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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


May-June 2016

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Arctic Offshore Oil: Great Risks in an Evolving Ocean

Climate change has created unexpected tipping points in the contemporary history of the Arctic. Diminishing summer sea ice has encouraged energy companies to plan for an expansion of Arctic offshore oil exploration, drilling, and producing for what may be the last large conventional oil frontier on Earth. In the rush to produce oil, energy companies, Arctic nations, and environmental organizations are challenged with unique technical, environmental, social, legal, political, and moral issues. Major offshore energy accidents have occurred on all of the world's continental shelves, resulting in loss of lives, damage to the environment, and destruction of major industry assets. Arctic offshore platforms will often be located in harsher environments and more sensitive ecosystems.

Robert Harriss is a Distinguished Fellow at the Houston Advanced Research Center. He now lives and works in Boulder, CO. Most recently he was a senior scientist on the Natural Gas Project at the Environmental Defense Fund. Previously, he had served as president and chief executive officer (CEO), Houston Advanced Research Center, The Woodlands, TX; senior scientist, Institute for the Study of Society and Environment, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder, CO; professor and holder of the A. P. and Florence Wiley Chair in Sustainability, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX; director, Earth Science Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC; professor of earth science and natural resources, University of New Hampshire; senior scientist, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA; and professor of oceanography and director, Florida State University Marine Laboratory.       

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