Arctic Waters at Risk from Oil Spills: New Report Reveals Necessity of Infrastructure


As our climate changes, ocean temperatures are heating up. This, in turn, is causing ice to melt in Arctic waters, which opens them up to commercial activities such as shipping, oil and gas development, and tourism. Now, researchers have revealed that the current oil response tools for a potential spill aren't nearly adequate enough to deal with an oil spill. The Arctic poses several challenges for oil spill response. For one, it's remote, which means that any equipment to deal with spills already needs to be in the region. In addition, the area can be affected by extreme weather and environmental settings, which can limit operations and communications infrastructure. The ecosystems in the area are also fragile, and a spill could potentially devastate wildlife in the area. A new report analyzed exactly what challenges would need to be met if an oil spill were to occur. It stated that a decision process such as the Net Environmental Benefit Analysis, which weighs and compares the advantages and disadvantages of different response options, should be used to select the response tools that offer the greatest overall reduction of environmental harm. This includes biodegradation, chemical dispersants and herders, in situ burning and mechanical containment and recovery. What this report really points out is the lack of infrastructure. The current personnel, equipment, and transportation for overseeing oil spill response in the Arctic aren't adequate to meet with a potential disaster. This means that building should occur before any large commercial endeavors are undertaken. The findings reveal the importance of creating additional infrastructure in the Arctic in order to contain oil spills. If equipment isn't already in place, then getting a response team to the area in time will be near impossible. If efforts are delayed, then the Arctic ecosystem could suffer devastating consequences from a possible oil spill. The findings are published in The National Academies Press.



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