The President is proving once again that he is much better than his predecessor George Bush as a President – When it comes to getting to more oil in pristine environments and silencing critics and whistleblowers.
It was seen as one of the most distressing effects of climate change ever recorded: polar bears dying of exhaustion after being stranded between melting patches of Arctic sea ice.
But now the government scientist who first warned of the threat to polar bears in a warming Arctic has been suspended and his work put under official investigation for possible scientific misconduct.
Charles Monnett, a wildlife biologist, oversaw much of the scientific work for the government agency that has been examining drilling in the Arctic. He managed about $50m (£30.5m) in research projects.
Some question why Monnett, employed by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, has been suspended at this moment. The Obama administration has been accused of hounding the scientist so it can open up the fragile region to drilling by Shell and other big oil companies.
“You have to wonder: this is the guy in charge of all the science in the Arctic and he is being suspended just now as an arm of the interior department is getting ready to make its decision on offshore drilling in the Arctic seas,” said Jeff Ruch, president of the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “This is a cautionary tale with a deeply chilling message for any federal scientist who dares to publish groundbreaking research on conditions in the Arctic.” The group filed an official complaint on Monnett’s behalf on Thursday, accusing the government of persecuting the (PDF) scientist and interfering with his work. It seeks his reinstatement and a public apology.
Monnett was on a research flight tracking bowhead whales, in 2004, when he and his colleagues spotted four dead polar bears floating in the water after a storm. The scientists concluded the bears, though typically strong swimmers, had grown exhausted and drowned due to the long distances between patches of solid sea ice. It was the first time scientists had drawn a link between melting Arctic sea ice and a threat to the bears’ survival. Two years later, Monnett and a colleague published an article in the science journal Polar Biology, writing: “Drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice and/or longer open water periods continues.”
The paper quickly heightened public concern for the polar bear. Al Gore, citing the paper, used polar bear footage in his film Inconvenient Truth. Campaigners focused on the bears to push George Bush to act on climate change, and in 2008, the government designated the animal a threatened species.
It was the first animal to be classed as a victim of climate change.
In 2010 the Obama administration began an investigation into his work. The scientist was suspended with pay on 18 July. He is said to be under a gagging order and forbidden from communicating with his colleagues. The employee group’s complaint alleges that the investigation is a thinly veiled attempt to disrupt scientific work on the Arctic.
Oil firms, which want to drill in the pristine environment of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, have been complaining of delays caused by environmental reviews. This month Obama issued an order to speed up Arctic drilling permits.
(From the Guardian UK’s
Also of importance:
For the first time ever, our Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, attended the Arctic Nations summit this year – publicly stating a concern over global warming and indigenous populations, while actually bolstering the United States’ claims on Oil under the Arctic Seabed – Oil that is only accessible, ironically, because burning fossil fuels for so long has melted enough of the Arctic ice that getting to the seabed will soon be an ‘easy’ get for Oil companies – who will continue burning fossil fuels.
As reported by Greenpeace and Wikileaks:
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in the Arctic ostensibly to discuss preserving its unique environment, a disturbing series of communications revealed today by wikileaks tell another story.
These cables confirm what we have long been saying: several nations – including the US – appear ready to go to war over Arctic oil.
For years now, the military forces of Arctic nations like Russia, the US, Norway, and even Canada and Denmark have been watching the ice melt in the far north and getting ready to assert claims to the oil and gas resources that have previously been covered by ice.
Saber rattling and high level posturing has steadily increased over the past five years, exemplified by Russia using a nuclear submarine to plant their flag on the seafloor near the North Pole.
Arctic countries have increased military exercises in these remote waters, with territorial disputes persisting between the US and Canada, between Canada and Denmark, and between Russia and pretty much everybody else. Not wanting to be left out, Norway, already an oil giant, is in the mix as well
Ok, not all bad news, Boulder has a ballot initiative this fall to allow voters to decide to create Boulder’s own energy Utility – going independent from Xcel and from its main base use of coal, to a green energy grid.
If Boulder does this, as Winter Park Florida has already done, it will set the dominoes in place for the large utilities to lose their monopolistic hold over citizens who need electricity, and have no choice about what form of fuel that electricity comes from – such as coal. Can you say ‘very scary boogeyman Xcel commercials coming soon to your TV?’