Radar's Irony-Meter is Waterlogged

In case you missed this front-page news from February 2nd, here’s a refresher:

Science Panel Calls Global Warming ‘Unequivocal’

In a grim and powerful assessment of the future of the planet, the leading international network of climate scientists has concluded for the first time that global warming is “unequivocal” and that human activity is the main driver, “very likely” causing most of the rise in temperatures since 1950. […]

“Feb. 2 will be remembered as the date when uncertainty was removed as to whether humans had anything to do with climate change on this planet,” [Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program] went on. “The evidence is on the table.” […]

John P. Holdren, an energy and climate expert at Harvard, said the report “powerfully underscores the need for a massive effort to slow the pace of global climatic disruption before intolerable consequences become inevitable. […] In overwhelming proportions, this evidence has been in the direction of showing faster change, more danger and greater confidence about the dominant role of fossil-fuel burning and tropical deforestation in causing the changes that are being observed.”

Okay. Keep the above in mind while reading these three amazing items from today’s news:

Analysts See ‘Simply Incredible’ Shrinking of Floating Ice in the Arctic

The area of floating ice in the Arctic has shrunk more this summer than in any other summer since satellite tracking began in 1979 […] “The melting rate during June and July this year was simply incredible […] And then you’ve got this exposed black ocean soaking up sunlight and you wonder what, if anything, could cause it to reverse course.”

Canada Plans Arctic Bases, Expanded Patrol Force

Canada pressed its Arctic sovereignty claim on Friday, announcing plans for a port, a training facility and to modernize the part-time paramilitary force that now patrols the area. The announcement that had been promised by the Conservative government in the 2006 election, comes a week after Russia staked its claim to a large chunk of the resource-rich Arctic region by planting a flag beneath the ice of the North Pole.

U.S. icebreaker to map Arctic sea floor

A U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker is headed to the Arctic to map the sea floor off Alaska, as Russia, Denmark and Canada assert their claims in the polar region, which has potential oil and gas reserves […] Russian media assert that the Healy’s mission signals that the United States, along with Canada, is actively joining the competition for resources in the Arctic.

To recap:

  1. In all likelihood, fossil fuel emissions are one of the primary causes of global warming;
  2. global warming has melted the Arctic ice cap faster than any time on record; so
  3. Russia, Denmark, Canada, and the United States are racing to make a no-more-land grab in the Arctic; in order to
  4. claim fossil fuel drilling rights for the Arctic seabed.

We’ve spent a fair amount of time on Radar talking about energy innovation as an emerging technology we’re watching closely. That’s great — but it’s important to remember what those new technologies are up against. If the industrialized world sees melting ice caps as nothing more than a chance to drill more oil, imagine the market forces new energy technologies will have to overcome to get anywhere. “Crossing the Chasm” is a wholly insufficient description of the problem.