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Noon seminar - Drilling in the Arctic Ocean: Will future climate change reduce the risks?

Monday, April 23, 2012, 12:00PM - 1:00PM

Noon seminar - Drilling in the Arctic Ocean: Will future climate change reduce the risks?


Gary Clow

U.S. Geological Survey and INSTAAR Affiliate


ARC room 620

With dwindling domestic supplies, tremendous pressure exists to further develop energy (oil & gas) resources in the Arctic.  However, environmental conditions at these high latitudes are extremely severe, presenting enormous operating challenges.  Thus far, nearly all the oil & gas development in the U.S. sector of the Arctic has occurred on land.  During March 2010, the Secretary of the Interior (Ken Salazar) announced a national strategy for Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil & gas development.  This strategy includes an expansion of “ ... oil and gas exploration in frontier ares, such as the Arctic Ocean ..., to gather the information necessary to develop resources in the right places and the right ways.” 

In a companion announcement, the Secretary asked the USGS to conduct an independent evaluation of the science required to determine the “right places” and the “right ways” to develop oil & gas resources in the offshore waters of the Arctic OCS.  Of consideration is the fact that this area supports abundant (unique) fish and wildlife resources and ecosystems, and that indigenous people rely on these resources for subsistence.  If the U.S. moves forward with oil & gas development on the Arctic continental shelf, these activities are likely to continue through mid-century.  Climate projections for the next 50-100 years consistently show a pronounced warming over the Arctic with accelerated sea-ice loss, leading the Secretary to ask “how the likely effects of climate change over the expected lifetime of the development activities will either mitigate or compound the impacts from energy production in the Arctic environment?”  This turns out to be a complicated question.  In this talk, I will present the results of the USGS investigation on the interplay of energy development and climate change in Arctic waters.