Typhoon Haiyan

Haiyan slammed into the Philippines on 8th November 2013 with the force of a category 5 Atlantic hurricane, at a speed of 250kmh^-1. It came with a 5m storm surge and up to 290 mm of rainfall in just 12 hours. Haiyan was likely known as Yolanda. Fewer than 20 other hurricanes had reached the same strength.

Between 5 and 10 typhoons hit the Philippines every day, leading to, within normal bounds, 2% of GDP lost annually.

Top Five Natural Disasters, 2004-2012 in the Philippines Date Number Kiled
Typhoon Bopha Dec 2012 1,901
Typhoon Winnie Nov 2004 1,619
Typhoon Washi Dec 2011 1,439
Typhoon Durian Nov 2006 1,399
Leyte landslide Feb 2006 1,126

Bopha had a windspeed of 280kmh^-1 and hit the island of Mindanao. It caused over US$1 billion of damage. Yet no one remembers Bopha. This reflects how the richest countries tend to ignore the issues that prevent development in other countries once the immediate issue appears to be dealt with.

Many people made the link between Haiyan and climate change:

“I’ll leave the scientists to speak for themselves about the link between severe weather events and climate change. The evidence seems to me to be growing.”- David Cameron

Rising sea levels from melting ice caps mean that areas which are low lying or coastal are at more risk of damage from storm surges and other sea based hazards linked with the hurricane. An IPCC AR5 report judged that there would be no real increase in the number of hurricanes but the intensity of them would rise.

Date Development of Haiyan
2 Nov An area of low pressure developed South East of Micronesia
3 Nov Haiyan started to move westward, turning into a tropical depression
5 Nov Classified as a typhoon
6 Nov Joint Typhoon Warning Centre classified it as a category 5 storm
7 Nov Haiyan intensified to winds up to 314kmh^-1. Made landfall at Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
8 Nov Five more landfalls within the Philippines. Passed into the South China Sea
10 Nov Turned NW and made landfall in Vietnam as a category 1 typhoon
11 Nov Weakened to a tropical depression


To form, hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones (the same thing by different names depending upon location), need warm deep water (around 27°C for 70m) and sufficient rotatory power from the Coriolis effect; the coriolis limitation means that tropical storms can rarely be formed outside of about 5-20° away from the equator. Tropical storms form around an area of low pressure- Haiyan’s sea surface pressure was as low as 895mb- where air starts to rush in in a spiralling effect.

The air then starts to rise with warm water evaporating off the warm sea, forming clouds. The clouds then start to rise. The accumulation of air at the top creates a higher section of high air pressure. Air is then blasted out at immense speeds, creating the clouds visible on satellite images.

Hurricanes maintain their full force when they are over warm water with no real wind sheer (high up winds which move the top layer of cloud away from the hurricane). In the Philippines, most of the land is made of small islands with larger sections of warm water between them, meaning that the hurricane never gets far away from warm water when over the Philippines, and thus don’t really weaken around the country.

Across the Philippines, Haiyan made 6 separate land falls. It travelled very quickly, meaning that the water in front of it was not stirred up. Stirred up water will often have cold water near the surface, but the water in front of Haiyan did not. This meant that the water entering the typhoon was very warm, so when it rose it released masses of latent heat energy, giving the typhoon enormous power.

The islands of Leyte and Cebu’s configuration channeled the storm in a particular way, funneling it straight towards the city of Tacloban; the decreasing ocean depth also increased the intensity of the storm surge.

Lowest Pressure 895 mb
Sustained wind speed 314 kmh^-1
Radius of hurricane-force winds 85 km
Peak Strength Category 5
Strength at Landfall Category 5, 314 kmh^-1
Storm Surge Height 15 m
Rainfall 400mm

There had also been an earthquake (at 7.2 on the Richter scale) recently beforehand, in October 2013, which had an impact on how effective any aid work could be.


Haiyan affected 11 million people.

  • 6,021 were killed, although the initial estimate was 10,000
  • 10,000s of people were made homeless, and further 10,000s lost their main sources of income.
  • The Tacloban City Convention Center was being used as an evacuation centre, but became a death trap as water poured into it.
  • A 5.2 m storm surge destroyed Tacloban airport’s terminal building.
  • Many water vessels were washed ashore; in some areas 95% of fishing equipment and boats were destroyed.
  • The phone network was lost, making it hard to establish contact between victims, the authorities, and the victims’ families.
  • 1,000s of trees were destroyed; 33 million coconut palms were destroyed, destroying 15 million tons of timber.
  • Roads were undamaged, but huge piles of debris still made transportation of aid workers and supplies very slow.

The worst affected area, the Eastern Vasayas were flooded up to 1km inland.

There was no clean water, electricity or food for survivors. There was also no available fuel for vehicles, many of which were also upturned.




The Philippines has many low scale hurricanes on a regular basis; thus, many people had a false sense of safety going into the disaster because they had been desensitized to the danger of it.

The government frequently produces risk maps and provides evacuation shelters for its citizens.

On November 6th, PAGASA (Philippines Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) issues a low level Public Storm Warning, but had raised this to the highest level it could within 24 hours.

The military deployed planes and helicopters in advance to areas likely t be worst-hit. Community buildings were designated as storm shelters, although there was concern that they may not resist the high wind force. Some islands, such as Tulang Diyot, were completely evacuated of its 1,000 residents, due to years of education and community preparedness.

The local mayor of Tulang Diyot won an award in 2011 for community work in the “Purok system”, where community members agree to deposit their own money into a fund for post-disaster assistance rather than waiting for government aid.

Short Term

When Haiyan made land fall, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters was activated, allowing relief agencies to have satellite data from space agencies to help in relief and recovery after a disaster.

Journalists arrived very quickly to the area, largely consisting of storm chasers who arrived before the storm to help contribute to better models for use in predicting the effects and severity of future disasters.

The first actual aid work was done by survivors who searched the ruins for bodies and other survivors. The government was criticised for a very slow response, as locals turned to looting to acquire enough food for themselves. The UK and USofA sent supplies of diggers, and other moving equipment to help the distribution of aid. Aid supplies were often ambushed and looted. Mass graves were dug to contain the bodies before disease could break out.

Pledges of aid were made quickly but the actual carrying out of the aid schemes was severely delayed, partly because of the isolated nature of the effected islands, and the damage done to infrastructural and transport links.

Street sellers had started to set up stands again a week after the event. Fishermen salvaged water proof items to turn into impromptu boats, such as tree trunks and fridges. Broadband antennae were constructed and Micromappers.com managed to map out the worst hit areas to send workers into where they were most needed.

Long Term

Water and sanitation services were set up fairly soon afterwards. Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, representing 3,000 small businesses set up a permanent disaster committee. A month after the event, 100,000 people were still in evacuation centres, with 4 million in temporary homes. 324,00 households were given materials for emergency shelters, and began building 30,000 higher standard homes.

If material distribution had been slower, many people would have started to just rebuild with what they had, leading to more unsafe structures than what was there before the event.

Representatives of national and local governmental departments started administering aid directly, speeding up distribution and reducing bureaucracy. 50,000 homes in affected areas were given US$50 in addition to emergency supplies, overseen by the Philippines Red Cross.

People started to be paid for clearing up the mess, allowing them structure back into their lives while also helping the aid work.

There were no outbreaks of diseases, despite the large risk and the lack of initial sanitation.

More than 20% of government spending in the Philippines is on debt repayment. This crippling cost keeps much of the population in poverty and at risk of another disaster.

Make America Hate Again- 0/209

When I said that I would be keeping track on Trump I was not joking. This won’t necessarily be a weekly series, depending on how much free time I have and so on, but it will be occasional. The numbers are the current week of Trump’s term over the total number of weeks. To skip to a certain week just change the first number!

If in doubt, any quotes come from here.

I would also like to clarify: I don’t think all conservatives are idiots. I disagree with many conservative views, but most conservatives’ points can at least be understood. Trump cannot.

The next post can be found here, and the latest post here.

Really worries me policy wise from the debates

  • I don’t have a quote but: The whole thinking Obama was a Kenyan-born Muslim when his book, the Audacity of Hope, makes it clear just in the (British) blurb that he’s Hawaiian and Christian thing. Audacity of Hope was published in 2006 and he started his accusation in 2011, so he displays a complete inability to read about 50 words. This does not bode well for reading official reports and research to help form government positions.
  • “”Look at that face! [of Carly Fiorina] Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!”” He’s reduced his list of desired qualifications to be president into being their face. Frankly, she’s pretty normal looking, but that’s what you expect from political leaders. It’s not- it shouldn’t be- a beauty pageant.
  • “We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.” No politician should be actively admitting that they love it when their people are poorly educated. It bodes poorly for any current students in the Us for the next 4 years. If I were a parent in the US right now, I would be home schooling, and doing it immediately, because I would not trust a man who said that about my childrens’ education. I would rather have to deal with all the stress of that than sentence my children to his education system. And this is because of a single line, not having said it yet.
  • We’re going to build a wall, and we’re going to make Mexico pay for it.” This has been discussed so many times, I don’t think a proper examination is needed, but to drum in: it’s economically unfeasible even before Mexico pays for it, and it won’t stop immigration because planes go over walls.
  • “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” When you’re honestly concerning people that you are a sexual assaultist at best you should not be running for president. That sounds, to a worrying degree, like what Jimmy Saville would say, if he were still alive, about little girls. Genuinely this comment made me concerned when Prime Minister May was announced to be having a meeting with Mr Trump because I was worried he’d try flirting (which would have horrible political repercussions, I don’t generally take issue with people flirting) with her, or worse.
  • “Don’t worry about that baby. I love babies. I hear that baby crying, I like it. What a baby. What a beautiful baby. Don’t worry, don’t worry. The mom’s running around like—don’t worry about it, you know. It’s young and beautiful and healthy and that’s what we want. […] Actually, I was only kidding, you can get the baby out of here. That’s all right. Don’t worry. I, I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking. That’s OK. People don’t understand. That’s OK.” At first when I heard this I was wondering if he was  actually able to feel empathy. Then I heard the second half.

‘As President-elect

  • “America will no longer settle for anything less than the best.” I don’t think this is offensive, but it shows a lack of brain power. America is, at best, the joint most powerful country in the world (with the other UN P5 states, or the PRC, or the Russian Federation, depending if you define by international political power, economic power, or the greatest ability to end life on earth). It already has the best, realistically. And they shouldn’t have that. To be the best, in a country where millions of people can’t even afford basic health care, and where long summer breaks lead poor PoC children to show signs of malnutrition, and the Ku Klux Klan still has thousands of members, is not a good thing. It also suggests a complete lack of care for every other country in the world. I know no leader is going to say they’re not looking for their country’s best interest, but this is either a way of saying “we’re going to let everyone else get even poorer, and do it deliberately” or “I have no clue how the world works”. I vote for both.
  • “I think I’m a sober person. I think the press tries to make you into something a little bit different. In my case, a little bit of a wild man, I’m not, I’m actually not. I’m a very sober person.” I assume he has no idea what sober means.
  • “Truly great and talented men and women…” Except the one who’s now in charge of energy. In an interview, Rick Perry said he would remove three departments, but could only remember two of them; commerce, education and… what’s the third one? (Energy).  That’s right, he couldn’t remember the name of the department he is now the head of and he wants to get rid of it. Not even beginning to mention how stupid getting rid of a department of energy and plunging the US into perpetual 4-year-long black outs for anyone who can’t afford their own energy production, this displays some extreme stupidity, hating stuff without even knowing anything about it, and absolutely no talent. And Perry is a good example of his administration.
  • “to develop a list of executive actions we can take on day one to restore our laws”. In all due respect (none), I don’t think any alt-right figure has anything even resembling a way to reduce crime rates. There are two ways to deal with crime, which I will dub the “DPRK route” and the “Iceland route”. DPRK route means being so inconceivably cruel to criminals that absolutely no criminals are left. Iceland is fairly lax, and prisoners get very high freedoms given they are criminals. Seeing as the DPRK achieves its methods through abominations against the mere idea of the sanctity of human dignity, this is not an acceptable route to take, and no conservative politician will ever try to be reasonable about teaching people how to make a living without being a criminal, I think the crime rates will continue to rise. It’s a thing , judging from the PRC, USA, various EU states and Russia, that is very obvious that harsher punishments lead to higher violent crime rates. No conservative is going to reach this conclusion.
  • “These include the following: On trade, I am going to issue our notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country.” The TPP was meant to be essentially a copy of the EU. It had some really great benefits; connecting people from dozens of cultural backgrounds in a network, where, honestly, almost everyone speaks English. The only real downside I can see is the “loss” of national sovereignty. Any national sovereignty issues should be perfectly easily negotiated out within the trade agreement process. He’s essentially assuming every country in the world would vote for Brexit, when just a few decades ago, we voted Brit-in, and our culture really hasn’t changed much. Besides, there are 5 countries that have no right to complain about a lack of national soveriegnty: The P5 of the UN. The 5 countries that can impose their views on any security issue across the entire world and only the other 4 can complain: the USA, The UK, The PRC, The Russian Federation, and The French Republic. Of these, 3 are the most vocal complainers about their political situation with the argument of national sovereignty; while they continue to throw around their power to suppress the will of the rest of the elected members of the UN security council.
  • “On energy, I will cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy – including shale energy and clean coal – creating many millions of high-paying jobs.” And many millions of cancer patients in the long term, and then many billions of deaths from climate change damage. But it’s the jobs that matter!
  • “On regulation, I will formulate a rule which says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated, it’s so important.” Do we need to get rid of two regulations to pass this one, or can we eliminate this one twice because it’s so stupid we need to physically destroy it, then eradicate it from all memory?
  • “I will ask the Department of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a comprehensive plan to protect America’s vital infrastructure from cyber-attacks, and all other form of attacks.” Even expert hackers say this is stupid. The best defenses are to take political action against international governmental hacking, or to just have resilient enough systems that you can cope if something is getting attacked, and while doing that, monitor what’s getting hacked so you can streamline your bolstering. It’s how large banks’ anti-hacking methods often work (in conjunction with many other methods). Their sheer size means that even if a hacker brings it down it can be up again quickly. It’s pretty much impossible to defend a network entirely, and the only examples I can think of are when deliberately out dated technology is used (in nuclear missile silos) and the Pentagon.
  • “rebuild our middle class.” In a state  run by a republican, there’s no room for a middle class. You’re struggling to make ends meet, you’re literally starving, or you’re rich enough to afford a gold plated apartment. There’s no real middle in that system. Melt down the gold, use it to pay for schemes that allow people to get decent income, and then you can talk about helping the average person, Mr Trump.
  • “Make America Great Again for everyone.” Except for for the 251,978,615 US citizens Trump has admitted he hates!
  • “God Bless You and God Bless America.” I’m not saying that having any given faith is wrong, I would not say that for any modern day religions, but I believe it’s unconstitutional for a president to wish in the name of a specific god. So “God bless you and god bless America” is fine but “God Bless you and God Bless America” is not.
  • “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Something that should terrify everyone. In the US you need pretty good legal proof of identity before you can vote from what I’ve gathered. Many people who get the right can’t even use it because the polling systems are assigned incorrectly to the individual and they are not told where their real polling stations are. So it’s an impossibility that there’s actually millions voting illegally; there’s probably millions who are illegally being stopped from voting, conversely. The only demographics in my earlier list that could easily be distinguished out and systematically stopped from voting that would constitute millions are: women, PoCs, and Muslims (if you take Trump’s seeming assumption that anyone olive skinned is Muslim). All of these options should be deeply concerning, especially when we bear in mind he does not seem to remorse the loss of MLK’s bust from his office.
  • “We’re trying very hard to get the best people. Not necessarily people that will be the most politically correct people, because that hasn’t been working.” Generally speaking, people are politically correct because they care about the groups who would otherwise be receiving attacks; in turn, bar from occasional slip ups or off tone jokes, which are really not much to worry about on an occasional basis, most people who genuinely care about others are naturally politically correct. I mean, they don’t go around yelling insults at every minority and using slurs when they can easily avoid it and use a more neutral term; it’s really not hard. If they can’t even meet “caring vaguely about the people in their country”, they aren’t the best people.
  • “So we have really experts in the field.” No. No you don’t. Your head of the department of energy had no idea what the department of energy was, you had no idea how much work being president required, and your head of the department of trade made this.
  • “but they’re known within their field as being the best.“I assume that “the best” here means “at being awful at their jobs” or is sarcastic, or their field is racism or some other form of prejudice.
  • “I think the popular vote would have been easier in a true sense because you’d go to a few places. I think that’s the genius of the Electoral College. I was never a fan of the Electoral College until now.” Funny how the illegitimate president of the US likes the system that got him into power. Also funny how the electoral college has been against the popular vote 4 times and each time a republican came into power.
  • ” And I don’t want to hurt the Clintons. I really don’t.” You say. You also say: “..if I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your [Hilary Clinton’s] situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it, and we’re going to have a special prosecutor.” Which to me looks rather like wanting to hurt the Clintons. Also, look who’s the one lying. And: Hillary Clinton: …it’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.
    Donald Trump: Because you’d be in jail.
  • Clean air is vitally important. Clean water, crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important.”  Says the man who thinks Climate Change was made up by the “Chinese” to limit US economic growth.
  • “And I think my voice is listened to, especially by people that don’t believe in it.” Yes. I think by definition it is. In the Brexit vote 77% of remain voters said they thought that leaving the EU would have a major detrimental effect on their lives and on the lives of their children, while 69% of leave voters said that leaving would have no substantial change or only a small change to the well being of themselves and their children. I know it’s a long extrapolation, but I think based on that we can assume: People who take the more inclusive decision think their decision has a greater impact. They are therefore likely to take their decision more seriously and to take stupid justifications as a greater insult. I don’t think Trump voters cared what he had to say, while Clinton voters definitely did.
  • I’ve known Steve Bannon a long time. If I thought he was a racist, or alt-right, or any of the things that we can, you know, the terms we can use, I wouldn’t even think about hiring him.” You saying you were concerned about him being racist or alt-right basically confirms he is, especially with you again admitting it by wavering around the point for three separate clauses.
  • “To me more important is taking care of the people that really have proven to be, to love Donald Trump, as opposed to the political people. And frankly if the political people don’t take care of these people, they’re not going to win and you’re going to end up with maybe a total different kind of government than what you’re looking at right now.” Firstly, only favouring your political supporters reminds me of one African leader known as Mugabe, which has worked out very poorly for Zimbabwe. Secondly, that’s the opposite of what you should do. If you know a demographic will vote for you whatever you do, very few politicians will invest in them; they won’t invest in people they know will never vote for them; they invest in the people who no one knows who they’ll vote for, to try to sway them. It makes sense. The most important of these is not investing in your supporters; your generosity to them will not make more people like you, and will not make fewer people hate you.

Resources in Greenland

The US Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic could hold 25% of the world’s oil. This would amount to:

  • 90 x 10^9 barrels of recoverable oil
  • 1,670 x10^12 cubic feet of recoverable natural gas
  • 44 x10^9 barrels of recoverable natural gas in liquids

If this is correct, the Arctic accounts for:

  • 13% of undiscovered oil
  • 30% of undiscovered natural gas
  • 20% of undiscovered natural gas in fluid.

About 84% of this is predicted to be offshore.Plankton blooms have suggested that fishing supplies will also improve.

However, the Arctic is a comparatively fragile environment, so environmental groups have called for a treaty similar to that regulating the Antarctic.Resolving the territorial dispute over the Arctic is especially important because scientists believe rising temperatures would eave most of the arctic ice-free in summer months by a few decades’ time.

Greenland oil rush, 2010

Cairn Energy is a Scottish company at the centre of the Greenlandic oil rush. Extracting oil from Greenland would be very expensive but it would also be more politically stable than other sources of oil, such as the Middle East suppliers. This could even be economically viable in a few years once oil prices start to rise again.

Problems with exploitation

  • Norwegian green group Bellona is concerned with Russian exploitation of oil and gas in the Barents, Pechora and Kara as they use inefficient, old equipment that damages ecosystems with little environmental regulation
  • The head of the WWF-Norway’s climate and energy program has more objections: to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we must have almost eliminated fossil fuels from our global energy mix by 2050, leaving little room to exploit resources from the Arctic.
  • Rate of failure of steel in cold temperatures
  • Many hours of darkness in winter
  • Remoteness
  • Suitability of existing equipment
  • Oil and gas price uncertainty
  • Troubled relations with natives
  • Little known about impacts of oil spills on freezing areas; they could have massive impacts on local ecosystems
  • No effective method for cleaning up and containing an oil spill in icy conditions
  • Greenland’s minister for industry and mineral resources says his country has to achieve a sustainable economy for Greenland
  • Arctic sea-ice has been disappearing for decades, due to climate change, which would only be exacerbated by further exploitation. Arctic air is warming twice as fast as the air of the rest of the world. If current trends continue, a largely ice-free Arctic in the summer months could occur within 30 years.

Northwest Passage transport route

There is an increase in seaborne traffic is beginning to move on the so-called southern sea route along the Siberian coast. There are plans to open a passage above Canada.

Attractions of this route include:

  • 1/3 of the length along the traditional routes such as the Suez canal
  • Less CO2 emissions and less fuel
  • Fewer pirates; attacks in areas like Somalia have become far more common recently

Greenlandic extraction

Extraction of oil in Greenland has been sold off to various different groups wiht licences. The largest plot is in waters off the West coast of Greenland, and held with an oil exploration and exploitation licence.

UK Energy

The United Kingdom produces 3% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, yet only has 1% of the population.

Until recently, the government was subsidising solar panels for anyone who wanted them. Those acquiring the panels still paid the majority of the cost, but the government was still helping to fund the development of green energy.

1990 energy mix

  • 64.2% coal
  • 11% oil
  • 1% natural gas
  • 21.5% nuclear
  • 3.3% renewables

2008 energy mix

  • 36.9% coal
  • 1.3% oil
  • 34.5% natural gas
  • 21.4% nuclear
  • 5.9% renewables

Changes in this time period

Gas is less expensive than coal, and transports more easily. It also produces less CO2 than coal per unit energy produced (It is a cleaner fuel).

Oil fields in the North Sea have been for the most part depleted, and much of the gas is, so gas is being imported from Russia, Norway and other gas-rich countries.

The demand for electricity has increased by 1/3. The UK is no longer dependent on coal power

Plans for increased sustainability (It should be noted that there are no strict deadlines)

  • Smart electricity meters
  • Tougher environmental standards for new buildings, with a code for sustainable homes
  • Working to phase out inefficient goods (eg limiting the power of vacuum cleaners by the EU)
  • Tripling electricity generated from renewables
  • Setting up a carbon trading scheme for large companies
  • £20 million spent in funding public procurement of projects to lower carbon usage.

Alaskan proposals to extract oil to negate the effects of extracting oil

According to Bill Walker, governor of Alaska, searching for oil in Alaska is necessary to pay for the damage caused by climate change.

Climate change is having a huge effect on Alaska. 90% of the population lives in just the two largest cities, both of which are coastal. Villages are having to be moved because of rising sea levels. Erosion is threatening native communities along the coast.  The governor said coping with these changes is very expensive-true. However, he thinks that having to “urgently” drill in protected land within the Arctic National Wilderness Refuge is a good idea.

Alaska is the only state without sales or income tax, and 90% of it’s expenditure comes from levies on oil and gas. The price drops in oil have costed the Alaskan economy, only exacerbated by Shell pulling out of an oil deal on the north coast. This would have boosted the income from the Trans Alaskan Pipeline, that traverses 1300km from the north coast to Valdez on the south coast. It is currently carrying 25% of capacity.

“We are in a significant fiscal challenge. We have villages that are washing away because of changes in the climate.

“I don’t see anyone putting together contribution funds to help move Kivalina [A small coastal village facing rising seas]; that is out obligation, we stand by that- we need to figure out how to do that. But those are very expensive- we have about 12 villages in that situation.

This isn’t something we can put off for 10-20 years… We have to begin now- it’s an absolute urgency for Alaska. – Bill Walker

President Obama tried to increase protection for the Reserve only to be halted by congress- as all his good ideas are.

One of the main concerns (after how cyclical and therefore bad this idea looks to anyone) is that of the native people in the area. Caribou calve near where Bill Walker proposed developing. The Gwich’in people in the region depend on caribou for food and clothing, as well as their cultural importance.


(Source: BBC News, author; Matt McGrath)

Canadian Tar Sands

Tar sands are mixtures of clay, sand, water and bitumen. The bitumen can be refined to produce oil. Tar sands have to be mined, usually via strip mining, and then oil is extracted by heating.

Extraction is more complicated than with normal extraction. It has to be extracted, separated and then refined. It also needs to be upgraded first because it is so thick, and requires dilution with smaller hydrocarbons so it can travel through the pipelines.

There are an estimated 2 x 10^12 barrels of oil in tar sands globally, with the largest deposits in Canada and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Only Canada has a real industry in it, producing 40% of their oil production. Most of this is in Alberta, with 4,750 km^2 leased out to tar sands extraction.

Both mining and processing of tar sands produce many environmental impacts, such as global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, disturbance of mined land; impacts on wildlife and air and water quality. The development of a commercial tar sands industry can have significant social and economic impacts on local communities. Of special concern in relatively arid areas is the amount of water required for tar sands processing; currently, tar sands extraction and processing require far more water than the amount of oil that is produced, although some of this can be recycled.

Development pollutes the land, air, and water with dangerous levels of toxic chemicals in northern Alberta and along leak-prone pipeline routes that carry this highly corrosive cargo through communities and waterways across North America, causing numerous health risks. Not only does refining of tar sands increase hazardous air pollution, it also produces an especially dirty, carbon-intensive by-product known as petroleum coke, which is often burned like coal, increasing pollution greatly.  

It also obliterates forests, rivers and wetlands from an area the size of Florida, destroying an internationally recognized ecosystem and reducing the amount of habitat available for a number of sensitive and endangered wildlife species. Expansion puts major populations of caribou, songbirds, and fish at risk of extirpation.

Producing a barrel of synthetic crude oil from the oil sands by mining requires two to four barrels of fresh water after taking into account water recycling. Companies are currently licensed to withdraw over 590 x 10^6 cubic metres of water per year, which is roughly equivalent to what a city of 3 million people would require. Water for oil sands mining is pumped from the Athabasca River, a river that fluctuates seasonally as well as year to year, and withdrawing water during natural low flow periods (which occur primarily in the winter) has the potential to harm aquatic life in the river. This water cannot be returned to the river system because it becomes toxic in the extraction process and must be retained in “tailings” ponds.

There are currently over 720 x 10^9 litres of toxic water in tailing ponds actoss the Athabasca oil sands area. These ponds cover an area of more than 130 km^2. By 2040 these tailings are expected to occupy 310 km^2, an area nearly the size of Vancouver.

A study noted elevated rates of leukemia and other cancers in areas surrounding upgrading and petrochemical manufacturing facilities in Alberta.

The Alberta Energy Regulator is finally responding to years of reports by residents that emissions and odours from tar sands drilling and processing are making them sick. According to news reports, public hearings began in early 2014 following complaints that the tar sands operations have caused nausea, headaches, skin rashes, memory loss, joint pain, exhaustion, and respiratory problems, and have forced several families to leave the area.

A 2008 study by Environmental Defence Canada, found that as much as 2.9 x 10^6 gallons of water leaks from tar sands tailings ponds into the environment daily.

Companies from all over the world — from the United States and Abu Dabai to South Korea, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Germany, the UK and China – own huge chunks of Alberta’s tar sands. Many Canadian workers in the tar sands may be seeing large pay cheques, but there are enormous downsides. Long hours, poor accommodation, exploitation, remote job locations and a lack of job security are common complaints

Cheap labour practices allow tar sands oil companies to cut costs by hiring non-unionized workers and workers from other countries. There were 57,843 temporary foreign workers in Alberta in 2008 — a 55% jump from 2007. In a recent survey in Alberta, more than half of respondents said they were not benefiting from the oil; 56% felt that citizens are not receiving a fair share of the wealth being generated.

Between 1996 and 2006 more than 700,000 people poured into Alberta to work in the oil industry, creating severe housing shortages and a $7,000,000,000 infrastructure shortfall in roads, schools and healthcare facilities.

In 2006 homelessness in Edmonton increased by 19 per cent, while Calgary has seen a 458 per cent growth in the number of homeless people since 1996. Front line workers report that among the homeless, families and employed individuals are increasing in numbers. In one decade, the price of a single-family home in Fort McMurray rose from $174,000 to more than $800,000 – twice the average price of a home in Canada. Rents have skyrocketed: some workers pay $700 a month just for a cot in a walk-in closet; some tradespeople will wrap insulation around their vehicles and camp out in -40 degree weather. Wages for many low-income residents have not increased to meet the costs.

Many of Canada’ First Nations people are tied to the land and rely on the wildlife for their survival. Wildlife is being tainted by toxins, and fish and game are often covered in tumors. Moose meat is now high in arsenic, a carcinogen.

Fishermen, downstream from the mines, have discovered hundreds of deformed fish, and among the native peoples who eat local duck, moose or fish, there are unusually high rates of renal failure, lupus, hyperthyroidism and other rare diseases.

(Image sources: https://portlandrisingtide.org/campaigns/tar-sands-oil-exports/tar-sands-faq/ http://polluterwatch.com/category/freetagging/tar-sands http://loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=14-P13-00042&segmentID=1 http://www.oilempire.us/tarsands.html )

Europe’s Mountains and Permafrost

Switzerland’s alps have a temperature range of 25 degrees celsius to 2 degrees celsius in the valleys.

Switzerland has specially adapted plants related to its climate. The plants generally have:

  • Bright pigments to protect from UV radiation
  • Bright colours to attract pollinating insects
  • Hairs on their leaves to reduce transpiration and water loss
  • Waxy coatings to reduce water loss
  • The ability to store water

They also:

  • Grow close to rocks to avoid trampling
  • Grow close to the gtound to reduce water loss due to lower wond speeds at ground level.

As forests die away when altitude increases, roots cannot hold the system in place, so avalanches become more prevalent.


Permafrost throughout Europe is melting and threatening alpine facilities, such as villages and ski resorts. Temperatures within a borehole within St Moritz mountain have been shown to have risen by 0.5 degrees since 2000, which may not sound like a lot, but as the internal tempertures were -2 degrees Celsius it could easily lead to the loss of the ice upon it.

The Permafrost and Climate in Europe organisation (PACE) was set up to monitor the effects of climate upon the alps. Permafrost exists as far south as the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain. In Sweden permafrost can be found at an altitude of just 1500m.  In Svalbard, Ice has been found at sea level.

Ranges being monitored include:

  • Pyrenes; Spain, Andorra, France
  • Jotunheimen range; Norway
  • Abisko range; Sweden.

In Svalbard boreholes have been dug into the ice where coal is mined out if the permafrost. The mine buildings have been built from frozen steel. However, this causes issues as the bases of the building can melt ice and permafrost. Thus the buildings could cause subsidance if enough melting occured.

Subsidance could also be an issue in the higher ski resorts where foundations of ski liffs and other buildings; they have been built with the assumption that the ground will remain stable.