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article imageArctic Cause & Effect - Shell will drill as Baffin Island warms

By Julian Worker     Oct 21, 2009 in Environment
As the news breaks that Shell has been given the go ahead to drill in the Beaufort Sea, albeit with restrictions, a study has found how much effect global warming is having on the other side of the Arctic in Baffin Island.
On October 19th, 2009, the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) has approved, with conditions, Shell Offshore, Inc.’s Exploration Plan to explore two leases in the Beaufort Sea.
In 2010, Shell will drill two exploration wells in the Camden Bay area during the Open Water Drilling Season, which in the Beaufort Sea lasts between July and October.
Mindful of local opposition to the ship’s presence during the annual Bowhead Whale hunt, Shell’s plans include a mid-season drilling break beginning on August 25, 2010. All their vessels involved in the drilling operation will leave the area that the whales normally migrate through. Drilling can only resume when the hunt has been completed. It is estimated that there are up to 9,000 Bowhead Whales feeding in the Beaufort Sea and the hunt is crucial to the subsistence economy of the Inupiat people.
Although Shell appears to be taking their environmental responsibilities seriously, there are a number of fears. Whales are sensitive to noise and could be driven further off shore by the disruption of drilling. There is also the ever present threat of oil spills which would be nearly impossible to clean up amongst the ice-floes.
On the other side of the Arctic, sediment from the bottom of a frozen lake shows that Baffin Island has warmed up over the past 50 years, more than offsetting the natural cooling trend that began 8,000 years ago. Ironically in view of Shell's drilling, another study of Arctic lakes in Alaska found a similar warming trend in recent years.
The Arctic is now about 1.2C warmer than it was in 1900.
More about Shell, Drilling, Beaufort sea, Baffin island, Global warming
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