And so it begins...

Via DA, rawstory, the Beeb reports Alaska mulls extra oil drilling to cope with climate change:

Expanding the search for oil is necessary to pay for the damage caused by climate change, the Governor of Alaska has told the BBC. The state is suffering significant climate impacts from rising seas forcing the relocation of remote villages. Governor Bill Walker says that coping with these changes is hugely expensive. He wants to "urgently" drill in the protected lands of the Arctic National Wilderness Refuge to fund them.

And so on. This kind of stupidity is, sadly, inevitable, though I am surprised by the lack of reflection from the Alaskan governor. I'd kind of at least expect a bit of "this may seem self defeating but...". In this case there appears to be an obvious alternative: just let the seas wash higher; as is being done in East Anglia where the coastline is sinking due to isostatic rebound (can't find a good link; perhaps this). But in summer people will turn the A/C up...


* Mitigating Climate Change–$1 Million Relocation Per Family

More like this

"This isolated community of 400 ... Evacuation seems like the long term solution but it will likely cost $100m."

$250,000 per person. But who pays what under different scenarios?

Is it reasonable for Government to do nothing except perhaps says town should be abandoned for safety reasons at an appropriate time?

If it is decided to relocate the town, government no doubt has to build schools and other public buildings. Not negligible, but for 400 people that is nowhere near $100m. Is government obliged to build homes for these people? Even if so obliged, they then own the homes and can obtain rent or sell the homes to occupiers or investor?

Almost Iowa posted this comment on my blog on a related subject:

"The very name of the town reeks of government boondoggle. Tok is the Yupik name for place, thus NewTok is a “new” place.

In 1959, the government decided that the Yupik, who were nomadic, needed a permanent place to live. The town site was then selected, not by the Yupik people but by bureaucrats who needed barge access on Ninglick River to haul in westernized building materials. At the time, the English speaking southerners failed to understand that heated structures quickly fail by melting into the permafrost (which is why the pipeline and all buildings in the arctic are elevated). They also had little experience in building roads, landing strips and garbage pits in the delicate arctic environment. The people of Newtok are now paying the wages of all of these sins.

If it is climate change….. it is only ten acres of warming.

The Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Alaska and Bureau of Indian Affairs has all written extensively on what caused the problems at Newtok and all have concluded it was poor siting and inappropriate construction techniques. The New York Times knows this, The Atlantic knows this. The Guardian know this but they all continue to flog the climate change angle despite the facts."

[…, which you are too modest to link to. I'll add it as a ref.

I think you're right to mention competition. I strongly suspect that were the inhabitants left to get on with it themselves, and allowed to keep 10% of the difference, they'd move for far less -W]

By Thomas Fuller (not verified) on 13 Oct 2015 #permalink

Alaskan governor Bill Walker is merely following the fine old Murkan tradition of doing the bidding of his most important constituents.... the oil companies.

"I’d kind of at least expect a bit of “this may seem self defeating but…”.

Oh gosh. In the alternate reality created by the GOP hive mind, there is just no need to hide outright corruption or stupidity any more. The GOP or Gods of Petroleum party have, since the time before Ronald Raygun, successfully managed to nurture and exploit a rich streak of stupidity in the Murkan public. It was no accident that Ronald Raygun waved the usual rules and helped tabloid media genius Rupert Murdoch to become a Murkan citizen in near record time.

Please don't expect GOP polluticians to feel the slightest need to defend their illogical actions here in Murka. They would only have to do that if their core constituents were capable of anything more than reflexive knee-jerk feelings. We are talking about a population containing a large percentage of highly trained monkeys here, my friend. We are in real danger here from them and from their malignant stupidity and indifference to corruption.

But this does make for a very interesting and exciting place to live!

"This kind of stupidity is, sadly, inevitable, though I am surprised by the lack of reflection from the Alaskan governor. I’d kind of at least expect a bit of 'this may seem self defeating but…'. In this case there appears to be an obvious alternative:"

The problem is that you're taking the statement at face value. Gov Walker is not actually interested in doing anything about climate change. He wants to increase oil production in Alaska. The suggestion that increased oil revenues will help pay for the negative effects of climate change is just window-dressing.

Not negligible, but for 400 people that is nowhere near $100m.

In the lower 48 or the UK that would be an outrageous price. In remote Alaska, the materials have to be shipped in at great expense, and building on tundra is difficult to do right. Road construction on tundra is also a difficult and expensive proposition. There is a reason only one road to the North Slope exists, and why it ends at Prudhoe Bay/Deadhorse rather than continuing to Barrow. For the same reason, the North American road network doesn't extend very far west of the Anchorage-Fairbanks corridor. And on top of that you need an airstrip and all of the other infrastructure that a town like this would need (because they can't get it by going to the next town over). You can legitimately question whether it's worth spending that kind of money, but as a ballpark estimate for what it would actually cost, it's not absurd.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 13 Oct 2015 #permalink

This proves that is actually is possible to screw yourself! And all this time, I thought it was just an expression.

By David Jones (not verified) on 13 Oct 2015 #permalink

I used to live in Alaska. Politics are crazy there. Sarah Palin was less corrupt than the state average.

Note when the guv says he wants to drill in a "small part" of the wildlife refuge, he's not referring to a confined geographic area, he's referring to the total footprint of the drilling (roads and pads) spread over a larger area.

Another factor: friend of mine works in Prudhoe Bay and tells me the Alaska pipeline is running at such a low level that it's encountering physical problems with the pumping, on top of the issue of fixed costs from maintenance being spread over much less revenue. They desperately want to increase the amount of oil going through the pipeline. Or else they'll be forced to leave some of it in the ground.

By Brian Schmidt (not verified) on 13 Oct 2015 #permalink

I voted for him because it was either that or the oil company shill Parnell. ANWR has long been a goal for the AK republican party and recently Walker's been a little too progressive for the hardliners on social issues.

The state absolutely refuses to diversify from resource extraction since in the past it's how these republicans got elected re VECO scandal. Despite it's abundant renewable energy sources, even mentioning such a project is political suicide. That combined with the cost of keeping TAPS running means the state has backed itself into a corner.

Like Brian said, AK politics are crazy. The state could wean itself almost completely off of fossil fuels if they built the Susitna-Watana dam (think Grand Coulee of the north), but ironically the people blocking it are conservationists who want to preserve salmon runs in it's lower reaches.

I agree with them, but like I pointed out to a long-time environmental consultant friend it doesn't matter if the dam destroys one salmon run when Ocean Acidification wipes out the base of the food web. There won't be any habitat left for juvenile salmon in the entire state.

By Chase Stoudt (not verified) on 13 Oct 2015 #permalink

Kivalina is also in the wrong place. Its inhabitants recognised this in 1953, which was when they first considered moving the village (back) to the mainland. (It moved from the mainland in 1905 when the government built a school at the current site.) They didn't blame climate change in the 1950s. They probably didn't blame it in 1992, either, when the village voted unanimously for relocation. But like several Pacific communities that have been mooting relocation for many decades, they now blame all of their woes on climate change. It makes for a simpler story, one that activists can't resist: blameless indigeous peoples threatened once more by the white man's greed and selfishness.

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 13 Oct 2015 #permalink

Brian, I suspect Governor Palin would argue that losing land means increased Alaskan king crab habitat , fishing revenue and distance from Russia.

By Russell Seitz (not verified) on 13 Oct 2015 #permalink

@#10 Vinny Burgoo
If you really think that the loss of permafrost and rising sea levels due to climate change has no effect on land loss in Alaska, then I would guess that you are probably a proud right wing, truther, birther, tea party flocker, gun lover, and that no amount of scientific evidence will ever convince you that there is not a global commie pinko liberal conspiracy to deprive you of your huge Dodge Ram/Hummer/SUV/ATV/snow mobile/boat/sea plane/gun loving life style, a life style perfectly suited to someone who is afraid of the dark, (or any of the non-white.)

Governor Bill Walker is dressing up as the Red Queen for Halloween.

On the cost, when the village/city itself tried to fund relocation by suing energy companies in 2008 they suggested a figure of $400m:

Looking at a 2006 US Army Corps of Engineers report they provide varying estimates, not including engineering and administration costs, ranging from $150m-$250 in 2006 dollars depending on choice of relocation site. Including their rough estimates for engineering and administration, plus adjustment for inflation for present day dollars that becomes $200-350m.

It appears the Kivalina residents' preferred siting is at the high of that range, and would incur greater than average engineering costs to make viable, hence $400m in 2008.

Not sure where the $100m figure comes from? This brief USACE document suggests an approximate $100m cost for moving the residents to an existing settlement rather than a completely new one. I suspect that wouldn't be appreciated by either population though.

[Ah, but the money you ask for when some one says "how much would you like me to spend on building you a new home?" is very different from the money you'd put up if the question was "I need to move home; how much of my own money shall I spend?" -W]

OTesque: Here's a properly sourced but surely bogus claim in a Wikipedia article about a daft plan to use nuclear explosions to excavate a harbour a few miles up the coast from Kivalina:

After a customer for the harbor project could not be discovered, the researchers decided to turn the project into a study on the economic impacts of nuclear fallout on the indigenous communities of Point Hope, Noatak, and Kivalina, in particular "to measure the size of bomb necessary to render a population dependent" after local food sources have become too dangerous to eat due to extreme levels of radiation.

The source? A 1973 book written by leftie anarchists and published by a leftie anarchist imprint. Not available online. It probably misrepresented the (botched and perhaps illegal) groundwater experiments described in the currently previous paragraph of the Wiki article, which was added after the currently last paragraph quoted above.

Definitely OT (or perhaps should be beneath Stoat's latest blogpost): The currently last paragraph of the Project Chariot article was added by a Wiki admin calling himself StevePOwen. Here's his somewhat confused and self-congratulatory interpretation of NPOV:

I take a radical approach to Wikipedia that acknowledges that this site is being developed in the context of oppressive systems of power, that manifests in systemic bias on the site. For instance, I do not believe that "neutral point of view" means "least controversial point of view". Neutrality is not a synonym for "moderate". Taking a neutral point of view means taking the most evenhanded view even if nine out of ten Wikipedians find that view distasteful or offensive. There are clear biases on Wikipedia. Among members, there is a bias against women, a bias against the poor, a bias against people of color, a bias against indigenous people, a political bias towards liberalism in the broadest sense, a bias towards the young and youthful, a bias in favor of science and technology. So too there are biases in what information we present: biases linked in culture, in nationality, in language, in who controls the "respectable" media. We can't hope to overcome these biases by ignoring their existence, and defaulting to the "moderate" point of view. Much of my work here involves combatting these pervasive biases.

Right-on wrongness is right because the right are wrong! Io Evo Morales! My virtue burns so bright, it blinds me!

(Ah, Wikipedia! The best first resource and the last you'd ever rely on.)

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 14 Oct 2015 #permalink

@Vinny Burgoo #15. Did you ever play the game of battleships? You just figuratively shot into an empty piece of ocean, as I am not now, nor have I ever been associated with Wikipedia. But nice try!

BTW, when you picture an infrared photon hitting a carbon dioxide molecule what do you see? Quick! Go to your CRC Handbook of Right Wing Analysis and see what the proper response is!

Geez, I hope that you have a sense of humor. I've nearly lost mine, so I don't find much humor in someone analyzing the plight of people who are having their homesteads washed away and coming up with insulting explanations for their reaction to these events. Are you doing a similar analysis for all the folks in South Carolina who lost loved ones and property and livelihood in the recent global warming enhanced flooding there?
Maybe you are suggesting that their representatives in Congress refrain from asking for a federal bailout. Ha ha . Steve make joke..

What next, prostitution to protect virginity, slavery to protect freedom, guns to prevent mass shootings?

By John Brookes (not verified) on 14 Oct 2015 #permalink

I believe that Alaska has neither an income tax nor sales taxes. Perhaps those might provide some income if introduced... However in the real world, it's probably politically easier to create more pollution.

By turboblocke (not verified) on 15 Oct 2015 #permalink

In related news:
Because why not build oil storage on top of faults that are being activated by drilling? What could possibly go wrong?
The NYT reported on October 14, 2015 that a magnitude 4.5 quake struck Saturday afternoon about three miles northwest of the Cushing Hub, a sprawling tank farm that is among the largest oil storage facilities in the world, now holding 53 million barrels of crude with a capacity for 85 million barrels. The Cushing oil hub stores oil piped from across North America until it is dispatched to refineries. The Department of Homeland Security has gauged potential earthquake dangers to the hub and concluded that a quake equivalent to the record magnitude 5.7 could significantly damage the tanks and a study by Dr. Daniel McNamara study concludes that recent earthquakes have increased stresses along two stretches of fault that could lead to quakes of that size. "It's the eye of the storm," says Dana Murphy, vice chairman of the state's oil and gas regulatory body, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

"When we see these fault systems producing multiple magnitude 4s, we start to get concerned that it could knock into higher magnitudes," says Daniel McNamara, author of a paper published online that a large earthquake near the storage hub "could seriously damage storage tanks and pipelines." "Given the number of magnitude 4s here, it's a high concern."

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 15 Oct 2015 #permalink

My main point was that the $100m figure going around appears not to have any firm basis.

Doing some digging its use seems to stem from this Washington Post article by Chris Mooney, which asks '...and who would pay upwards of a hundred million dollars to do it' while linking to the same report I cited above. That seems to have been picked up by other outlets and transmogrified in the process.

For example, this Independent article, published the following day, cites the Washington Post as its source but then states that the cost of relocation 'could be be [sic] as high as $100m', erroneously suggesting $100m is a high-end estimate.

And then we have this BBC article which says it 'will likely cost $100m', without a reference. All the while the report from which this number actually stems is really talking about a minimum cost in 2015 dollars of $200m.

[Welcome, TestName :-) -W]

By TestName [P S] (not verified) on 15 Oct 2015 #permalink

SteveP, I was wrong, The people of Kivalina first talked about moving their village to a less erodible site in 1911, not 1953.

Kivalina is situated on an island in front of Corwin Lagoon, and is very beautifully situated when the weather is nice and calm, but when the wind blows from the south it raises the water in the ocean until it sometimes almost comes over the banks ... and the natives are beginning to talk of moving. We believe that to move would be the wiser if not the safer plan. We experienced some uneasiness last fall, as the beach is only about one hundred feet from the school house and comes closer every year. The water was splashing up over the bank in places for we had a heavy south wind and it lasted for three or four days causing the rise. We believe that if it could be satisfactorily arranged, to consolidate Kivalina and Noatak [not to be confused with Neotok] villages some where on the Noatak river, would be a great place. Some of the people of our village have already spoken to some of the Noatak people and there seems to be a general feeling that this could be done and we believe it ould be a wise move.

And yet when they sued Exxon et al. in 2008 they blamed all of their erosion problems on global warming. Not a peep about their having been worried about being washed away since shortly after the village was founded. Nope, erosion was a recent problem and their island was being nibbled at by global warming and nothing else. A clever move, no doubt, but not exactly honest.

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 15 Oct 2015 #permalink

So, Vinny, you are still casting aspersions on those folks at Kavalina... but you don't seem to be doing the same for people in South Carolina who are asking for far more money from the federal government for disaster relief. Why is that, Vin?

I really must point out how noble it is of you to stick up for Exxon et al. Gosh, they would be totally vulnerable without upstanding heroes like you to defend them in public. If there weren't people like you spreading disparaging remarks about people who are being flooded by rising sea levels, there is no telling what might happen to those poor defenseless Exxon investors who work so hard to make money by investing in 19th century technologies.

But I was being sarcastic there.

Actually, it is my belief that only ignorant people think that carbon dioxide from Exxon Mobile's fossil fuel products doesn't warm the lower atmosphere. Similarly, it is my belief that only ignorant people think that the warming of the lower atmosphere won't increase sea level. Moreover, it is my belief that only ignorant people think that a rising sea level poses no risk to boundary communities that are already suffering from marine erosion. It is also my belief that anyone who cannot then see that Exxon has some, albeit currently un-quantifiable responsibility for flooding or erosion of seaside communities is, basically, a not-see. .

But additionally, I think that most of us have some responsibility for sea level rise, as well as ocean acidification, and climate disruption, because most of us who have enjoyed the benefits of a society powered by wasteful fossil fuel driven processes of various sorts. And finally, I think that those of us with any sort of empathy and social biological awareness need to work to divest ourselves and our culture of our fossil fuel addiction if we want to be more than simple self indulgent, anti-social, self-centered narcissists.

And yes, I have changed my own lifestyle to reduce my fossil fuel footprint to the point where it is only about a quarter or less of what it used to be. And my lifestyle is still quite enjoyable thank you very much. Of course, if not enough people make similar changes, the next centuries will see many serious problems for the human race because of climate disruption caused by all of the fossil fuel carbon dioxide being added to the atmosphere and ocean


Thanks for the link to that historical source, really interesting stuff. There's a 1913 letter from someone who seems to be some kind of US Government regional overseer of Alaskan native villages in which he essentially describes how Kivalina is his favourite village because their complete dependence on the government makes them easy to manage.

1911 relocation talk is interesting because it seems this was a seasonal rather than permanent settlement at that time. The teacher talks about the place being practically deserted in the Spring months, and about 100 people at peak. My understanding is that these were people used to regular relocation, being semi-nomadic (when the teacher talks about housing she mentions igloos not permanent structures). Permanent settlement seems to have been something encouraged by the US government, solidified by building an airport there.

The wikipedia page says a new school was built during the 1970s along with other infrastructure projects so it could well be the case that land engineering work was done to protect the settlement, which would have worked if it hadn't been for that pesky climate change.

#18: "prostitution to protect virginity, slavery to protect freedom, guns to prevent mass shootings"

Well, we've tried two out of three. Still testing that last one.

Turbo: IIRC, some local areas in Alaska impose sales taxes, preferably on things like hotels that are paid by tourists from Outside. Declining oil revenues is going to have to force a change, though, it's just a matter of when.

By Brian Schmidt (not verified) on 16 Oct 2015 #permalink

PaulS, a couple of those early 20C letters (and a traveller's tale somewhere on GooBoo, but I can't refind it) talk about an 'Indian scare', with the villagers ('Indians' themselves) panicking because 'hostiles' were thought to be lurking nearby. Another world.

I think the first serious attempts at erosion protection were in the 1940s, when the US army deployed some short-lived sandbags. Later efforts with concrete were equally ineffective, either because of incompetence (as another unrefindable GooBoo claimed) or because you're never going to stop a sandbar from changing shape and location short of encasing the whole thing in concrete.

If it hadn't been for that pesky climate change? No way of knowing for sure but, like Syria's civil war, the main determinants seem to lie overwhelmingly elsewhere.

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 16 Oct 2015 #permalink

Brian Schmidt, Kivalina gets a share of huge payments made by a nearby zinc mine, Red Dog, which claims to have paid billions of dollars to indigenous setllements in northwest Alaska in the last 25 years. Might be worth an audit. See NANA.

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 16 Oct 2015 #permalink