Year 4, Month 10, Day 16: For Seven Long Years I’ve Been A Rover

The Anchorage Daily News says that Alaska is ground zero, the “world’s laboratory for climate change”:

When Jerry Otto started hunting for Alaska oil in 1980, his tractor-trailers barreled along ice roads that were up to 10 feet thick for 180 days every year.

Last winter, when he set out to drill for Australia’s Linc Energy, regulators opened the roads for 126 days. The rest of the time, warm weather left the routes too mushy for vehicles, according to Bloomberg Markets magazine.

Then, in January, in a twist that embodies the perplexing reality of life and commerce amid a changing global climate, the temperature dropped suddenly to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, encasing drilling rig components in ice as Otto waited for roads to solidify to ship the gear to Linc sites.

After thawing the equipment with blowtorches, he discovered that the cold was reducing oil flowing into Linc’s well. With 200 workers standing by, the company lost $300,000 a day with each delay, ending 2012 with a $61 million deficit.

Otto plans to try again in December, this time drilling sideways into a hill to get underneath 1,000 feet of permafrost and up into reservoirs he says hold 1.2 billion barrels of light, sweet crude.

“It’s getting more unpredictable,” said Otto, 59, who runs Linc’s drilling rig in Umiat, 80 miles south of the Arctic Ocean, which is within the National Petroleum Reserve that President Warren G. Harding created in 1923 to guarantee oil for the Navy.

Try looking at it from an interstellar alien’s perspective! October 7:

While its Arctic location indeed makes Alaska a “laboratory” where our transforming climate’s effects can be witnessed first-hand, industrial civilization’s experiment on Earth’s atmosphere has consequences everywhere around the planet. Alaska’s melting permafrost may be a vivid demonstration of the higher temperatures triggered by increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, but climate change is equally tangible for Pakistani farmers losing their lands to torrential flooding, African villagers facing devastating drought, or island nations confronting the reality that their entire existence may be ended by rapidly rising sea levels.

Earth’s oil and coal was built up in the Carboniferous Era over a span of hundreds of millions of years; our civilization is now burning all that fossilized carbon and reintroducing it into the atmosphere at an astonishing rate: five million years’ worth per annum.

Alaska may be one of the places where the greenhouse effect’s ramifications are most obvious, but make no mistake: there’s no place on Earth where climate change is not happening. We’re all lab rats; no one is exempt.

Warren Senders

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