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Exxon Starts 'Most Controversial Oil Rig in the World'
For the oil industry, business comes first. After years of preparation, on Saturday ExxonMobil began drilling a $700 million well in the Kara Sea in Russia’s Arctic. It is Russia’s most northerly well.
In doing so, the oil giant has ignored growing concerns over Russia’s role in the Ukrainian conflict, and the sanctions imposed on its business partner, Rosneft, which is run by a close associate of Putin, Igor Sechin, who is also personally blacklisted.
Indeed, the go ahead shows just how ineffectual the sanctions against Russia really are. Exxon’s excuse is that the contract to hire the rig was signed before sanctions were announced, but the oil giant is still working with Putin’s blacklisted inner circle.
Exxon has also ignored huge questions over whether an oil spill in the region could be contained. And of course it has totally disregarded the issue of climate change and the need to disinvest from fossil fuels in the most ecologically sensitive areas, such as the Arctic.
Not surprisingly, the start of drilling was praised by President Putin, who many people feel has blood on his hands over Ukraine. Putin sang the praises of Exxon, calling it “Russia’s old and reliable partner.”
He also labelled the joint venture as a model of “efficient international cooperation” which Russia was “open to expand.”
Putin added “businesses, including Russian and foreign companies, perfectly realize that and despite certain current political difficulties, pragmatism and common sense prevail, and we are pleased to hear that.”
Rosneft is certainly excited by the Kara Sea drilling. The well, known as Universitetskaya, is the first of as many as 40 offshore wells the Russian company plans to drill in the Arctic by 2018.
Igor Sechin calls the drilling of the Kara Sea well the “most important event of the year for the global oil and gas industry. As a result of this work we are planning to discover a new Kara sea oil province. Developing of the Arctic shelf has a huge multiplicative effect on the whole Russian economy.”
Sechin brags about the so-called vast reserves of the region arguing that “The volume of resources exceeds the oil and gas resources of the Gulf of Mexico, the Brazilian shelf, the shelf of Alaska and Canada, and it will be comparable to the resource base of Saudi Arabia.”
Exxon for its part said it was keen to carry on investing in Russia. “Our cooperation is a long-term one,” a spokesperson said. “We see big benefits here and are ready to work here with your agreement.”
Many environmentalists are outraged by Exxon’s Arctic plans. Gustavo Ampugnani, an Arctic campaigner at Greenpeace, argues that “The West Alpha platform is fast becoming the most controversial oil rig in the world. He added that Exxon and Rosneft’s plan “to drill in the ecologically sensitive Arctic is nothing less than absurd.”
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"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
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"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
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