potentially catastrophic project. It’s now up to the regulators and investors to do so.”
Concerns have also been raised over Shell’s ability to clean up a spill in an area covered by sea ice for much of the year.
Pat Pourchot, who worked closely on Shell’s programme as the US Department of Interior’s special assistant for Alaska affairs from 2009 until February this year, told the Guardian that if a large spill did occur: “It’s really tough to talk about effective clean up. I don’t think anybody should have illusions. Clean up will be extremely modest.”
Shell’s Arctic drilling is a big deal. In addition to concerns about oil spills, a study from researchers at University College London contends that all oil in the Arctic needs to stay in the ground if we are to keep global temperatures below a 2 degree C increase — the internationally agreed-upon point at which it’s too late to prevent catastrophic climate change. In short: This is happening, and we’re probably fucked. Please direct your complaints to the Obama administration.