Arctic ice melting facilitates more oil drilling

From the “Beyond Ironic” files comes this piece in the NYT:

Exxon Reaches Arctic Oil Deal With Russians

Exxon Mobil won a coveted prize in the global petroleum industry Tuesday with an agreement to explore for oil in a Russian portion of the Arctic Ocean that is being opened for drilling even as Alaskan waters remain mostly off limits.

Sixteen paragraphs down, comes this backstory detail:

Once seen as a useless, ice-clogged backwater, the Kara Sea now has the attention of oil companies. That is partly because the sea ice is apparently receding — possibly a result of global warming — which would ease exploration and drilling.

So, arctic melting is “possibly” a result of global warming. Oh dear. While technically accurate, the wording greatly undermines the confidence scientists have that the rapid decay in arctic ice extent and depth is being caused by the extreme amount of warming the region has experience over the last several decades due to Anthropogenic Climate Change:

See all that red and orange in the arctic? Those are places where it has warmed by 1 – 2.5 C in just the last decade. (The arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on earth)(Go here for details about the map and the source of the data) You can also see changes in ice extent in the Kara Sea in the lower right corner in the animation in Emmett’s post below.

The story was filed in the “Global Business” section of the online NYT.  No mention of it in the Science section or on any of the science or environment blogs.

And talk about a positive feedback! Usually, when climate change scientists talk about reinforcing mechanisms, we are thinking of physical or biological feedbacks (some of which are negative).  But this is a great example of a socioeconomic feedback: more warming – caused in large part by burning fossile fuels – melts ice and give us access to even more  fossile fuel to burn, which will increase the warming, melt more ice, etc. You get the idea.

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