Suicidal Rush To Drill Melting Arctic Heats Up, Spurred By Former Council On Foreign Relations Fellow

Scott Borgerson

The heat trapped by hundreds of billions of tons of greenhouse pollution from fossil fuels is destabilizing the Arctic ice cap. With extreme warmth at the North Pole, about 20°F above historical norms, the extent of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean is plummeting to record lows. This transformation of the Arctic is not only destroying the polar ecosystem and societies, but putting the stability of the global climate system at risk.

In response, Scott Borgerson, a former senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, is encouraging the United States to rush in and burn up the vast reserves of carbon that have spent millennia under frozen seas and tundra. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed with hedge fund investor Scott Minerd, chief investment officer of Guggenheim Partners, Borgerson says the response to the “melting sea ice and thawing tundra” of the Arctic is to compete with other nations to drill the “world’s largest oil, natural gas and mineral resources” there:

While most investors are focused on the economic potential of lower latitudes, the Arctic is—due to increased access from climate change—quietly undergoing a radical transformation that is attracting the attention of savvy investors. But the U.S. is asleep at the wheel, leaving some of the world’s largest oil, natural gas and mineral resources to be developed by others. […] Long literally and figuratively frozen to outside investors, the Arctic now has melting sea ice and thawing tundra that are yielding huge resource opportunities.

The authors say “the U.S. must manage the process so it is environmentally sustainable.”

The premise that there is an “environmentally sustainable” way of accelerating greenhouse pollution borders on insanity.

The North Slope reserves Borgerson mentions in his op-ed would alone emit about 16 billion tons of carbon dioxide if drilled and burned, the equivalent of three years of total US cabon pollution, or half the world’s total annual carbon emissions. This would speed the world headlong toward the trillion-ton limit of irreversible and catastrophic warming.

As the Arctic ice collapses, global weather patterns are changing in unpredictable ways. The jet stream is being pushed “further south and bringing arctic cold to much of Eurasia and Japan” and “increased precipitation and colder temperatures in the winter” in North America. Oceanic circulation is being disrupted, with the collapse of the Gulf Stream a future possibility.

The vast Siberian tundra is thawing, allowing for the potential release of hundreds of billions of tons of methane and carbon dioxide from the long-frozen peat bogs. This is no long-term threat — as the authors of the op-ed note, there are signs the permafrost is already becoming a “permamelt.” Yet “no climate model currently incorporates the amplifying feedback from methane released by a defrosting tundra.”

Planetary civilization is speeding toward the cliff of catastrophic climate change. Drilling for fossil fuels in a melting Arctic is as sensible as disabling the brakes and slamming down the gas pedal when the cliff is in sight.

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