The environmental organisation explain why they believe the threat to the Arctic from both climate change and oil drilling is very real
Mr James Gray’s account, in Prospect earlier this week, of the challenges facing Arctic oil exploration on Planet Gray is fascinating, and raises many interesting points of comparison with our own situation here on Earth.
On this planet, rather than “hoping, as Greenpeace do, that the issue will just disappear”, we’re keen to get the whole world talking about it, so that instead of sleepwalking into catastrophe we can have a reasoned debate. That’s why we’ve been campaigning on the issue as our top priority for the last five years. So we’re delighted that Mr Gray decided to write about these issues, but a little disappointed that he didn’t base his argument on the situation on Earth.
Apparently, on Mr Gray’s planet, oil companies are dashing to recover the “50 per cent of the world’s oil and gas which lurks beneath the Arctic waves”—a tempting prospect indeed. We can quite understand the fossil fuel industry on Planet Gray making every effort for a prize like that. However, according to respected sources such as BP and the US Geological Survey the estimated total is closer to around four per cent of our remaining oil and just under 14 per cent of the gas. So, that’s one obvious disparity
On Planet Gray apparently Greenpeace refuses to speak to fossil fuel companies, and is “more than mildly Luddite in its approach”, opposing new technologies. Here on Earth, Greenpeace are in constant contact with the targets of our campaigns, and have spent the last 20 years pleading with governments around the world to quit their addiction to obsolete Victorian technologies like coal-fired power stations and internal combustion engines, and switch to new, clean technologies like photovoltaics (solar radiation), hybrids and electric vehicles. We’ve even developed a few ourselves, including the world’s first ozone-friendly fridge and its most efficient petrol-powered car, as well as supporting the UK’s first offshore wind farm and wave hub. The real “Luddism” can be found in the fossil fuel industry and their pet politicians who try to protect museum-piece technologies from competition.
Planet Gray’s physicists are lagging behind those on Earth. Here, scientists have known that rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere lead to increased temperatures for well over a century, but on Planet Gray they are still debating the issue. As Mr Gray says; “Does it exist? Is it cyclical? Are the cycles speeding up? Is it man-made? And can we do anything about it? Those questions are for another time and another place.”
Indeed they are. The time was the 20th century, the place was Earth, and the answers were; yes, no, no, yes and yes.
That level of certainty (95 per cent, according to climate scientists) means that us Earthlings can now formulate policies which take account of the environmental impacts of different energy sources, giving us a huge advantage over the hapless fumblings of the politicians who inhabit Planet Gray. For example, on Earth we know that we can only burn about a fifth of our proven fossil fuel reserves—the fuel we’ve already explored for and found—and still have a “reasonable” chance of keeping global temperature rise down to two degrees. Burning all of our proven reserves and releasing five times that amount of carbon would take us a long way past the point of no return and so looking for even more is suicidal.
Allegedly, on Planet Gray “It is time for environmentalists on the one hand and big business on the other to emerge from their entrenched positions and sit down to talk about how sensible, sustainable business can be conducted in the Arctic.” But on Earth, “sustainable” oil exploration in the Arctic is an oxymoron—by the time we need Arctic oil it’ll be far, far too late to worry about sustainability—and while Greenpeace and other NGOs are in constant communication with oil companies and their representatives, there is little to be gained from debating the best way to administer yet another lethal dose of carbon to a patient that is unlikely to survive the first one.
Once the realisation that we can’t burn the buried treasure we’re spending billions trying to find filters through to major investors, as is starting to happen on Earth, there will be some fairly major market adjustments.
And this is the most significant difference between Planet Gray and Earth, the one that gives Earthlings hope that the Graylings have lost. Apparently, on Planet Gray, “there is nothing any government can do to stand in the way of the inexorable power of the markets.” So they are already conclusively and unavoidably screwed, with no possible remedy. They’re labouring under the primitive superstition that nature is subordinate to the rules of their markets, and still don’t understand that the laws of physics will override any economic system, no matter how much their leaders have invested in it. Their civilisation has been condemned to a slow death by this blinkered ideological obsession. Weep for them.
Earth, on the other hand, is only conclusively and unavoidably screwed if we keep voting for people who live on a different planet.