Thursday, April 20, 2006

Arctic Irony

Photo courtesy of Canadian Ice Service

Scientists in the United Kingdom are organizing an "International Polar Year" to begin in 2007. The idea is to coordinate tens of thousands of scientists from 60 or more nations, along the same lines as the hugely successful International Geophysical Year in 1957-58.

As Scientific Activist remarks, the new Polar Year would, among other things --
"determine the present environmental status of the polar regions by quantifying their spatial and temporal variability" and... "quantify, and understand, past and present environmental and human change in the polar regions in order to improve predictions."
Guess who wants to horn in? The U.K. Guardian reported this week that the U.S. Geological Survey -- that's an arm of our government, folks -- "is lining up a project with BP and Statoil to find oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean, under the auspices of a flagship scientific initiative intended to tackle global warming."

The oil companies make no bones about why they want to participate:
A Statoil spokesman said: "It is not unnatural that our kind of contribution is close to our activity, and that is finding and developing resources."
British scientists aren't pleased. The head of the British Antarctic Survey says, "I don't think that fits very comfortably within either the scientific guidelines or the ethical underpinning of the IPY."

SA says it directly: "Irony abounds."
So, here we have a project intended to predict the consequences of global warming, and one of its activities will be to find more of the stuff that’s filling the atmosphere with greenhouse gases in the first place. * * * [T]his is a pretty dumb idea.

Understanding global warming won’t do us much good if we’re not willing to curb the activities that cause it.

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