A vessel normally dedicated to science should not be enabling tourism in an area like the Arctic, acknowledged by many to be one of the most vulnerable areas to climate change?

Oh dear oh dear. But this one is almost about sea ice, so I get a free hand to rant about yet more faux-greenie drivel. The news: a giant floating gin palace is going to visit the Arctic so that giant floating gin-drinkers can drink giant gins while surrounded by ice and, occasionally, poor people. And they've chartered a UK "icebreaker"1 to kinda hang around and look red, in case they need rescuing or something. Or perhaps just to look good in pictures, the red really stands out. I have a gorgeous picture of the Bransfield (RIP) with a floating-in-cloud pure ice peak above her, above my mantlepiece.

Anyway, the point is that the drivel is "Campaigners say Crystal Serenity trip puts at risk very environment tourists are travelling to see in Northwest Passage". Because of course it doesn't. Its a big ship, but the sea will close up behind it. And so will the sea ice. The Arctic is vulnerable to global warming, but large ships aren't any real problem (they emit CO2 of course, but that's a global problem. The Arctic doesn't give a toss if the CO2 is emitted locally or in the tropics or elsewhere). At least, not compared to the local inhabitants, whose impacts are greater, but because they're "natives" they're sacred and cannot be criticised by the likes of the Graun. "The unique wildlife is already stressed by a warming climate and the loss of sea ice, and the arrival of mega-cruise ships in this part of the world could push it further towards the edge,” said Rod Downie, WWF-UK Polar programme manager who is an idiot.

Of course, you could argue that the per-capita-per-trip CO2 costs of cruising is so enormous that it should be forbidden (in which case the answer is a carbon tax, of course). However, if you were going to do that, you really ought to provide some figures comparing said CO2 footprint to, say, air travel. I once worked out (and blogged, but I can't find it now) my "CO2 footprint" assuming I was responsible for my share of the BAS ship's summer cruises. It was enormous - a factor of 5 or 10 higher than the rest of my contributions. Should we forbid science voyages to Antarctica, or are those "good" because they're science, and hence immune to criticism? A clue to all the kerfuffle is Marcie Keever from Friends of the Earth in the US: The people who are coming off the cruise ships are not in the 1%, but in the 0.1% of the world's financial elite. It is another example of just how extreme this particular voyage is. Subtext A: don't worry plebs, we're not going to come after your travel. Subtest B: dog whistle against the rich, everyone hates 'em, yeah?

[Update: yet more hand-wringing from the Graun:

“This is extinction tourism,” said international law expert Professor Michael Byers, of the University of British Columbia. “Making this trip has only become possible because carbon emissions have so warmed the atmosphere that Arctic sea ice in summer is disappearing. The terrible irony is that this ship – which even has a helicopter for sightseeing and a huge staff-to-passenger ratio – has an enormous carbon footprint that is only going to make things even worse in the Arctic”... The ship has a crew of 655 and carries 1,070 passengers

So, no, it doesn't have a "huge" staff-to-passenger ratio; it has a ratio of less than one, not generally considered a huge number. Notice the assertion of a "enormous" carbon footprint. No evidence is given for this assertion - because the author has only ever talked to people who immeadiately agree with such things, it hasn't occurred to him that evidence might be required. And what might "enormous" be? Bigger than "huge" by still smaller than 1? We may never know.

Meanwhile, pity the poor Inuit:

Eegeesiak added that the Inuit were already experiencing problems thanks to global warming. As sea ice disappears, this removes a highway on which locals can ride their snowmobiles...

You can see the problem with that sentence; they can't, and neither can the Graun. The article continues with yet more pap: In addition, there is the question of food. The Inuit have no farms and rely on what they can catch from the ice and water around them for sustenance. Of course they don't. They rely on food imports.]


1. The Beeb calls RRS Ernest Shackleton an icebreaker but I don't think she is; she is but an "ice strengthened vessel". Happily, there's not a lot of ice around this year.

More like this

But I'm happy it is going to the NorthWest passage. Provides a way to discuss global warming that more people are willing to discuss. Let us follow along and see how it goes:


Cruise ships are not the 0.1%. At least not the ones I've been on. More like the 10%, mostly retired or near retirement. Of course, that might just be that I take the cruses with people like me.

[the 1%, but in the 0.1% of the world’s financial elite is, I think, something of a careless throwaway comment. Interpreted literally - as 0.1% of the world’s financial elite it would be a ridiculously high standard. Interpreted as I think they intend - as 0.1% of the world's population as measured by wealth - I think its a higher bar than they meant, as you say. 1% is perhaps more like it. Looking for numbers... http://www.oecd.org/site/worldforumindia/Davies.pdf for 2011 tells me that the top 1% have 44% of the wealth, and that the mean is $50k, therefore the mean for the top 1% is $2m? That's higher than I was expecting. But recall that includes value of house and pension. Hmm, maybe I got my numbers wrong: https://publications.credit-suisse.com/tasks/render/file/?fileID=F24254… tells me "USD 759,900 to belong to the top 1%", that's more like what I was expecting. I probably just about squeeze into that, depending on exchange rates

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 13 Aug 2016 #permalink

ADS/NIPR/IJIS at 5.42 just .62 above 4.8. 2006 declined .74
2.32 above 3.1 while 2012 declined 1.61

So would have to be an extremely weird end of melt season now for your bet not to be void. Just about callable as void I would think.

[Time for a post on the ice again I think; as you say, its getting close to being closeable -W}

Being in the top .1%: Should that carry some responsibilities or is it just the ability to do whatever they want?

I agree with your drivel description. Clearly someone in top .1% who did a lot of charity work and gave lots to charity should be allowed some luxury choices without making them evil.

It is hard to be clear about how much responsibility should go with being in the top 0.1%. I think there should be some but are you ducking out of attempting to answer this?

[I will answer that when I commence my series of postings on Hayek (oh you lucky people) if you'll remind me; because it will make more sense with context -W]

"whose impacts are greater," {cn}

[Fair point, and one that I was guiltily aware of when I wrote it, and wondered if anyone would pick me up. I notice you're holding me to a higher standard than the meeja, for which I'm grateful. To attempt to answer: no, I don't have the data to hand, of course. My first line of defense would be to turn it around: before being outraged about cruise ships, you'd need to show that their impact was greater than the natives (possibly per capita or something, I dunno). To handwave: how energy intensive is cruising anyway? Travel by ship is quite energy-cheap, witness the low costs of shipping cheap shit from China -W]

By Nick Barnes (not verified) on 13 Aug 2016 #permalink

Phil, Crystal Cruises lists prices for this trip from $21,855 per person and I assume most tickets will cost a lot more than that. It's not a trip for everyone.

I don't know if Wiliam has checked for this particular ship, but not all ships take care of all their waste but dumps it in the ocean and the Arctic ocean is sensitive. Should some kind of accident happen resulting in a fuel spill the consequences will be much worse.

[http://www.crystalcruises.co.uk/voyage/details/the-northwest-passage-63… says £15,557 cruise-only; but you get a whole month for that. Though I think their "This is the ultimate expedition for the true explorer!" is utter bullshit; I doubt any of the guests expect to be pissing in their socks to de-grease them. But having $21k to spare, whilst not for everyone, doesn't put you anywhere near Western world elite status.

As for waste, no, I didn't check, but I know people are sensitive about it so without checking I would put a lot of money on betting that they're storing it whilst Oop North. BAS I know does the same thing when South, and there's the entire southern ocean to swallow it -W]

I guess $21K on a holiday puts someone well into the top 1%. Not 0.1%, but it's still exceptional. I've certainly never spent even half that on a holiday, and I've had some amazing holidays.
Re impact, glad you owned up to not having anything to show for that. Three things:
1. I expect you are right that cruise ships don't burn much oil. I doubt the GHG footprint of the cruise amounts to much next to the other GHG footprints of people who spend [a minimum of $21K] on a holiday, and maybe they are swamped by the costs of flying these nobs to and from the Arctic in the first place (although note that freighters burn a *lot* less oil than cruise ships).
2. However, I would guess that the locals, being mostly very poor, probably don't have a huge GHG impact (despite relying on diesel to do just about anything). That's why I said {cn}.

[I'm not so sure about that. They're poor, but subsidising them isn't cheap, and that money burns up fuel. This, of course, is a large region we're talking about so even I don't know who I mean by "the locals" -W]

3. The other environmental (local, non-GHG) impacts of cruise-ships are notorious, and the cryosphere ecosystems are pretty delicate. I wouldn't be gung-ho about it.

[Are they? {{cn}}. I can find http://www.arctis-search.com/Environmental+Impacts+and+Disturbances+fro… (well, its the top google hit) but that's pretty washy on details; its all potentials -W]

By Nick Barnes (not verified) on 13 Aug 2016 #permalink

This is how the 0.1% do the Northwest Passage:


A billionaire and ten of his chums (and a dozen crew) sailing east to west in a 220-foot faux-knackered state-of-the-art carbon-fibre racing yacht.



(The Hetairos will be in Baffin Bay at the same time as Emma Thompson, who is being flown to Nunavut by Greenpeace to celebrate the arrival of solar power at an Inuit cultural centre. The celebrations will include trips aboard Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise, meaning that early next week two 0.1% vessels wil be afloat in Baffin Bay, neither of them a cruise ship. I doubt they'll meet, alas. That'd be fun. 'No, *you're* the effing plutocrat...')

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 13 Aug 2016 #permalink

I don't know if WMC encountered this at BAS (and, yes, I know this post is about the Arctic and not the Antarctic) but when I was working for the South African Antarctic Programme, there was a fairly strong aversion to tourism. Part of it was a genuine feeling that it was a pristine environment that we should endeavour not to spoil. But part was also - I think - a somewhat selfish sense that it should be restricted to the select few and that you shouldn't be allowed to visit just because you can afford to do so.

[There was some of that; I didn't go South, so didn't see it directly. It wasn't uniform. I suspect Da Mgt was averse to tourism, because it was only trouble. I'm fairly sure some folks at ?Rothera? welcomed it, because it was company; and I'm almost certain there was some making of nick-naks for sale -W]

By ...and Then Th… (not verified) on 13 Aug 2016 #permalink

I intentionally mispell

Fiends of the Earth


[I prefer peongrease. Its a shame; they used to do useful things, and I suspect they still do, in part -W]

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 14 Aug 2016 #permalink

[I’m fairly sure some folks at ?Rothera? welcomed it, because it was company; and I’m almost certain there was some making of nick-naks for sale -W]

We actually had a cruise ship contact us just after winter to ask if they could visit. We pointed out that there were 30 metre high ice cliffs, that we were 15 miles inland, and that we had no way to help them with any form of transport, so they probably couldn't. A couple of days later, after a few drinks of course, we contacted the team leader via radio and someone (me, IIRC) pretended to be the Russian captain of the cruise ship calling to say that the helicopter had just left and that the tourists would be with us shortly. We then sat back and waited for our team leader to come charging through to the bar, cursing and swearing - as he duly did. He didn't find it quite as amusing as we did.

[Ah, very nice :-) -W]

By ...and Then Th… (not verified) on 14 Aug 2016 #permalink

> Are they? {{cn}}

Are cruise ships shitty or are cryosphere ecosystems delicate? I was talking about cruise ships generally, not in the arctic. Citation for that: lmgtfy.

[I meant the impacts being "notorious". And obvious I'm asking for proper sources, not hysteria from the Graun and alike -W]

By Nick Barnes (not verified) on 14 Aug 2016 #permalink

"1%" List price on cruises isn't actually paid, at least most of the time. I took the news reports to be list price, not what you can find. But there seems to have been no discount cabins on this trip. Yes, at full fare, this one probably is mostly 1% on up.

I'm in the global 1%, not by much. I thought about taking this cruise.

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 14 Aug 2016 #permalink

"Subtext A: don’t worry plebs, we’re not going to come after your travel. Subtest B: dog whistle against the rich, everyone hates ’em, yeah?"

There are two claims made against enviros in the US I think are trying to be countered by the spokesperson. One is environmentalists are extremists who are going after your way of life. The second is that environmentalists are elitists.

Environmentalists in the US rely on public support, so they try not to alienate people, especially those on the fence about environmental protection.

Friends of the Earth are US based but not big players in the US.

By Joseph O'Sullivan (not verified) on 14 Aug 2016 #permalink

Global 1% is about $35K/year. Anyone who spends eight months+ gross income on an annual holiday has some unusual priorities.

[I don't think I believe that. Its not really consistent with my reply to #1 (though that's wealth not income, there's still a large disparity) -W]

Citation needed for the cruise ship environmental impact thing: really? AIUI it's in the category of "well-known facts" in the environmental sciences. How about this? http://css.snre.umich.edu/publication/environmental-impact-cruise-ships
Also: night is dark, things fall down, fire burns.

[You're suffering confirmation bias. For example, that says "Due to the concentration of cruise ships in a small number of environmentally sensitive areas, the potential environmental impacts of the industry are intensified". (a) this isn't a small area, its a large one, and (b) its the first such ship going there. Furthermore, "Many of these cruise ships are the size of small cities" is drivel. So, you need to do better. Perhaps quote something specific from the report itself? If you do, don't quote the bit about emitting poo, because you know that will be wrong -W]

By Nick Barnes (not verified) on 15 Aug 2016 #permalink

Not all cruises are annual holidays. If this is a once-in-lifetime event, wealth is more important than income.

Average cost of a wedding is larger than a year's income in several different societies.

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 15 Aug 2016 #permalink